Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

A Freedom Song

Enlarge poem

Atieno washes dishes,
Atieno plucks the chicken,
Atieno gets up early,
Beds her sacks down in the kitchen,
Atieno eight years old,
Atieno yo.

Since she is my sister’s child
Atieno needs no pay.
While she works my wife can sit
Sewing every sunny day:
With he earnings I support
Atieno yo.

Atieno’ sly and jealous,
Bad example to the kids
Since she minds them, like a schoolgirl
Wants their dresses, shoes and beads,
Atieno ten years old,
Atieno yo.

Now my wife has gone to study
Atieno is less free.
Don’t I keep her, school my own ones,
Pay the party, union fee,
All for progress! Arenâ•?t you grateful
Atieno yo?

Visitors need much attention,
All the more when I work night.
That girl spends too long at market.
Who will teach her what is right?
Atieno rising fourteen,
Atieno yo.

Atieno’s had a baby
So we know that she is bad.
Fifty fifty it may live
And repeat the life she had
Ending in post-partum bleeding,
Atieno yo.

Atieno’s soon replaced;
Meat and sugar more than all
She ate in such a narrow life
Were lavished at her funeral.
Atieno’s gone to glory,
Atineo yo.

Marjorie Oludhe-Macgoye

Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye

Featured Poem:

Song of the Unborn Dead

Enlarge poem

We are those for whom there were no goats to tend
And so we were not particularly wanted
We were helped on our way by a dirty needle
Kicks, blows, high heels or simply
The strained back and the all-consuming hoe

Maybe she – she warm, moist and all embracing –
Desired us, but by consensus it was decreed
That we should not be heard, even if seen
We were crowded out
By a clamour of hungry voices, or perhaps
A rounded schoolgirl vision with a white dress
A garland and a sofa set
To welcome us if we should come again

Most of us conformed
As is the custom: in those who hung on
Our leaping was an offence, our anxious turning
Had something of presumption in it

Some of us have come back
Owiti or Wepukhule at least
But for the rest of us there is now way out
Even though the side wall of the house
No burying-place for the precious cord
We stick at it

So if you are brushed by a spider-web at nightfall
Or disturbed by the chirping of childish cricket voices
If your cow is sucked dry without a cause
Or blood-loss comes to you as disappointment
Remember us who were intended to be
And have no name to come back to

????????

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (21)
  • Pride (15)
  • Optimism (12)
  • Anger (8)
  • Delight (6)
  • Inspiration (11)
  • Reflection (18)
  • Captivation (5)
  • Peace (8)
  • Amusement (7)
  • Sorrow (13)
  • Vigour (6)
  • Hope (5)
  • Sadness (18)
  • Fear (12)
  • Jubilation (7)

Comments

  1. A reflection on “A Freedom Song”: I first read this poem about “Atieno” many years ago while I had a spell in Kenya. It’s one of the most moving things I’ve ever read. I’ve come back to it now, and all these years later it still hasn’t lost its power. We have so much work to do in this world, and it is things like this that teach us what we need to do.

    Annabelle
  2. The poem is live.very touching and realistic. I have been hearing about it from friends but today, I have decided to look for it, and here it is. Anyway, can someone provide me with a feminist reading of this poem?

    kamau Frank
  3. I like this poem bcause it reflects our social realities like oppression to the children and carelessness from their guards… VERY NICE OBJECTIVE POEM

    Ramah Mgaza
  4. the poem is very clear and open to the guardians who have a tendencies of oppressing the children out of their blood for no reason

    mago
  5. I like the poem because it ridicules the social follies that take place in the society.

    Patience Lilian Atuhaire
  6. I like the poem it is a reflection of the society and the mistreatment of young children whose parents have died and this is unfair

    Tabitha Nyamoita
  7. Great piece, I always teach this poem to my students and they enjoy it to the maximum.

    REGNARD BISHOZA
  8. This poem is a masterpiece, first read it while in form two, it personifies domestic serfdom and inherent lack of goodwill by some guardians.

    Laban gathogo

Your email address will not be published.

Biography

Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye is one of the most prolific women writers, not only in Kenya, but also in Africa. She has distinguished herself as a writer of novels, poetry, and children’s stories. She was born in Southampton, England, in 1928 and came to Kenya as a missionary bookseller in 1954. She married D.G.W. Macgoye in 1960 and subsequently integrated into her husband’s extended family and the Luo community. This feature is well manifested in her literary works which have been acknowledged all over the world. Coming to Birth won the Sinclair Prize for fiction in 1986, while Homing In won second place in the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature in 1985.

Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye

????????
????????

Biography

Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye is one of the most prolific women writers, not only in Kenya, but also in Africa. She has distinguished herself as a writer of novels, poetry, and children’s stories. She was born in Southampton, England, in 1928 and came to Kenya as a missionary bookseller in 1954. She married D.G.W. Macgoye in 1960 and subsequently integrated into her husband’s extended family and the Luo community. This feature is well manifested in her literary works which have been acknowledged all over the world. Coming to Birth won the Sinclair Prize for fiction in 1986, while Homing In won second place in the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature in 1985.

A Freedom Song

Enlarge poem

Atieno washes dishes,
Atieno plucks the chicken,
Atieno gets up early,
Beds her sacks down in the kitchen,
Atieno eight years old,
Atieno yo.

Since she is my sister’s child
Atieno needs no pay.
While she works my wife can sit
Sewing every sunny day:
With he earnings I support
Atieno yo.

Atieno’ sly and jealous,
Bad example to the kids
Since she minds them, like a schoolgirl
Wants their dresses, shoes and beads,
Atieno ten years old,
Atieno yo.

Now my wife has gone to study
Atieno is less free.
Don’t I keep her, school my own ones,
Pay the party, union fee,
All for progress! Arenâ•?t you grateful
Atieno yo?

Visitors need much attention,
All the more when I work night.
That girl spends too long at market.
Who will teach her what is right?
Atieno rising fourteen,
Atieno yo.

Atieno’s had a baby
So we know that she is bad.
Fifty fifty it may live
And repeat the life she had
Ending in post-partum bleeding,
Atieno yo.

Atieno’s soon replaced;
Meat and sugar more than all
She ate in such a narrow life
Were lavished at her funeral.
Atieno’s gone to glory,
Atineo yo.

Marjorie Oludhe-Macgoye

Featured Poem:

Song of the Unborn Dead

Enlarge poem

We are those for whom there were no goats to tend
And so we were not particularly wanted
We were helped on our way by a dirty needle
Kicks, blows, high heels or simply
The strained back and the all-consuming hoe

Maybe she – she warm, moist and all embracing –
Desired us, but by consensus it was decreed
That we should not be heard, even if seen
We were crowded out
By a clamour of hungry voices, or perhaps
A rounded schoolgirl vision with a white dress
A garland and a sofa set
To welcome us if we should come again

Most of us conformed
As is the custom: in those who hung on
Our leaping was an offence, our anxious turning
Had something of presumption in it

Some of us have come back
Owiti or Wepukhule at least
But for the rest of us there is now way out
Even though the side wall of the house
No burying-place for the precious cord
We stick at it

So if you are brushed by a spider-web at nightfall
Or disturbed by the chirping of childish cricket voices
If your cow is sucked dry without a cause
Or blood-loss comes to you as disappointment
Remember us who were intended to be
And have no name to come back to

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (21)
  • Pride (15)
  • Optimism (12)
  • Anger (8)
  • Delight (6)
  • Inspiration (11)
  • Reflection (18)
  • Captivation (5)
  • Peace (8)
  • Amusement (7)
  • Sorrow (13)
  • Vigour (6)
  • Hope (5)
  • Sadness (18)
  • Fear (12)
  • Jubilation (7)

A Freedom Song

Enlarge poem

Atieno washes dishes,
Atieno plucks the chicken,
Atieno gets up early,
Beds her sacks down in the kitchen,
Atieno eight years old,
Atieno yo.

Since she is my sister’s child
Atieno needs no pay.
While she works my wife can sit
Sewing every sunny day:
With he earnings I support
Atieno yo.

Atieno’ sly and jealous,
Bad example to the kids
Since she minds them, like a schoolgirl
Wants their dresses, shoes and beads,
Atieno ten years old,
Atieno yo.

Now my wife has gone to study
Atieno is less free.
Don’t I keep her, school my own ones,
Pay the party, union fee,
All for progress! Arenâ•?t you grateful
Atieno yo?

Visitors need much attention,
All the more when I work night.
That girl spends too long at market.
Who will teach her what is right?
Atieno rising fourteen,
Atieno yo.

Atieno’s had a baby
So we know that she is bad.
Fifty fifty it may live
And repeat the life she had
Ending in post-partum bleeding,
Atieno yo.

Atieno’s soon replaced;
Meat and sugar more than all
She ate in such a narrow life
Were lavished at her funeral.
Atieno’s gone to glory,
Atineo yo.

Marjorie Oludhe-Macgoye

Comments

  1. A reflection on “A Freedom Song”: I first read this poem about “Atieno” many years ago while I had a spell in Kenya. It’s one of the most moving things I’ve ever read. I’ve come back to it now, and all these years later it still hasn’t lost its power. We have so much work to do in this world, and it is things like this that teach us what we need to do.

    Annabelle
  2. The poem is live.very touching and realistic. I have been hearing about it from friends but today, I have decided to look for it, and here it is. Anyway, can someone provide me with a feminist reading of this poem?

    kamau Frank
  3. I like this poem bcause it reflects our social realities like oppression to the children and carelessness from their guards… VERY NICE OBJECTIVE POEM

    Ramah Mgaza
  4. the poem is very clear and open to the guardians who have a tendencies of oppressing the children out of their blood for no reason

    mago
  5. I like the poem because it ridicules the social follies that take place in the society.

    Patience Lilian Atuhaire
  6. I like the poem it is a reflection of the society and the mistreatment of young children whose parents have died and this is unfair

    Tabitha Nyamoita
  7. Great piece, I always teach this poem to my students and they enjoy it to the maximum.

    REGNARD BISHOZA
  8. This poem is a masterpiece, first read it while in form two, it personifies domestic serfdom and inherent lack of goodwill by some guardians.

    Laban gathogo

Your email address will not be published.