African Renaissance statue in Dakar angers locals

Apparently, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has commissioned a 160-ft high bronze statue commemorating the “African Renaissance.”

The statue, “shows a muscular man in a heroic posture, outstretched arms wrapped around his wife and child, who is balanced on one of his biceps,” reports the Associated Press. Plus, the entire group is coming out of a volcano. (Last I checked there weren’t any volcanos anywhere close to Senegal.)

Senegalese media reports that the statue will be dedicated in a grandiose ceremony on December 12, 2009, with various African leaders and Brazilian President Lula Ignacio da Silva in attendance.

There’s also apparently a poetry contest, too, on the theme of “African Renaissance,” open to “all of Africa and its diaspora”.

Poems can be written in any of the continents three major languages: French, English or Arabic. The first three winners in each language will receive a prize of one, two and three million CFA, respectively. That’s about $2,200, $4,400 and $6,600.

You can compete by sending your entry to:

Ministère de la Culture et de la Francophonie
Building administratif, 3ème étage
BP : 4001 Dakar

Or email:

Deadline: Friday, October 23, 2009, 16h00 GMT

The AP adds that the statue costs $27 million to build (the President insists entirely through private donations).

If all of that wasn’t weird enough, here’s where it gets really weird:

– President Wade, according to the AP: “[maintains] he is entitled to 35 percent of any tourist revenues it generates because he owns “intellectual rights” for conceiving the idea, with the rest to go to the government.”

– AP adds: “Nearly 50 North Korean workers from the state-run Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang were brought in to build the statue because of their expertise with bronze art, and some Senegalese have complained of its communist-era design.”

Huh? WTF?

In other North Korea news, the DPRK soccer team, which qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1966, will be training and playing exhibition games in Nantes, France from Oct. 5-15.

AFP reports: “[North Korea] will take on second division side Nantes at La Roche-sur-Yon on October 9 and the Congo national team on October 13 at Le Mans.

The date for a third game, probably against a French footballer’s union side, is being arranged.”

And finally, China is getting deeper in Senegalese affairs: “We can say that China has done more for Senegal in four years than what the Western countries have for her in 10 or 20 years,” the Chinese ambassador to Senegal, Lu Shaye, said on Tuesday in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

“Echolocation” and “Cold”

Rebecca’s back (again!), with yet another potent pairing of poems, this time in Octopus.

I will say that I’m a big fan of “Cold,” as it mentions one of my favorite countries, Estonia!


Most days I wear
the hunched run

of an animal, darting
until caught

in net or claw—
and that’s fine.

Trapped, I noise
and flap, send you

pressed air,
let you forge

toward me.
Let you touch me.

Let you cut
through net and claw.


I like my shadow when I’m in this coat.

I look like a Russian soldier or I’m wearing a dress.

I need to be more friendly. I need to treat Estonians better.

“Cull Canyon” and “The Humanification of Things”

My bodaciously brilliant fiancée, Rebecca Guyon, is back with two newly-published poems in Strange Machine, an online poetry journal:

Cull Canyon

A girl drowned here one summer,
and another the summer after that.

This never stopped anyone from jumping
in the water, murky as it was, murky,

like most made things. We liked to think
the bodies were never found, that if we touched

the bottom we ran the risk of brushing
their saturated skin. Once, instead of swimming,

we ventured to the fishing hole, hiking
to the other side through a creek, the wild,

even as we heard trucks dumping fish in the water.
The dead ones floated to the top, made shapes

in their synchronized swim, a kaleidoscope of flesh.
We skimmed them off the surface. We called this fishing.

The Humanification of Things


I didn’t know books had bones, the girl says after learning about spines, and recalls all the backs she broke. What else has a body like mine? When she gets home from school she runs to her closet. The stuffed bears are obviously dead. The coins, rolled and divided in a box, make pleas. She pushes them under the bears. My dresses! Each one stays quiet, hanging, waiting. She taunts the blue corduroy jumper; dances with the pink princess dress from Halloween. They don’t have bodies; they have lives. The books resting on her bedside table catch her eye. She picks up Goodnight Moon. Hello moon! she says as she flays it open, pinning it face down.


They tricked me into liking angles, the woman thinks as she moves the couch 75 degrees in relation to the wall. The room now moves like a trapezoid. Rearranging furniture is applied geometry, she tells the coffee table, explaining why it must move from center to line. What’s wrong with the couch? She inspects the striped-blue fabric. It’s covered in onionskin and my skin and mud from my pants. She pulls off the cover to wash. Hand wash in mild soap. I can live with dirty.


You need to toughen up, she says to the toaster. I’m going to make you a man. She holds it out the window, dangling it by its cord before letting go. The metal casing spits in two, spilling springs and wires along the sidewalk. When her mom gets home she says it was suicide. I tried to talk it down, but it said it just couldn’t spend another day filled with bread. Only the blender knows the truth, and everyone knows blenders are cowards.


This room is cluttered or empty. She rolls the couch to the kitchen and pulls pillows from the attic. Turning the coffee table on its side, she pushes it vertically against the wall and remembers what it’s like to be against a wall. She breaks off its legs. Don’t scream. The couch is helpless. You must go, she says to the loveseat that’s been quiet all this time, dragging it by the arm and tossing it outside, into the garden. This room is like my garden, she laughs, knowing that’s the most obvious thing to say.

Big ups to The Bex!

My brilliant and beautiful fiancée, Rebecca Guyon, has just been published (twice!) in the latest issue of Press 1, an online poetry journal.

Here’s my favorite of these two:


Your bready eyes would float
if I threw you in this pond.

The koi circling, sucking you in
with tunnel mouths.

Who will touch me then?

The garden heaves us onto a screen –

remember that little Japanese painting?

The clawing wave, the mountain
under grip

men rowing and sliding
unaware of being carved.

Soonest Mended

by John Ashbery (1966)

Barely tolerated, living on the margin
In our technological society, we were always having to be rescued
On the brink of destruction, like heroines in Orlando Furioso
Before it was time to start all over again.
There would be thunder in the bushes, a rustling of coils,
And Angelica, in the Ingres painting, was considering
The colorful but small monster near her toe, as though wondering whether forgetting
The whole thing might not, in the end, be the only solution.
And then there always came a time when
Happy Hooligan in his rusted green automobile
Came plowing down the course, just to make sure everything was O.K.,
Only by that time we were in another chapter and confused
About how to receive this latest piece of information.
Was it information? Weren’t we rather acting this out
For someone else’s benefit, thoughts in a mind
With room enough and to spare for our little problems (so they began to seem),
Our daily quandary about food and the rent and bills to be paid?
To reduce all this to a small variant,
To step free at last, minuscule on the gigantic plateau—
This was our ambition: to be small and clear and free.