"A vent to stifled emotions"

                                      By Mariam Belay

                           (Source: www.ethiopianreporter.com)

Our country has never been deprived of literary giants, who had at one time or another brought to us classical works that satisfied our lust

for reading, whether it is in prose or in verse.


Literature, as most people would agree, is one means of introducing our cultural and traditional values to the outside world. For other African

countries, this has become an easy task, as using an international language like English, is not a challenge.


Here, very few people have attempted to present original literary works in an international languages, or translations from the Amharic: the

likes of Mengistu Lemma, Solomon Deresa, Eshetu Chole and Hiruy Bahiru.


We have also seen recently the translated works of the legendary Sebhat G. Egziabher, which is believed to show more of our Ethiopian

reflections to those who are alien to it. Having such a notion, Alem Hailu has recently appeared with "A vent to stifled emotions", his collection

of poems written in the English language. "Writers are responsible in presenting their works in international languages," he says.

"Otherwise, how can our literature be recognized in the outside world?"


Alem admits that writing in a language which most find difficult here even to communicate may not result in a perfect outcome.

"However we have to make an attempt and we might be able to discover our talent in a course of time," he says. "The secret of

writing is writing."


Alem also believes that reading the works of classical writers could help in accumulating knowledge and experience, which later could

become an asset to the writer.


"I discovered that I have a talent when I was in the university campus, says Alem, 31. Unlike most people who quit their education, he

was determined enough to achieve his B.Sc. in Mathematics from the Science Faculty of the Addis Ababa University and at the same

time develop his talent.


"Poetry is not something that could take all of your time. You can have another career and become a poet at the same time." After he

graduated from the Addis Ababa University in 1995, Alem joined the Ethiopian television where he worked for five years, first as a

reporter and later a program producer.


However, he decided to change his career after working for five years, as the salary he earned was not attractive.


"Working for 18 hours at a stretch and also over time, what I was paid at the beginning was only 500 birr and then 1000birr after five years."


Getting offered a more attractive salary at a private college, Queen's, Alem later joined what he calls the chalk and talk business,

and became an instructor at the college.


Luckily, this was a blessing in disguise for Alem. Even though he had to quit the profession, he enjoyed very much. His job at the college

provided him with extra time to work on his poems. 


"The college community also fueled my talent," he says. "My poems appeared on the college's bulletin a couple of times and the encouragement

I received made me work even harder."


The collections of poems in his book are the outcomes of this endeavor. Most of them, he says, were written during the past two years.

His poems mostly deal with issues like the need to fight harmful tradition, the need to brace up for development, incidents and remembrances

among others.


..Ironic it may appear

Ethiopia, Africa's water tower

Deprived of a food self-sustaining power

Is portrayed on every news hour

A victim of a rain failure.


"A poem should have a psychological depth, psychological width and a literary beauty," Alem says. "And it should have a tendency of exploding."


... It is surprising indeed

No one gives a heed

To the challenge of God

Have you visited

Thy brother in need?"

Alem says he prefers to write short poems as it is much better to take the message across in a condensed form. "My poems are also down to earth,

open," he says. "We keep what is what in the dark; but I appreciate openness."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

In addition to his verses, Alem also has about 10 short stories, which he is looking foreword to publish, including the works of his friend.


"We don't know how long it will take us," he says. "Even if you come up with the best piece in the world, publishing is the major problem here."


Commenting on the works of literature in English languages, Dr Akalu Getaneh commented that such an effort should be encouraged as it

contributes in taking Ethiopian literature to the international community.


However, he said he would prefer if original works in Amharic were translated, because writers may face certain limitations in expressing

their ideas because of the language.


The views reflected in the above  essay are solely of the author and are not necessarily shared by Meskot. This article was taken from the ARTS

section of www.ethiopianreporter.com