Teardrops on the Weser by Amatorisero Ede

At the start of Amatorisero Ede’s Teardrops on the Weser, we observe a city from the vantage of an apartment above the confluence of the Fulda and the Werra Rivers in Hannoversch Münden. As we prepare to gaze out over the city, we are confronted with a seemingly innocent question: “from what scattered river basins/does the weser drink?” Ede leads us downriver, past Bremen to where the Weser empties into the North Sea; then he pulls us back into Thuringia to the source of the longest river entirely contained on German soil. What starts as a series of casual observations grows into a haunting evocation of the horrors of colonialism—do not be fooled by the serenity depicted at the start, do not be lured by the siren call of the Innocents who go about their business on the island that marks the confluence of rivers, for the “crying rivers” (9) of this book belie that initial innocence.

Soon, we begin to encounter hints of a world beyond the Weser. A “bluesy nod” here and the trickle of “heavy money” there raises our awareness of worlds and influences that lie beyond this quietude. The pedestrians make way for trains and river boats that ferry people on river cruises. Pause for a moment at this image: One of the boats is named Maru—after Bessie Head’s 1971 novel. It’s a passing mention as Ede leads our gaze away from the boat and on to the city’s business, but we would do well to linger and reflect on that name: Maru tells the story of racial prejudice, and of the effort to overcome it. Slowly, the source of the “heavy money” becomes clear: gold, and rampant consumption of the leisure classes. The reference to Maru loosens the grip of the Weser on our imagination, taking us to places beyond the physical space of Hannoversch Münden.

But still the rivers flow calmly through a serene present until suddenly, in “w”, we are catapulted into the violence of water. We are forced to return to the earlier poems to confront European complicity in the colonial project, to visit the “europe-poisoned new world” in which Africans die at the hands of European capitalists. It would be easy to gloss over the “dead things/and people//like the ogoni nine,” as Ede appears to do a few pages earlier when he lets the flow of his lines pull us away from those horrors. Once again, let’s pause and give these individuals names, for so many names have been lost in the “trafficking of black souls”: Ken Saro-Wiwa, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuine. Nine people who died opposing the greed of the West. The Niger and the Benue, two of the great rivers of Africa, stand in stark contrast to the peacefulness of the Weser.

The greatest achievement of this collection is the way in which the poet compels us to revisit earlier poems to make us rethink our own prejudices and preconceptions. It is in these visceral later poems that the source of the teardrops in the title come into focus. We can no longer afford indifference. The initial descriptions and observations become imbued with nuanced understanding as we return to them with the final poems in mind.

Ede’s allusions to river poems recur throughout, and as so often happens in the reading of these poems, it is what isn’t stated directly that speaks loudest: “did Maria Rilke … ever from the Weser drink” he asks casually before he quotes Chiedu Ezeanah. And Rilke’s lines drift to mind…

May what I do flow from me like a river,

no forcing and no holding back…

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,

these deepening tides moving out, returning,

I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels

into the open sea.

And as with Rilke’s river, Ede’s Weser is a widening channel that carries within its waters the tears of generations, and the pain of exile.

About the Author

Amatoritsero Ede is a Nigerian-Canadian poet. He had written under the name “Godwin Ede” but he stopped bearing his Christian first name as a way to protest the xenophobia and racism he noted in Germany, a “Christian” country, and to an extent, to protest Western colonialism in general. Ede has lived in Canada since 2002.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Griots Lounge (May 28 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 66 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1777275695
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1777275693

Peter Midgley is a bilingual writer and editor from Edmonton. Over the course of thirty years, he has worked as a freelance editor, festival director, university lecturer, managing editor, acquisitions editor, clerk of court, bartender, actor, janitor, and door-to-door salesman. This experience has given him enough material for more than a dozen books. His latest book, let us not think of them as barbarians (NeWest Press), was shortlisted for the Stephan G. Stephansson Award in 2019.