Cameroon: ‘I tip my hat to you, old hat’ by Enoh Meyomesse

English PEN has asked our supporters to help translate imprisoned poet Enoh Meyomesse’s work into as many different languages as possible ahead of World Poetry Day on Friday. Here is our first translation, courtesy of Katherine Douglass

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 KondenguiThe resulting anthology Jail Verse: Poems from Kondengui Prison is now available to print-on-demand, with all proceeds going to support Meyomesse and our ongoing work of behalf of Writers at Risk around the world.

We are now appealing to supporters to help us translate Meyomesse’s work into as many different languages as possible to mark World Poetry Day this Friday, 21 March. If you are able to translate from English or French into another language, please consider translating one or more of his poems to help us ensure that his voice is heard as widely as possible. Please email your translations to cat@englishpen.org or post them in the comments box below.

Here is the first translation of Meyomesse’s ‘Mon chapeau, je te lève’ courtesy of Katherine Douglass

 

I tip my hat to you, old hat

 

My old hat,

I tip my hat to you

You have known imprisonment

So that others may be free

I tip my hat to you, old hat

 

My old hat,

I tip my hat to you

You have known exile

So that others may be free

I tip my hat to you, old hat

 

My old hat,

I tip my hat to you

You have known persecution

So that others may be free

I tip my hat to you, old hat

 

My old hat,

I tip my hat to you

You have known handcuffs that eat away my skin

Fear that leaves me voiceless

My guts twisted in pain

My mouth dry as a stone

And my chest suffocating

And my hands that tremble,

That tremble

That tremble

Tremble

Tremble

ALL ALONE

Like leaves blown about in a tornado

 

You

Have felt the truncheon cruelly tearing at my back in the CHAPEL

and the boots kicking my ribs in rage and the machete

violently beating my swollen feet and the hut’s flimsy door

broken down and the mattress torn up in the dry-eyed search for pamphlets written by me and the straw ceiling pierced by the bayonet and the raffia roof torched with a smirk

I TIP MY HAT TO YOU, OLD HAT

 

Now that I’m the laughing stock of the world

Now that I’m the laughing stock of everyone

Now that I’m the laughing stock of my closest friends

I’ve discovered O God

That it’s not easy to give your soul your body your being your life as a sacrifice for the good of others

 

Translated from French by Katherine Douglass.

The original version is available here.

More details of the campaign and suggested actions available here.

 

About the translator

Katherine Douglass is a Washington D.C. based French to English translator specialising in the arts, culture and tourism. Katherine has lived in both Belgium and France, serving as an ordained Lutheran pastor in the Franche-Comté region of France. She studied literature at Duke University, the University of Maryland and the Lutheran Theological Seminary – Gettysburg and is a loyal Twitter follower of English PEN.

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

View all posts by Cat Lucas →

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