#MadagascarLitMonth: Contemporary Poetry of Madagascar

-Abhay K.

I have been in Madagascar close to three years. During this time I have interacted with a number of young Malagasy poets while hosting the monthly literary programme LaLitTana which I started in April 2019. I present a selection of poems of some of these poets in English translation here. Most of the poets have translated their poems into English themselves. Hope you enjoy this delectable taste of contemporary poetry of Madagascar.

EAT YOU

By Mose Njo

eat you

that’s what I’m thinking of

swallow you

chew you

my eighteen-letter lady

am so into tomatoes,

you know

want to swim into

a sea of tomatoes

then

open my mouth

then

kiss you

my eighteen-letter lady

please

don’t bite me

with those eyes

those

tiny

tiny

eyes

it hurts,

you know

look!

that smile

on your face

is just like

a knife

wait!

there’s some

blood

all over

my soul

please

do something

lick

me

suck

it

then

heal

me

from

you

my eighteen-letter lady

free

me

from

me

my eighteen-letter lady

Mose Njo is a multilingual writer who lives and works in Madagascar. He has released a novel in Malagasy called Lisy Mianjoria. His French short story, Siri mon AmourZuckerbook ma Patrie, was published in a science fiction anthology called Europunk. He was among the winners of the Africa@2050 Climate-Fiction Competition, in English. He has translated plays and poems. He received a scholarship to study independent filmmaking at the Art-on-the-Run school in Berlin. He exhibits his conceptual art work from time-to-time.

BEHIND THE CLOSED DOOR

By Lalatiana Andréa

Frankly,

I am not already ready

to have this baby.

Just give me nine months

to be ready

One month

to ignore the fact

Two months

to achieve all my goals

Three months

to deny your presence

Four months

trying to fix

my sadness

Five months

to start cleaning

the mess

Six months

to rest

Seven months

to celebrate

your presence

inside me

Eight months

to calm you

down

Nine months

to wait

for your arrival.

Rasamoelina Lalatiana Andréa, known under the stage name Antigone is a Poet-slammer, young mother and writes in three languages: Malagasy, French and English. In November 2019 she was elected an Ambassador of the Faculty of Letters and Humanities at the University of Antananarivo as a poet-slammer.

LOVE LIKE WATER

By Na Hassi

Childhood memory

Lurking in my mind

Quicksand of tiny limbs

Toying with the waves

Dragged by the tide

Swallowed by the sea.

Trail of tears

That led me away

From ever even wanting

To get anywhere close.

I cast before you

The meanders of my mind

Seeking you on purpose

Hoping that your peace

Will flood and bleed onto me

To soothe away the creases

And heal the bitten nails

Gnawing at my heart

Keeping them from uncoiling

Thrusting me to the ground.

Keepsakes and souvenirs

Gushing out the windows

Landmarks and bearings

Wiped out of sight

Cleared from consciousness

Stolen and stored into amnesia.

Being without past

Soul filled with void

Raised by silence

Growing in emptiness.

I cast on your sand

The little I have left

Scraps and slivers clinging to my fingers

Gathering from your still waters

The trials you must have gulped down

Surmising from your glimmer

The darkness it navigates through

How I wish to be like you…

Water, you are.

Mother, you are.

Full of love

Today,

A new stream has begun to flow

Untangling the whirlwinds of yesterday

Relieving the trauma of that water-fallen angel

Making peace with the memories washed away.

Like chicken soup, it warms and fills my chest.

I cast into your sea

My eyes and brimming tears

To suck up your beauty

To fill up with wonder

Everything about you

Is a hymn to life

A chisel to the soul.

Water, you are

Mother, you are

Full of love

Where else but on your banks

Will I pour out the sobs and burdens of the past?

Whom else but the broth of your flows

Will I trust to tend to my scars?

Yesterday may have been quicksand

But today, the water has cleared.

Crystal reflecting my newfound peace.

Water you are

Mother you are

Eternal love

Translated by Johana Rasoanindrainy

Born in 1989 in Antananarivo, Na Hassi holds a Master degree in French literature after presenting a work on “the images and dynamics in poetry collection Simple Voyelle by Esther NIRINA”. Since 2008, she has participated in performances in Madagascar, Comoros, Reunion Island and Ivory Coast. Her works are published in Takelaka Tsara Soratra (Madagascar), Mozaïk (Indian Ocean), Politikà (Madagascar), Les mots d’une île à l’autre (Reunion), Project-Îles Revue (Indian Ocean) and Indigo (Indian Ocean). Her forthcoming book: Zana-bolana Femme Lunaire will come from RanjaSoa Publishing.

BREATHE

By Tsiky Rabenimanga

Myriad possibilities

Even among the rocks

My cactus in bloom

… Breathe

Hopes of old

Distilled into the desert

Ever in bloom

Breathe…

Tsiky Rabenimanga is a poet, writer and a wordsmith. She started writing poetry in her early teens. A Graduate in Literature from the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar, she first published her work in 2018. She works and writes in three languages: Malagasy, French and English. She is also an English teacher. Her inspiration ranges widely from inner life and the creative fire found in poetry, literature and the arts. A member of the OpérationBokiko, she promotes people’s access to books, education and culture.

NIGHT REMINISCENCES

By Andrianimerina Hobiana

And yet my nights …

Contemplating from the window the half-light blurs my eyes

or making me see in my mind’s eye a mournful twilight sky

Fathomless sigh

Darkening night

Night striping in most memories in the moonlight

Month after month, melted into year, my nights have been there

You’re the shadow in their dark

Flickering haunt emitting sound waves

through the thunderstorm

In the darkness, lightning flashing,

and I’m fantasizing about your face

Volatile image!

O Reminiscences! As stubborn as a mule about longing for « old days »  

And quietly, your phantasmal image faded away

A soothing voice then made me drowsy.

Andrianimerina Hobiana is a Malagasy poet and writer. Honorary President and Founder of the Union of Poets and Writers HAVATSA-UPEM Arivonimamo, he was decorated Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts, des Lettres et de la Culture in 2017 for his  contribution to the promotion of literature and Malagasy language. He is also a winner of several national prizes and was named as the Writer of the Year in 2019.

IARIVO

By Riambola Mitia

Does Love exist over there

 Which was born in the middle of the night

If so…bring me one

 So that my melancholic heart could romance with…

 As now

 Coldness is felt here

 and there

 Sorrow drops like rain

 And mixed with the song of Vepris’s leaf

 A Song which passed through melted sky

 And brought to me sigh,

 longing and lure

Iarivo, Does Love exist over there

Which was born in the middle of the night

 If so…bring me one

So that my melancholic heart could harvest their poetry reciting…

 Because here is thirsty

 Of hearing poet’s song

 If not Iarivo Let your soul

resonate with me

To wake up my dead spirit.

Riambola Mitia is an ecologist, researcher, orator, poet, writer and a member of the Circle of Poets and Writers ‘Sandratra’. Former coordinator of Antananarivo Section of the Circle, he is the Editor-in-chief of the bimonthly literary journal named “Ambioka” and Book Editor of the Circle.   He has published five anthologies of Malagasy poetry in collaboration with fellow poets.

THE WEATHER AND MY LOVE

By J.Nalisoa RavaliteraI

The weather is fine here but my life is dark

If your smile is not here to illuminate my thought.

It’s very hot here but my heart is cold

Because you aren’t present to erase my sadness.

It’s raining today but my mind is dry

Without your life’s dew to water my life.

It’s storming now but my soul is very quiet,

Remembering you, who still lives in my mind.

There are great noises everywhere but my home is calm,

Because I don’t hear your voice, my joy and my treasure.

The weather changes every time, but my love doesn’t change,

And I pronounce your name every time on my lips.

Writer, Poet co-founder of the Circle of Poets and Writers ‘Sandratra,’ Dr Nalisoa Ravalitera is a senior Lecturer at the University of Antananarivo and Vice-President of the Malagasy Academy. He has published 5 books: TAPAPOROHANA (Poetry), ZETRA (Theater piece), FITIA SY FITIA (Poetry), Ambony Rahona (Poetic prose) and MAVANA (Poetry).

WHEREVER WE ARE

By Ampelagie

I talk to the moon,

The stars and the sun

To know how you are

I talk to the sky

The birds and the fly

To tell how I miss you

I talk to the plants,

The hill and the wind

To caress you where you are

And all the nature will be on our side

To cover our hearts.

Ampelagie is the pen name of poet-writer, journalist, film and documentaries maker Holy Danielle. She is the Chief Editor of « Musichall », a bi-monthly magazine dedicated to music and of « Le courrier des jeunes leaders » Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Fondation (FES).

Even if …

By Fanja Rakotondrainibe

Even if I know you are so far

My heart will continue to send you

Its tender message

Telling you something  sweet

Something deep…

Even if I know

My hands will not touch yours

My heart can guess where you are

Not far from me…

Just somewhere thinking of me …

Even if I don’t know

When we’ll meet again

I stay strong and deeply hope

One day, I can sleep in your arms…

Fanja Rakotoandrainibe started writing at the age of 15 in French and Malagasy. She has written four books of stories in French. Her first collection of poems in Malagasy and French VETSOVETSOM-PITIAVANA-MURMURES SENTIMENTAUX was published in 2018 and her second poetry collection TOPIMASO REGARDS was published in 2019.

SUNSHINE

By Maholy Razanadrasoa

(…) sometimes you lose

Sometimes you win

But there is a reason for everything

Heart full of fear

Eyes full of tear

A little world decorated by a deep sorrow.

With a mountain of plan to be done tomorrow

He was buried into a hole of depression

A highest hill hides his destination

A peculiar rainbow passes upon his head

To discover the word written inside …

his crazy memory

And I was standing like a stone

In front of this bully

To raise his hand

And take him out

To show his destiny

Feeling depressed but raised again

Dancing in peace from the pain

He was falling down to the deepest river

Screaming hard like a hungry lion

I threw a piece of hope

Shaped like a stone

To strengthen his bone

Shining at the back

And help him to race with the height of the sky (..)

sometimes you lose

Sometimes you win

But there is a reason for everything…

Maholy Razanadrasoa (b. 2000) is a young poet and writer. She writes poems in Malagasy and in English. She started writing at the age of 11. She is a graduate from the English Department of the University of Antananarivo.

MadagascarLitMonth is curated by guest editor, poet-diplomat Abhay K.

Abhay K. is the author of nine poetry collections including The Magic of Madagascar (L’Harmattan Paris, 2021), The Alphabets of Latin America (Bloomsbury India, 2020), and the editor of The Book of Bihari Literature (Harper Collins, 2022), The Bloomsbury Anthology of Great Indian PoemsCAPITALS, New Brazilian Poems and The Bloomsbury Book of Great Indian Love Poems. His poems have appeared in over 100 literary magazines including Poetry Salzburg Review, Asia Literary Review among others. His ‘Earth Anthem’ has been translated into over 140 languages. He received SAARC Literary Award 2013 and was invited to record his poems at the Library of Congress, Washington DC in 2018.  His forthcoming book length poem is titled Monsoon. His translations of Kalidasa’s Meghaduta  (Bloomsbury India, 2021) and Ritusamhara  (Bloomsbury India, 2021) from Sanskrit, have won KLF Poetry Book of the Year Award 2020-21

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