Cameroon: ‘The Party in Prison’ by Enoh Meyomesse

To show our support for imprisoned poet Enoh Meyomesse, English PEN has been asking supporters to help us translate his prison poetry. Here is our latest crowd-sourced translation, courtesy of Laura Hargreaves

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 on behalf of Writers at Risk around the world.

We are now looking for volunteer translators to help us translate his work into as many other languages as possible. If you are able to translate from English or French into another language, please consider getting involved. Email cat@englishpen.org for more details.

Here is our latest translation of Meyomesse’s ‘La fête au bagne’ courtesy of Laura Hargreaves:

The Party in Prison

 

With the resounding sound of drums,

and convicts fidgeting in front of him,

is the MANAGER.

 

The speeches had all been given,

missing only the

bouquets

of flowers.

 

Here, the Prison Republic rules,

With its president,

With its government,

With its commissioner,

With its prison

And even more cruel again,

with its hospital,

carrying its corpses,

WEEKLY.

 

O SADNESS,

WHEN A BODY LEAVES US,

WRAPPED FROM HEAD TO TOE

IN DIRTY SHEETS!

 

And the people sign the cross,

suspending all they do to await the

inevitable macabre.

and smiles fade from the

NICE ONE,

 

small-hot-computer,

such is his nickname,

distracting us from our torrents of

tears

with his strange way

of fidgeting

in front of the PRESIDENT

OF THE PREMISES

 

and our hands applauded

until they were sore

and from the mixture of our

throats gushed bright laughter

louder than baritones, than

clarinets, than saxophones,

than trumpets

ALL THAT

was not GOOD WAS THERE TOO,

the official extractor

and his fingers would visit

the pockets of the people

and his eyes would study

the purses

of the people

and his puny shoulders

slithering like an eel

slipping between the chests

of the people

HE WAS HARD AT

WORK

 

and we had grabbed his hand,

and the scuffle broke out,

and the fighting broke out,

and the party was complete.

And the razor blades had gushed,

and the blood had flowed,

and the whistles had sounded,

and everyone had been confined to their

cells.

AND THE ENTIRE

PRISON,

MEN,

WOMEN,

MINORS,

CUSTODIANS,

MANAGER,

 

THE ENTIRE

PRISON

HAD BEEN

CURSED,

 

THE DAMNED REBORN,

it had broken our

JOY

 

Translated from French by Laura Hargreaves.

The original version is available here.

More details of the campaign and suggested actions available here.

About the translator

Laura Hargreaves is a UK-based freelance translator working from French and Spanish into English. As well as specialising in commercial and marketing translation, she has a specific interest in poetry translation, and particularly in helping rising voices from vulnerable nations to be heard throughout the English-speaking world, and as such is a loyal supporter 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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