Thursday, December 30, 2010

"The ticking explosives of reproach and challenge": The poetry of Dennis Brutus

You have to decide which side you are on: there is always a side. Commitment does not exist in an abstraction; it exists in action” Dennis Brutus, 1975
Thanks to all those who have been interested enough to read my pieces on Dennis Brutus. Here are some of his poems (from Poetry and Protest: A Dennis Brutus Reader).
I must lug my battered body
across the frontiers of the world,
recite my wear-shined cliches
for nameless firesides
and fidget, a supple suppliant, for papers,
in a thousand wooden-ante rooms;
wince, in the tense air of recognition
as the clean-limbed, simple and innconent grow hostile;
-in my baggage I bear the ticking explosives
of reproach, and threat and challenge.
Dennis Brutus
Epping Sydney 1970

Forgive me comrades
if I say something apolitical
and shamefully emotional
but in the drak of the night
it is as if my heart is clutched
by a giant iron hand:
"Treachery, treachery" I cry out
thinking of you comrades
and how you have betrayed
the things we suffered for.
Dennis Brutus
August 23 2000, 3.05am 
Some voices must be silenced
they threaten the structures
of seemingly safe respectable lives
their clear vibrations
may shelter the crystalline shelters
that encase us from reality
shielding us from unbearable truths

but some may choose not to be deaf
they beat with broken palms
against the smooth impenetrable glass
of lies and comfort and power
and beg to hear the piteous cries
rising from the smoke and fire:
some voices must not be silenced
The smooth impenetrable glass
of indifference and caring
is cool and pleasant to the touch
like the stone heart of power
that conceals the rotteness within
In the night anger
burns like fire
along the veins
in the brain
and at the core
of the anguished
unavailing heart
Dennis Brutus
extract from Sequence for Mumia Abu Jamal 2005

The comments below encapsulate the significance of Dennis Brutus's poetry and are from the blog I Muse which focuses on African culture;
One of the most profound and lasting ways in which Brutus carried this torch of experiences was through his poetry. In his poetry, Brutus returned powerfully to his traumatic experience of punishment and isolation on Robben Island. They contain some of the most harrowing descriptions of daily prison life, a season in hell that left a lasting mark on Brutus both physically and mentally. To use poetry as a means of fighting back against the forces of oppression and exploitation was not just an intellectual choice, but an existential cry from the heart for social change. These autobiographical writings not only provide unique documentation of the cruelties of an oppressive system; they also help us understand Brutus' determination to convey the lessons of the past to those who are struggling for a better future.

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