poet profile: Bernabe Laye

Poetry Potion | December 21st, 2013 | current issue, poet profile | No Comments


Une dreniére fois
L’état de la blessure
Lambeaux de honte et d’opprobre

To write

For a last time
The bursting of the wound
Shreds of shame and of opprobrium

from Requiem for Murdered Country

There’s a Rumi quote that I really like,

“The wound is the place where the light enters.”

For many, that light is poetry. When wounded and seeking reprieve, poetry can ease the painful and soothe the festering.

Bernabé Laye, a doctor and a poet, is someone who knows something about the potion that is poetry. I had he delight of meeting and talking to him about his poetry at the 17th Poetry Africa festival in Durban. Laye has published numerous poetry books with evocative titles, including his 1981 collection Nostalgie des jours qui passent, Les Sentiers de Liberté which was published in 1986, Requiem pour un pays assassiné (Requiem for a Murdered Country) which was first released in 1999 and later made available in a bilingual edition of both French and English in 2008 and Poèmes à l’Absente published in 2010, among others. In 2010, he received the Emile Nelligan prize for all his poetic work.

Born in Porto Novo in Benin in 1941, Laye has juggled poetry and medicine for most of his life.
After reading the novel, Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, “I closed the book, overwhelmed, as if I had just had an epiphany…” he says. “I told to myself…

read the rest of this article in the fourth print quarterly The Language Issue

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