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Not Yet Damascus

2007, author(s)-editor(s) Emmanuel Fru Doh

Not Yet Damascus celebrates a tumultuous era without patriotic leaders willing to transform their national wastelands into thriving bastions. The collection salutes and queries: a panoramic collection intended for the sensitization of all, hence the simple yet evocative approach.

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ISBN 9789956558070 | 76 pages | 216 x 140 mm | 2007 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback

3 Book Reviews

  • Book Review: Not Yet Damascus 8 August 2009 13:28, author(s)-editor(s) Peter Wuteh Vakunta, Ph.D (University of Wisconsin-Madison, (...)

    Poetry has the potential to be therapeutic and cathartic, allowing poets to wade through existential meanders in their lives; to find answers to nagging questions of the moment; seek clarity in the midst of obscurantism; comfort and solace in troubled times; peace and tranquility in a world gone haywire. Versification provides a vehicle for the transportation of diverse attitudes, frames of mind, and fresh insights. Doh achieves these feats in Not Yet Damascus. He speaks in a confident tone of prophetic utterances: advising, denouncing, and chiding.

    His poetry is endowed with the twin virtues of relevance and simplicity of diction. He willfully eschews the irksome ineloquence and syntactic sophistry characteristic of traditional poets. Passion, energy and incisive irony are the hallmarks of this rich book of poems. Not Yet Damascus is captivating in several respects but the theme that captures the reader’s attention the most is the poet’s rap on governmental ineptitude. Doh bemoans the fate of a nation-state taken hostage by a cohort of compulsive kleptomaniacs parading as leaders: “When dwarfs paraded as giants/Fumbling in high thrones/Determined in control to stay/Even as the nation crashed.” (7)The target of the poet’s fiery diatribe is an anonymous fictional country which could easily represent his home country—Cameroon—in the throes of underdevelopment, decrepitude, bad governance, moral degeneracy and electoral gerrymandering:” And so-called scholars in Luciferan dominions/Of Demon-cracy, like the thugs they are/Corrupting voters with unaccounted for/Crayfish money. (7)

    The poet’s clime is an ‘Orwellian Animal Farm’ of sorts where dereliction of duty and political harlotry run roughshod: “These leaders today/Serpents of different kinds in strange/Political garments which they shed/As gains come and go.”(10)Not Yet Damascus is a cry of the disenchanted; a lament for the callous pauperization of the destitute in a land of plenty where the proletariat is condemned to numbing their pangs of hunger on incessant rumor: “All rumors/Else all lies from the town criers…/Rumors about your health…/Rumors about your death…/ 

    Rumors, rumors, rumors!” (9) Doh’s poems are informed by a society ambushed by its own lame duck leadership, thanks to a benighted and corrupt system that has yielded unrepresentative spokesmen. These are poems written by a grieving patriot who has spotted his country’s futile yet divisive squabbles: ”Once upon a time we bonded/Yet now how slander your treachery/Seeds of woe and separation have sown.”(50) The poet is determined to school his compatriots in the virtues of peace and genuine unity as we read in the following didactic lines: ”If we be not wise/But go on stabbing our backs/With suicidal strokes/Then doomed we are as a people.” (22)To the task of national re-awakening he drums support from all and sundry as the following lines clearly show: ”Listen carefully to the mystery/Of the Oracles/And determine the urgency of my call/Let me blow the conch/So that you may hear/The sound of the times (re-awakening)” (17).These poems are a tale of estrangement. The poet raises a strong voice of protest against the banishment of his compatriots from the homeland: ”And so my seeds scattered/Far and wide on alien shores/Even with this daily sacrifice of my body/Let those with eyes see.” (14) Doh perceives self-exile as the root cause of the brain-drain that has deprived his fatherland of much desired gray matter, leaving behind pseudo-intellectuals to call the shots: ”In strange lands, yet/My blood excels/But my maternal dues/To strange bosoms are accorded…/”(19).

    Not Yet Damascus brings under the spotlight a sinister form of oppression—linguistic oppression. It interrogates the rationale behind a dysfunctional bilingual system where the notion of bilingualism is a burdensome imposition on the Anglophone minority as seen in the following excerpt: “At one place I am Anglo-minority/And so I do not belong/And could very well go elsewhere...” (23) Doh’s poems are a dirge sung in condolence of victimhood orchestrated by forces from within and without. Cameroon’s offspring are entrapped in the nefarious tentacles of neo-colonialism, doomed to ... “perish, crushed by the rebounding waves of/Slavery, colonialism/neo-colonialism/globalization/Divide and rule, kleptocracy.”(15) In several respects, these verses are revolutionary; they constitute a call for an uprising against wanton abuse of power and the emasculation of inalienable human rights. Listen to the poet’s cryptic summons to action: ”Why must we wait for others/Our success to tell?/Is not the stomach/Its own time-keeper?” (20-21)The quest for freedom is a leitmotif in Doh’s poetry. His covert intent is to unmask the totalitarians at the helm in his homeland. His purview is not limited to his cradle; he casts an interrogative glance on the entire continent of Africa. In “Africa’s Journey”, he writes: ”Your best you gave/But in your celebration/He chained your hands, and/Today, from these shackles/To free thyself remains /The greatest blight…” (18).

    The poet adopts the posture of liberator of the downtrodden. Bleak as the portrait may be, Doh’s world is not devoid of love. He celebrates sensual love in “Mea Culpa” (25) as follows: ”I sang my tale of love like a lark/All about me she cherished/But there was another she relished/And just so much love had she for one man… (26)He perceives love as a journey of apprenticeship: “We learnt our lessons, lessons/Most invaluable…” (27). 

    In a nutshell, Not Yet Damascus is a veritable tour de force accomplished by a literary virtuoso. Doh’s poetry jogs our memory; it jerks us out of lethal lethargy as it recounts the woes and heydays of a people at a particular point in time. These poems raise our expectations and heighten our fears of the future in a diction that poses no challenge whatsoever to the reader. The arrangement of the poems in thematic rubrics makes the book an easy read.

    Reviewer: Peter Wuteh Vakunta, Ph.D [University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA]
    Source: www.postnewsline.com

  • Not Yet Damascus 27 June 2010 18:56, author(s)-editor(s) Shadrach Ambanasom, Professor of Literature, University of Yaounde I (...)

    This is the passionate poetry of a patriotic son of Cameroon. Here is a contemplative, sensitive soul that watches and registers on his emotional meter, and in potent imagery, the terrible damage done to his people, country, and continent.

    Shadrach Ambanasom, Professor of Literature, University of Yaounde I (E.N.S. Annex Bambili), Cameroon

  • Not Yet Damascus 27 June 2010 18:56, author(s)-editor(s) Peter Wuteh Vakunta, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

    Poetry can be therapeutic, allowing the poet to work through issues in life; to find solutions, clarity, comfort, and peace of mind. It provides a vehicle of expression for diverse attitudes and fresh insights. Emmanuel Fru Doh has achieved this feat in this collection of poems Not Yet Damascus. He speaks in a confident tone of prophetic utterances: advising, warning, denouncing, protesting and chiding. His poetry has the twin virtues of relevance and simplicity of diction. He has eschewed the obscurantist ineloquence and syntactic jugglery of traditional poets. Passion, energy and cutting irony are the hallmarks of the poems in the anthology.

    Peter Wuteh Vakunta, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA