Dzemo Romuald, A New Poetic Voice
A Reading of His Words Lost in the Wind
Ngo Charles Nsoseka
The struggle for African freedom has negotiated a crucial bend with the publication this September 2008 by Pendium Publishing House, U.S.A of Dzemo Romuald’s significant poetry collection Words Lost In The Wind. The collection which contains over 80 poems gives us a useful insight into the poetic landscape which has goaded, guided and shaped the life and mind of this young Cameroonian poet whom it would be interesting to watch.
The thrust of his poetry is the preservation of his humanity. That is why he sees those who fight for the acquisition of human rights as the warriors of light.
"They died fighting, not out of hatred
They fought to be human; they fought to give a name to life
And they died in the fight. And they died that others might live."
Dzemo Romuald therefore looks into the past, especially the African past, during which slavery and colonization reduced man to a mere beast and from this pool of bestiality, the poet gives battle to the tyrants of today and is ready to fall to the gibbet. In this readiness to fight, the poet looks around for models and finds them in Jose Rizal:
“he (Rizal) trudged on, hands bound
fearlessly towards the slaughter house
he knew it, he chose it
he had simply said yes to life
as a noble man would do”
(‘Death of a hero’)
To Dzemo therefore the way forward lies in the readiness to welcome martyrdom; to die so that others might live. Thus he says:
"I will not flee…
because I know that only he
that has listened to pain and sadness run through
his blood is fit to love his kith and kin in pain." (‘I Tell You’)
Compassion is the consequence of willingness to sacrifice for the welfare of others. It is thus for the unborn generation that every true poet struggles in order that tomorrow he will be seen as having been the witness of humanity in his own era .Suffering therefore “ remains absurd until it becomes a birthplace”(‘Suffering?’); a birthplace for a new humanity, a new earth, a new song.
"We only labour for a generation unborn.
We sow seeds in the fertile limbs of the womb,
seeds we shan’t live to reap of their fruits."
(‘The Place Within’)
Dzemo Romuald knows that it is foolish to plant in order to reap because we of the present live by the sweat and toil of yesterday’s generation and consequently have a serious responsibility to bequeath a befitting legacy to tomorrow’s generation. That is why he tells the tyrant:
"The people need no more of your speeches.
What the people want is this:
That they should be human
What they need is the destruction of the beast in you" (‘The People and the Tyrant’)
In fact the Cameroonian poet Nsaikimo Killian Fai has stated unerringly that ‘the greatest human right is the right to remain human’. And Dzemo Romuald seems to reason in the same vein; for at this time and on this planet, the greatest threat we face is the threat of being reduced to animals, the threat of losing our humanity.
Dzemo knows how often others try to legislate us out from our humanity because as a ex-seminarian he must have protested vehemently against those who sought to make him act in ways that were not human. And although out from the narrow confines of the seminary cloister, society poses an even greater danger to the poet’s humanity and he resolves very firmly to fight against these forces of dehumanization and evil.
The poet’s life therefore becomes a pilgrimage in which he goes out “seeking the oasis in the hearts of men” (‘Pilgrim’). But it is an inward journey.
"Just too slowly, I follow this flame within.
The thirst for love, the search for truth
the will to achieve an inspiration for life-
I follow like the river, to your greater ocean of love." (‘Just Too Slowly’)
In his quest for truth, Dzemo knows that the guiding light for the discovery and recovery of his humanity lies in LOVE. That is why he laughs at the racist who professes, “the inequality of equal men” (‘In His Smile’). For racism preaches the hatred of one race by another and Dzemo Romuald sees the cure for racism in LOVE.
"We will be free when we come to realize
that one thing alone suffices our hold:
Love that binding, liberates and gives its price
to all we build or break."(‘Freedom’)
But what is the secret of love? How do we get to open the door to another man’s heart?
"The art of love is not taught,
We learn to love by loving-
You will hate every one, if you believe no one loves you;
You will start loving when you recognize love’s spark
in the face of someone who turns to you."(‘The Secret’)
Dzemo Romuald like every true poet considers poetry as an act of self-exploration and self-discovery. That is why his poetry is essentially meditative; a meditative posture which gives a philosophical and theological bent to his poetry.
"And I journey within
Heeding a call that comes from without
Leaving behind those cherished faces
of my affection
And shall I meet You, my brother
In the space within,
In the silence that defies me, and says God?
Shall I hear the silent whisper
of voices I have loved and lost;
those disfigured faces, I have sought to reach
In the limitless expanse of my solitude?
The journey within is endless
The well within, inexhaustible-
It is here my pilgrim place
Where I seek God, myself and humanity."(‘In the Space Within’)
It is this introspective outlook which largely accounts for the mood of solitude which is a leitmotif in Dzemo Romuald’s poetry; a salutary solitude which is a moment of thought, a moment of silence in the vast expanse of eternity.
It is such silence that enables the poet to commune with and feel the presence of the Eternal--when “words must cease / For the thing in itself becomes its very expression”
(‘When Truth Becomes Revelation’) and a voice breaks out of the silence saying “I am here!”
(‘Watching and Waiting’)
One of the distinguishing characteristics of Dzemo Romuald’s poetry is his deep concern for the common people and their destiny. Witness ‘Visit to the Young Virgin’, ‘In the little corner of a Road’, ‘The People and the Tyrant’ ‘The will of the Madman’ and ‘The plaint of the street Urchin.’ Dzemo Romuald is the poet of the street urchin, of suffering humanity as in ‘Refuge’. But he is also a poet who dares, who has the courage to lose and who has continued to keep “the ancient instinct of wonder.”(‘Heart Awake’) To Dzemo Romuald anyone who fears venturing out of his immediate cultural milieu still has the child in him asleep or is yet to be born. (‘Walking Out’)
The spirit of adventure is therefore what animates this whole collection of poems. And nobody can say that Dzemo Romuald’s words are lost in the wind. In fact, they are not lost; they abide by us, reminding us that Dzemo Romuald is only a pilgrim from Cameroon to the Philippines; a pilgrim pursued by and pursuing a vision. And it must be recalled that at the end of every pilgrimage, the pilgrim must come back home to the starting point .Could the nostalgia expressed for the sight and sounds of the poet’s native Mbiim village in Cameroon in the poem ‘Nostalgia: Wishes and memories’ be a signal for the poet’s, final homecoming, for the realization that Western culture, great as it is, is only an aspect and not the whole of human civilization?
For Dzemo Romuald does not seem to realize that there is metaphysics of the African world and consequently the realization of the need for the African revolution to be fought in the context of African world view.
Be that as it may, Dzemo Romuald’s Words Lost in the Wind is a rewarding collection of new poems which it will be greatly enriching to read. For here is a poet whose sincerity and honesty point unmistakably the way forward for Africa and perhaps for our world; especially as he writes of courage, of love, of compassion, of sacrifice and of endurance- those qualities which have made man to be more of man.
Ngo Charles Nsoseka is a strong disciple of the great Cameroonian intellectuals: Dr Bernard Fonlon and Dr Siga Asanga. For more than a decade, he has served as Editor-In-Chief of local newspapers in Cameroon.
Causes romuald dzemo ngong Supports
I write for those who seek meaning in life, exalting those simple values that restore the sense of human to life.