Twenty-six items from Special Collections (y)
Exhibit ‘Y’: Hausa (Nigeria). (Anonymous, dan tauri performance, 20th century)
Bibliography: Poetry, Prose and Popular Culture in Hausa, Graham Furniss (Smithsonian, 1996), pages 76–7.
Comment: The piece below has a frenzied, zigzag quality I find exhilarating. Does anybody remember that Warner Bros. cartoon character who would literally become a tornado? (Also cf. Stephen Leacock's Lord Ronald, who flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions†.)
I have always speculated this might make a nice class exercise: "Say anything at all, no rhythm/no nothing, just lay about freely with an Indiana-Jones bullwhip, making sure the sense jumps around nimbly and quickly. Throw down a bunch of commands."
The question arises: "Yeah but how much of that kind of thing can a reader actually tolerate?" Answer: Any amount, provided the poet can manage to exclude inert materials from the presentation. Look at contemporary American poet Abraham Smith. He's probably the closest thing we have to the style of the piece below. Hank (Action Books, 2010) was 129 pages, and I gobbled it in one sitting.
† Leacock reference pilfered from David West's introduction to his translation of Horace.
Furniss writes: [Edward L.] Powe provides a detailed analysis of the many patterns to be discerned in lengthy kirari performances, but to provide something of the flavour of one such performance in which a dan tauri "performer with knife blades" praises himself, I quote from Powe:
Ni na Ramlatu maye
Ramlatu na ga kin fi mata kyau
Mata halin kwarai suk fi ki
Ni bafar wuta maci littafi
Ni kahirin kare, sai sarka
Ni babbaken ruwa na Yazidu
Kowa ya sha ni, ba shi ke labari
Aljana gafara, wuta sallamu alaikum
Arna ga babbanku, wanda bashi nan ya dawo
Sarka ba ta yi din, sai bawa
In bawa ya kiya
Ku sa min yagwai
In yagwai ya kiya
Ku sa kistani
In kistani ya kiya
Ku kawo abawa
In wannan ya kiya
Ku kama gabanku
Shi kwana kiyama
Don ku watsaya
Yaro, jaye! jaye!
I am of the sorceress Ramlatu!
Ramlatu, you are prettier than other women!
The character of women is better than yours!
I am the black fire that consumes books!
I am an unbelieving dog, only a chain!
I am the gathering water of Yadizu!
Whoever drinks me vanishes!
Excuse me, O djinns, greetings O fire!
Pagans, here is your lord, he who was not here has returned!
If the chain doesn't work, try bark!
If bark fails
If rope fails
If cord fails
Try coarse thread!
If this fails
Grab your leader!
He will awaken you in the afterlife!
So that you disperse!
Boy, move back! move back!
(Powe 1984, 524-5)*
*Edward L. Powe, "Hausa combat literature: an exposition, analysis and interpretation of its form, content and effect," Ph.D. thesis, University of Washington, Madison: 1984.