Last year, English PEN invited our network of supporters to join us in working on a crowd-sourced translation of Enoh Meyomesse’s first collection of prison poetry Poème Carcéral: Poésie du pénitencier de Kondengui. The resulting anthology Jail Verse: Poems from Kondengui Prison is now available to print-on-demand, with all proceeds going to support Enoh Meyomesse and our ongoing work on behalf of Writers at Risk around the world.
Ahead of his most recent appeal hearing, scheduled for 20 March, we launched another call to action, asking supporters to help us translate Meyomesse’s second collection, Prison Poetry, into English. Several translations are now available on our website and our latest translation appears here.
Meyomesse’s appeal hearing has since been rescheduled and is due to take place on 17 April, a year after his case was first referred to a civil court for appeal in April 2013. Please join us in taking action.
O King of Fighters
O king of fighters
fighters from the penal colony
you’ve washed away the STAIN
and I hear them praise you
and I hear them worship you
and I hear them glorify you
and I hear them
and I hear them
and I hear them
apartheid was a suppurating wound we’d
never see heal apartheid was a
frightful monster whose terrible face
we had accepted apartheid was a tragedy
whose cruelty we faithlessly condemned
o brotherhood he stabbed you
o love he slaughtered you
o hope he sacrificed you
we campaigned to bring it to an end singing
we campaigned to bring it to an end dancing
we campaigned to bring it to an end crying
like a dog in chains who’s unable to bite
DEEP IN OUR HEARTS
we never believed it would end
and I was stunned
and I learned from you
that we don’t have to
to change the world
Translated from French by Claire O’Kell.
About the translator
Claire O’Kell graduated from the University of Leeds in French language and literature with Spanish in 1995, and has many years’ experience as a staff proofreader and copy editor. She also gained a place on UNESCO’s register of freelance translators in 1999, after entering a national competition.
Claire has completed a number of language projects through English PEN since July 2010. These include the editing of a memoir by an Iranian writer-in-exile, interviews with translators of works of fiction and non-fiction published in association with PEN, the formatting and correction of the first volume of Enoh Meyomesse’s poems in both French and English, and the translation of a poem in the second collection.
Read, share and translate his writing
While all of the poems from the second collection have now been assigned to volunteer translators, we are still looking for supporters to help translate his work into as many other languages as possible. If you are able to translate from English or French into another language, please email email@example.com for more details.
- Enoh Meyomesse’s most recent collection Prison Poetry (French only)
- PEN’s translation of his first collection Jail Verse: Poems from Kondengui Prison
Join us on 24 April
Join English PEN for a night of poetry, music and discussion on how literature and activism can come together, with special guests reading Enoh Meyomesse’s work in translation. More details here.
Send pens and notebooks
Since April 2013, Meyomesse has been denied access to the prison computer room, but continues to write prolifically by hand. He has requested that we send notebooks and pens to enable him to continue to do so. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Write to the authorities
Please send appeals:
- Protesting the conviction of writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse on charges of supposed complicity in the theft and illegal sale of gold, and the seven-year prison sentence handed down to him on 27 December 2012;
- Noting that PEN believes the case against him is politically motivated;
- Calling on the Cameroonian authorities to do all they can to ensure that the appeal hearing scheduled for 17 April 2014 goes ahead;
- Urging the authorities to quash the conviction and to release Meyomesse immediately and unconditionally.
His Excellency Mr. Nkwelle Ekaney
Cameroon High Commission
84 Holland Park
Fax: 020 7792 0608
Or you could use the form below. A sample letter is provided but it is always better if you put the appeal in your own words.
[ecampaign ‘email@example.com’ subject=”Free Meyomesse”]
I am writing to you as a supporter of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers, to protest the ongoing imprisonment of writer and activist Enoh Meyomesse.
According to PEN’s information, on 27 December 2012 writer Enoh Meyomesse was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges that are widely believed to be politically motivated. He had already been detained for 13 months prior to this conviction, despite all previous charges against him having been dropped in June 2012.
Enoh Meyomesse continues to be held in the over-crowded Kondengui Central Prison in Yaoundé where he has reportedly been held in solitary confinement and subject to torture. There are widespread concerns for his health and well-being.
His appeal was expected to be called to the Courts of Appeal for the first time on 20 June, but was postponed until 18 July. A number of other hearings have since been postponed, and the appeal is now finally expected to take place on 17 April. It has now been a year since his case was his case was first referred to a civil court for appeal in April 2013.
I urge the Cameroonian authorities to do all in their power to ensure that Meyomesse’s appeal hearing goes ahead as scheduled, that the conviction is quashed, and that he is released immediately and unconditionally.
I would welcome your comments on my appeal.