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Bending the Bow

An Anthology of African Love Poetry

Edited by Frank M. Chipasula

Publication Year: 2009

From the ancient Egyptian inventors of the love lyric to contemporary poets, Bending the Bow: An Anthology of African Love Poetry gathers together both written and sung love poetry from Africa.

         This anthology is a work of literary archaeology that lays bare a genre of African poetry that has been overshadowed by political poetry. Frank Chipasula has assembled a historically and geographically comprehensive wealth of African love poetry that spans more than three thousand years. By collecting a continent’s celebrations and explorations of the nature of love, he expands African literature into the sublime territory of the heart.

            Bending the Bow traces the development of African love poetry from antiquity to modernity while establishing a cross-millennial dialogue. The anonymously written love poems from Pharaonic Egypt that open the anthology both predate Biblical love poetry and reveal the longevity of written love poetry in Africa. The middle section is devoted to sung love poetry from all regions of the continent. These great works serve as the foundation for modern poetry and testify to love poetry’s omnipresence in Africa. The final section, showcasing forty-eight modern African poets, celebrates the genre’s continuing vitality. Among those represented are Muyaka bin Hajji and Shaaban Robert, two major Swahili poets; Gabriel Okara, the innovative though underrated Nigerian poet; Léopold Sédar Senghor, the first president of Senegal and a founder of the Negritude Movement in francophone African literature; Rashidah Ismaili from Benin; Flavien Ranaivo from Madagascar; and Gabeba Baderoon from South Africa. 

            Ranging from the subtly suggestive to the openly erotic, this collection highlights love’s endurance in a world too often riven by contention. Bending the Bow bears testimony to poetry’s role as conciliator while opening up a new area of study for scholars and students.



Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Series: Crab Orchard Series in Poetry


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pp. c-ii

Book Title

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pp. iii-iii

Copyright Page

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pp. iv-vi


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pp. vii-xiv

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pp. xv-xviii

A Judge William Holmes Cook Professorship at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale freed me to devote a great deal of time to refining the anthology. Also, funds from the professorship kept me well supplied with the materials that ensured the book’s publication. I thank the offices of the...

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Introduction: The African Names of Love

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pp. 1-12

Bending the Bow extends the parameters of African poetry into an area that has hitherto been neglected and marginalized in order to afford the reader a fuller appreciation of African literature, which has been dominated by overtly political themes and texts. It constitutes an archaeological effort...

Anonymously Written Ancient Egyptian Love Poems

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pp. 13-24

Traditional Love Songs

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pp. 25-64

Modern and Contemporary Love Poems

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pp. 65-264


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pp. 265-272


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pp. 273-285

Back Cover

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pp. bc-bc

E-ISBN-13: 9780809386383
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809328420

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Crab Orchard Series in Poetry
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 457224705
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Bending the Bow

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