Magazine article Soundings

Three Poems

Magazine article Soundings

Three Poems

Article excerpt

In October 2011, writer and political activist Enoh Meyomesse unsuccessfully ran for the presidency of Cameroon. A month later, while Meyomesse was abroad, gendarmes broke into his home without a warrant and confiscated documents, photographs and other personal property On returning to Cameroon in November 2011, Meyomesse was arrested and charged with attempting to organise a coup, possessing a firearm and aggravated theft. He vehemently denied all charges, maintaining that he had been arrested because of views expressed in his writings and for his political activism.

In late January 2012, the coup charges against the writer were dropped; and in the intervening months the other charges against Meyomesse began to crumble. By June 2012 no charges remained. Despite this, a judge ordered an extension of his detention, ostensibly to allow the prosecutor to search for evidence against him. In December 2012, after more than thirteen months in prison, Meyomesse was found guilty of the theft and illegal sale of gold, and sentenced to seven years in prison.

No witnesses or evidence were presented during the trial, and Meyomesse was not allowed to testify in his own defence.

Throughout his time in jail, Meyomesse has continued to write prolifically, and in November 2012 self published a powerful collection of poetry, Poeme carceral: Poesie du penitencier de Kondengui (Les Editions de Kamerun, November 2012).

To show our support for Meyomesse, English PEN put out a call on our website and via social media, asking our network of supporters to join us in working on a crowd-sourced translation of his writing. The resulting anthology Jail Verse: Poems from Kondengui Prison is now available as an e-book and to print-on-demand. As well as amplifying a voice that the Cameroonian government has sought to silence, we are using the collection to raise much-needed funds for Meyomesse and his family.

We are now looking for supporters to help us translate Meyomesse's work into as many different languages as possible to help us ensure that his voice is heard as widely as possible. If you're interested in getting involved, please contact cat@ for more information.

The Placard

   it hung around my neck
   the damned placard
   it hung

   and the television cameras
   and the gawping bystanders
   and the gazing eyes of people
   across the whole world
   were reading
   my name
   across it

   it straddled my neck
   the damned placard
   it straddled it

   they'd stuck it there
   they'd hung it there
   they'd tied it there
   and under my name
   there was inscribed
   an abomination
   oh supreme humiliation

Translated by Dick Jones

Why do you treat
me like this

   why do you treat me like this
   simply because I don't
   see things your way

   have you not freed words
   have you not freed spirits
   have you not freed souls
   have you not freed tongues

   oh leaders of this regime
   custodians of my people's destiny
   why do you treat me like this
   simply because I don't
   see things your way

Translated by Dick Jones


   elsewhere you are treasured
   and on your bulging breast sparkle
   medals and medals
   from your heroic fights
   against darkness

   elsewhere you are revered
   and atop your fragile yet also
   powerful body sparkles a halo of wisdom
   that brings glory

   your pen is loathed
   it is hated it is abhorred
   like the bird of death

   the people say
   at last we shut his fat mouth
   at last we shut his fat throat
   at last we shut his fat baritone
   voice that wakes the sleeping souls

   he will no longer insult us
   he will no longer shout at us
   he will no longer abuse us

Translated by Katerina Thomas

Translator's note: The original 'ecrivain'--'writer'--has been kept in order to take the poem to its final line. …

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