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Translation Tuesday: “Within the Precincts of the Cliché” by Moyosore Orimoloye

Lion heads are not that strange a buy in Dugbe.

This week’s Translation Tuesday features a poem in the Yoruba language by Moyosore Orimoloye, a beacon of Yoruba language revival. A product of self-translation, the English version of this poem presents a condensed sound-system that captures the digressions and rhythm of the original. The poem demonstrates the disjunction between a slogan and the material reality that subtends it. The precinct or region as an ideal becomes parallel with the lofty axiomatic that support it, but the reality of the place, the city, the precinct, never quite squares with its regarded name, and, under the cover of the quotation, material misdeeds are perpetrated. This is a sociologically minded poem and a political one; its power lies in its succinctness as it asks to be read again and again. 

Within the Precincts of the Cliché

“Mother is priceless gold which cannot be bought with money”

Except in Dugbe,
where everything is up for sale.
In fact—
Lion heads are not that strange a buy in Dugbe.
In the year that just passed,
the thieves who sought to be elected
as crafters of law shared-
five loaves of bread and two fish
to my goons in Dugbe.
They looked left, and then right,
and sure they were in the clear,
sold the country. 

Translated from the Yoruba by the poet

Moyosore Orimoloye is a poet from Akure, Nigeria. His poems have been featured in the following online literary journals: The Ilanot Review, Transition, The Kalahari Review, Brittle Paper, The Rising Phoenix Review, Afridiaspora and Arts and Africa. His poem, “Love is a Plot Device and your Insecticide is Not” co-won the Babishai Niwe Poetry Award in 2016 and his chapbook of poems, Love is a Plot Device, was published in 2019. Moyosore believes that the most potent antidote to the decay of languages is continuous use, not just in everyday conversation but also in the creation of art—song, poetry and drama. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Agbowo, an afrocentric literary and visual arts journal.

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