Poetry is one of the major literary genres, which has been in human use. And it has served for a long period of time for various ends. Festivals chant poems targeting the celebrants. Poetry helped war combatants by evoking one’s sentiments towards his respective social bonds of various creeds. Rituals across cultures are among the ideal conditions that inspire men for the creation of poems. Historical and contemporary situations may also contribute to the birth of a new kind of poetry. Last but not least, political movements especially social revolutions in various historical epochs were orchestrated poems that stir up the feeling of underprivileged discontent and dispossession.
From historical account, the Harlem literary movement of the 1920s was superb and without parallel of significance and artistic dearth. In point of fact, the Harlem literary movement was not confined to poems, to include music, theatre, visual arts and the rest. Extraordinarily,those African- American poets broke the norms of “art for its own sake” since they found it as a luxury that struggling people could not afford. Taking for granted the justification to deviate from the established norms, Negritude poets employed art, for them, for the racial- political purpose of the movement. Especially in America,the literary outburst of the Negro Movement of those days was largely a reflection of wider political programs that revolved around the ideas of race, self reliance and nationhood. Nevertheless, David Diop,Du Bois, Julia Peterkin, Howards Odum, Langston Hughes and others were remembered among others as icons of Negritude artists reverberated from Harlem.
Prior to Ethiopian revolution also, the USUAA (University Students Association of Addis Ababa) used to have a ‘college day’ over which ground breaking poems were read. No one can too localize student revolution, as historians attribute it in its global coincidence with ‘civil right movement’ in US and cold war were found among other things. Perhaps, ‘The lists of those revolutionary poets include- Solomon Derressa, Ibsa Gutema, Yohannes Admasu, Yilma Kebede, & Hailu Gebreyohannes. Those poets broke the norms of those days literary poems which has been remarkably conformist, as they constantly flattering Emperor Haile Selassie as the liberator of the country from occupation and as the opener of the door for modernization and civilization. In contrary, poems by Haile Selassie I University students characterized the poems as poems of disillusionment and poems of protest”. Alas, the renowned scholar on Ethiopian folklore and literature- Fekade Azeze forwarded that History has recorded the celebrated role of “University Day” in that generation, as he compiled the collection which was named as “Poems of College Days (2001)” where he remarked that the place of those poems occupy in the history of Amharic literature and their effect on the socio-political changes that took place in 1974 in Ethiopia have to be investigated.
For instance once Abebe Workie read a poem as follows
Take every part away,
But spare me my tongue
I want nothing, take everything away
But leave my tongue to express my thoughts.
The poem was applauded by the celebrants in the hall as he made catchy phrase for ‘freedom of expression’ which was intensified to be purged in those last hours of Haile Selassie I regime.
Above all, that generation was known to share sentiments out of the politically charged poems by the students.
In sum, poetry has an invisible stamp in accelerating Ethiopian revolution which made it as it owes gratitude. In turn, poems of college days’ in 60’s and 70’s owe credit for mainstreaming the requisite consciousness of those ‘revolutionaries’ and repudiating the ‘saboteurs of revolution’. Therefore, the endeavor of HOHE Awards considers the fact that secular development of poetry is vital for civilizing the Ethiopian Polity and maintains the integrity of national unity.
(This article is contributed by HOHE Awards. HOHE Awards started in 2017, is an annual award presented for an author of a distinguished book possessing notable literary merit and critical perspective and illuminating important contemporary issues) By Eyob Asfaw