In his latest collection of lyrical poetry, political activist and scholar Askia Toure delivers twenty-one epic poems grounded in African history and mythology. The introduction points out that this congregation of poetry could easily and appropriately be considered a comrade of Ivan Van Sertima's Black Women in Antiquity, Molefi Asante's Kemet, Afrocentricity and Knowledge, or Cheikh Anta Diop's The African Origin of Civilization. Approaching poetry from a political and historical perspective, Toure explores our past using sacred imagery in a hypnotic attempt to show the presence and relevance of these images and ideas for the modern African of the diaspora.
As a tour guide, Toure is focused and direct. Each poem flows effortlessly into the next, connected by references to Khamitic mythology. In fact, Khamitic history and mythology dominate the poems, which may serve as a barrier to accessibility.
Although Toure provides elaborate notes to accompany each poem in the collection, the poems are perhaps best appreciated by the reader with a rich knowledge of Khamitic history. But the flip side of that argument is that Dawnsong! encourages a study of antiquital history. How else is the reader to know that when, in the title poem, Toure writes, "Bennu bird, emerge from your ashes / broadcast ecstatic cries ... / welcome a new sun rising from / Nile waters, like a bright flamingo / shrieking with joy"--the image to which he is referring, the Bennu bird, was stolen from Africa and renamed the Phoenix.
In addition, readers must be equipped with the desire to digest intense imagery, for several of these poems are protracted, sustaining themselves long after the average poem has evaporated. These are songs and chants masquerading as words that belong on the page. Undoubtedly, this is the poetry of a man devoted to the black oral aesthetic. It is in that spirit that Dawnsong! best exalts Toure's poetic range and power.
Askhari is the co-editor of Convictions an anthology of prison writings, and the moderator of www.deGriotSpace.com, an online workshop for Afridiasporic writers.
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|Publication:||Black Issues Book Review|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2000|
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