schule für dichtung / vienna poetry school
waris dirie  / lecture
uncut & natural 
Unbenanntes Dokument
A Nation of Poets

Africa News Service (Durham)
January 3, 1993
Posted to the web January 8, 2001

Tamela Hultman

Americans know Somalia as a land of gaunt children and marauding gunmen. But for centuries, those familiar with the wedge-shaped piece of land jutting into the Indian Ocean have called it "A Nation of Poets." Somalia's poetic tradition differs markedly from Western practice. Somali scholar Said Sheikh Samatar, in an essay to accompany a 1986 exhibit at the Smithsonian's Museum of African Art, wrote that it is difficult for Westerners to appreciate the role of poetry in Somali culture. "Whereas in the industrialized West, poetry - and especially what is regarded as serious poetry - seems to be increasingly relegated to a marginal place in society," he said, "Somali oral verse is central to Somali life."
.../more (pdf)

Mohamed Abdillahi Rirache

Many observers of Somali society have been very impressed by the Somali veneration of poets and poetry; many references have been made to this very important aspect of Somali culture. In 1854, Richard Burton observed that the country was teeming with poets, poetasters and poetitos, and that every man had a good ear for recognizing a good poem from a bad one. (1)

A century later (1964) Professors Andrzejewski and Lewis admired Somali poets for achieving worthwhile results in the very difficult medium of Somali prosody; they were also impressed by feats of memory by the reciters of poetry, some of whom were poets (2). In reference to Somali poetry, Said Samater, a Somali scholar, seconded these earlier foreign scholars in their assessment of Somali poetry writing: " .../more (pdf)

Amina H. Adan

Women and Words

Poetry occupies a large and important place in Somali culture

Interest in it is universal and skill in it is something which everyone covets and many possess. The Somali poetic heritage is a living force intimately connected with the vicissitudes of everyday life.(1)

An apt description. The poet in Somali society is the innovator of new styles of speech. He is the critic of despotic chiefs and he is the artist whose verse gives pleasure to the mind. He is also the agitator and he is the newscaster who informs his listeners what is going on in the outside world. Somali poetry is sometimes a political comment as the following verse shows; it was composed during the 1800s when the African continent was divided among the European powers and Somalia, in particular, was sliced among conquering factions .../more  (pdf)