I could not ask the Cameroonian poet and historian, Enoh Meyomesse for permission to publish his poem “I Went Back to My Country”, because he is in jail in Cameroon. But I know he would have said yes.
Today, I saw a tweet from the African Poetry Book fund saying to read Enoh’s collection Jail Poems, which have just been translated into English and published by English PEN. You can download the book here, and donate your chosen amount (recommended is £5); all proceeds will go to English PEN’s work in supporting Enoh Meyomesse and other writers at risk around the world. They have said that the collection “has a collective commons license, and dissemination of the poems is actively encouraged.”
As the poem shows, many refugees or those forced to leave their country for whatever reason, want to go back home, and Enoh was no different. “I went back to my country/with my soul/hosting a thousand/dreams of freedom.” So Enoh left France, despite “the warnings/of thousands //stay-here /you’re-no-longer-from-there /your tongue-has-not-tasted/the-dishes-from-there-for-years.” But the warnings were prescient and he was arrested. The poem is a plea to the Kamerun (the nationalist fighters and now rulers of the country). “When then will you cease/to crush without mercy/your most devoted children/is this the fruit of the fight for independence/that our ancestors tore from the hands of the Whites/is this the freedom that independence/carried in its gut.” He has been betrayed like the people of his country, of which he is hugely proud. “I went back to you/oh Kamerun/burning with desire/to see you tall/stronger than all.” (more…)