In many ways, the new collection offers a unique opportunity for critical retrospection, a backwards glance over half a century of Awoonor's distinguished career as a Guardian of the Sacred Word.
The collection opens with poems that point us in two directions, to a reconciled past and a future of new challenges and new possibilities. First, to a past where we meet poet and country, young as the new moon and filled with hope and the promise of hope.
We see in that past many memorials of struggle, inviting a stroll across a landscape of birds and flowers strewn with graveyards. But we walk arm in arm with the poet, with little fear of mortality. We hold our breath as the poet looks across a new dawn and introduces us to Death holding out his own 'inimitable calling card' only to be ushered into
resurrected with laughter
and the festival of the meat
of the young lamb
and the red porridge
of the new corn.
Here is a constant return to old familiar themes and subjects and the need to postpone dying 'until the morning after freedom'. So we find in To Feed our People a gentle plea with the pall bearers and mourners to hold back, just a little bit, while the poet persona attends to a few outstanding concerns: 'I still have to meet the morning dew/ a poem to write/ a field to hoe/ a lover to touch/ and some consoling to do/…I have to go (to India) and meet the sunset'.
Above all, we must join the poet in 'herding the lost lambs home'. Only then can we pass on to a deserved ancestorhood. The final lines of this particular poem sum up probably the most important concern at the core of Awoonor's poetry, from the earliest to the latest in a long distinguished career: the duty we owe to our country, our people:
When the final night falls on us
as it fell upon our parents,
we shall retire to our
that we have done our duty
by our people;
we met the challenge of history
and were not afraid.
The book is to be published in March by University of Nebraaska Press. His invitation to the festival in Kenya was part of the advance publicity for the book.