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Homelands

Homelands

9781781726549
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Homelands is the first collection by Wales-based poet Eric Ngalle Charles. Part one focuses on his childhood in the West African state of Cameroon. The poems often resound with warmth and humour, fond memories of sitting in his mother’s kitchen, of making toys out of leaves. We sense the beauty of the landscape and become one of the crowd of children who follow the aunties ‘tea-plucking’ on plantations. We also meet some of the darker deities from the mythologies in the Bakweri language, invoked by characters like the ‘Soothsayer’, which also gives these early poems ominous hints of danger.

Part two, Displacements, recalls the troubled history of Cameroon, of its slicing-up by colonial authorities in the 19th and 20th centuries, how this might echo older rivalries and wars to come. These move into poems detailing heart-breaking twists of fortune in the poet's own life. Promised a college education in Belgium he is tricked onto an airliner and taken by traffickers to Moscow. He is forced to join a criminal gang to survive. Alongside these poems, full of longing, are poems about others confined or subjected to unjust circumstances: victims of violence, drowning migrants, a natural disaster..

The third section, Cymru, is predominantly set in Ngalle’s newly adopted homeland of Wales. Eric escapes Moscow, landing at Heathrow where he begins another adventure after stepping onto a bus with names he recognises: Swansea via Cardiff. This section is both humorous and pointed. The past, however, is never safely stored away and the poet struggles with flashbacks, triggering episodes that remind him of previous trauma. Eventually he returns to Cameroon as a visitor, confronting some old ghosts and trying to forgive those who wronged him.