Saturday, November 24, 2007

Walls of Agony by John Ngong Kum Ngong

John Ngong Kum Ngong. Walls of Agony. Editions CLE Yaounde, 2006, 60pp.

Walls of Agony is a collection of 40 poems which has as its general subject matter the post-colonial Cameroonian society which the poet criticizes and educates. Cameroon emerges from the poems as a society composed of people of various cultural and ethnic background. But instead of this cultural multivalence becoming a source of strength and a potential for positive change, it translates into a narrative of national anomie, an occasion for the construction of walls of incomprehension and misery.

The poet's anger is directed against all those who erect these polyvalent tribal walls of division and misunderstanding between the superior Self and the inferior Other. His ire is aimed at those who fan the flames of tribal Manicheism ('The Battle continues', 'Powerless').

The Cameroon that the poems examine is a country blessed with many natural resources which are unfortunately mismanaged by a few privileged citizens to the detriment and misery of many. The poet pictures the country as having been ruined and destroyed by the profligate few but one that needs to be rebuilt by real patriots.

It is in the dimension of reconstruction that the poet situates his role and that of genuine nationalists. On the whole the poet is pre-occupied with familiar themes like exploitation, deprivation, marginalisation, cruelty, insatiable greed, corruption, indecency, injustice and exclusion etc.
Written in free verse and accessible language, Walls of Agony is very readable. In it the poet effectively exploits sonal services, especially the use of alliteration. His poetic style is economical, his poetic line very tightly controlled, with no unnecessary words and expressions.

The poet's sentiments are mature and sincere, and his moral intentions for his country, honourable. The social relevance of this collection resides in the fact that it is a soulful, patriotic appeal for the rebuilding of a beloved and richly endowed country ruined by all kinds of petty-minded people who privilege mean projects and pursuits and divisive, egotistic tendencies above concern for the commonweal and love for the fatherland.

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