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Shifting Gears

I consider Solomon Deressa to be one of the most excellent Ethiopian poets, along with Tsegaye GebreMedhin, Mengistu Lemma, Gebre Kristos Desta,and Debebe Seifu.

A one-time painter,an art critic and poet, Solomon has two collection of Amharic poems, Lijinet(1970) and Zebet Ilfitu(1999) which have been lyrical delight for lovers of modern and contemporary verse for the last three decades.

His excellent standards are maintained in both collections and manifested in his rich and intimate poems.

Admittedly not of the traditional school of poetry and a self-proclaimed rebel, Solomon spoke of drawing the feel of his Amharic poetry from the sound of the language itself, not the direct utterances, but the underlying rythms.

Though not widely known as his Amharic poems, he has also a collection of poems in French and English that appeared in various publications.Twelve of his English  poems written while attending the 1972-73 session of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa were published in Topics,the United States Information Service. Others are included in anthology, Silence is Not Golden, A Critical Anthology of Ethiopian Literature,(1995),along with his wonderful essay, ‘Poems and its Matrix’.There were also  French and English poems that were published in African Art, a quartelry devoted to the graphic, plastic, performing and literary arts of Africa in 1969 out of  which I am publishing one, Shifting Gears.Over to you now.

I who swim

In the stealth of a dream

Listening to the minds of insane silence scream,

Because of colour lack

I shall paint your loving face

In the colourles breath,

With grapnel-fingers in an empty colour rack,

Beneath the quiet curve of your lashes

Two simple awesome dots in black,

You whose love never wavered

Towards whom I forever crack

On the tip of my parched tongue.

Categories: poems
  1. M.B
    December 28, 2006 at 1:33 pm

    I always thought that, for an Ethiopian lit specialist, I had a pretty good grounding in Ethiopian lit in English. I see now that I have some reading to do.

  2. Haileleul Zeleke
    January 13, 2007 at 4:23 am

    I have been developing some stylstics models for the teaching of Ethiopian poetry in English. I have already included “Shifting Gears”. Can you help me get some more poems ( in English) of Solomon Deressa? Or please send me any links.

  3. Arefe
    January 17, 2007 at 7:38 am

    Hi, Haileleul. Sorry for the delay. Those poems I have, I will send them to you through your e-mail. But have you thought of the copy right stuff if you are going to reprint them in a publication?
    I myself wasn’t sure if it was possible to post Shifting Gears in my blog. I took risks thinking it was just a single poem.
    My experience is that sometimes even with good intention, one could make injustice to people you esteem.

  4. Haileleul Zeleke
    January 21, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    Hello Arefe :
    Hello Arefe:

    I am a PHD research scholar; so I never thought of publishing his poems. I intend to analyze the poems now and perhaps I might use them in classes in the future. The challenge for me is that Solomon D. does not have a page devoted to him. Secondly, his poems in English are not known to students at higher learning in Ethiopia. Some thing should be done as you have rightly said. Please send me as many poems as you can: the SON of My Holy River. I will officially acknowledge both YOU and Solomon D. THANK U 4 the help!!

  5. Haileleul Zeleke
    January 22, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Hello Arefe:

    Thank for all the poems you sent me. I also sent you some messages. I will also keep in touch.

  6. Iwant to see hints of the current film pictures before I go to cinema
    February 10, 2008 at 11:12 am

    It will be good to see films in one week….

  7. Gretchen Fretter
    May 19, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    True delight to finally catch up to Solomon Deressa whose very early poems I read / performed at a Public Speaking team meet for University of California in 1964! Our forensics team won the meet at Humbolt State and I am delighted these many, many years later to know of his continued work. He was brilliant then those many years ago in Paris and so it is no suprise.

  8. Haileleul Zeleke
    September 28, 2008 at 5:12 am

    Solomon Deressa’s “Shifting Gears”
    Solomon Deressa’s “Shifting Gears” is a poem about unwavering love. Several linguistic and formal features of the poem accompany the theme of love. First, the title of the poem “Shifting Gears” presents two equally important states of the lover’s mind. The gerund “shifting” shows the continuity of the poet’s love in the poem while “gears” stands for change and power. In the opening, obsessed with insatiable love, the poet swims in a dream ocean thinking only of his lad. Silently his mind screams. This state of the poet’s mind is presented through lexical items ‘swim’, ‘dream’, and ‘insane’. These lexical items present the poet in the world of dream. The phonetic sounds /m/ and /k/ as in ‘swim’, ‘dream’, ‘scream’, ‘rack’, ‘black’, and ‘crack’ are the musical accompaniment of the poet’s repertoire love. He is singing in his dream.

    Secondly, the poet shifts his gears of love to the world of reality. The practical world of love is presented through the poet’s chores of paining his lady. He wakes up from his dream and shifts his gears suddenly to paint the physical beauty of his loved one. Lexical items such as ‘ pain’, ‘ colour rack’, ‘dots’, ‘curve’, ‘colorless’, ‘fingers’, ‘ tongue’, ‘lashes’ and ‘loving face’. He is paining these body parts in the physical world.

    The stages of the poet’s love coexist in the context of the poem. There is the continuity of his strong love through out the poem. Besides the title, some linguistic features signify the overflow of powerful emotion through out the poem. First his overflow of emotion is supported by graphological devices. Several promotional phrases are deliberately and continuously used with a single full stop at the end. Like a river, his emotion flows through non stop promotional phrases. Secondly, the pronoun ‘I’ appears thrice in three critical places of the poem to let the powerful overflow of emotions flow through out the poem. At the opening, ‘I’ is used to present the dream world. In the middle, the pronoun presents the practical world. Lastly, the pronoun presents the poet’s determination to continue shifting gears to maximize and energize his love and reach his final goal of fulfillment. All in all, the formal linguistic features of the poem become the channels to communicate the theme of love in the poem. In the poem, love flows, shifting gears continuously.

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