The Sea Eats the Land At home is written by Kofi Awonoor a Ghanian poet and is a story about the ravages of the sea in a simple town. Kofi Awoonor was born in Ghana and his original name was George Awoonor Williams. He did his BA in Ghana and moved to London to do his MA and PhD. His PhD was in comparative literature. He was a poet, a professor and an ambassador for Ghana. He was suspected to be involved in a coup and was imprisoned. In jail he wrote about this experiences and the book is called The House by the Sea. He was proved innocence and he continued his teaching profession. It was after this turbulent phase he became the ambassador to Cuba and Brazil and to the UN from 1990 to 1994. The other books authored by him are Comes the Voyager at Last: A Tale of Return to Africa and This Earth, My Brother. He was killed in 2013 in a shootout in a shopping mall in Kenya.
The poem starts with the main theme in the very first line stating the sea was inside the town. It was flowing in and out of the houses. The cooking places were completely under water and the firewood was floating in water and carried away from the homes. The poet puts the disaster is very poignant words ‘The sea eats the land at home.’ It is in the second stanza he gives other details. It came at the ‘dead’ of night and it was powerful enough to destroy the cement walls. It carried all their livestock, their cooking pots and ladles. It was heart-rending to hear the ‘wails’ and the shouts of the women who called all the gods they worshipped to protect them from the onrush of the sea. One of the townspeopleAku stood with her two children in the cold, with her hands on her bosom and was weeping. She felt that the ancestors whom she had propitiated had neglected her; her gods had given up on her. The sea rushed in the night before Sunday and on Sunday morning the storm was still raging and it was very cold. The fowls and the goats were fighting for their lives in the angry water of the sea. The waves were incessantly breaking into the shore and its ‘eternal hum’ muffled the cry of the people. Adrena another lady lost all her ‘trinkets’ that she got as her dowry and that was her joy. Yes, the sea eats everything without any difference and there is no power in the world that can stop thesea which can destroy the whole land.
The poem has four stanzas. The first two stanzas have five lines while the third has fur lines. But the fourth stanza is a lengthy one with eighteen lines. The first line without much ado goes straight to the main aspect of the poem. Very often in narrating a story or an incident, there is a build-up of when, how and why those events happened. The first line “At home the sea is in the town” states what had happened. While the first three stanzas give a general description of the loss, the last stanza talks about the loss for Aku and Adena. The poem has no rhyme scheme, is a free verse. Yet the repetition of the line ‘the sea eats the land at Home’ has a profound impact on the reader.
It is a narrative poem where sea is personified. The use of the word ‘running and collecting’ changes the flavour. Had the poet used the wordflowing, the impact of the personification would have been reduced. “It came at the dead of the night’ indicating the sea sneaked in and the people were caught unawares. The sea is also described to be angry and this is again personification. ‘Hum of the living sea’, with these words the poet himself has directly indicated that it was living and living with a lot of anger.
The whole poem has a lot of visual imagery. The first line is the classic example of the strong imagery and from then on the imagery continues. ‘Destroying cement walls’, ‘shouts of women’, ‘struggling in water’ are some examples of the visual imagery. Symbolism is also used in the poem. Aku and her children were standing where her cooking pot stood. The kitchen area is symbolic of warmth and home. In the freezing cold when she stands it also symbolises that she is yearning for some physical warmth as well as some emotional strength.
Assonance is used in one of the line. Assonance is when within words vowels rhyme ‘Aku stood outside where her cooking-pot stood. The assonance of ‘oo’ is seen in ‘stood’ and ‘cooking’. ‘Sea and eat’ also fit into this poetic imagery. The mood in this poem is one of distraught and unending sorrow which can never be set right. In the first three stanzas the poet has given an overall picture of destruction. In the last stanza he has zeroes down to Aku and Andea. Aku has lost everything, all her basic needs – food clothing and shelter. She and her children are standing trembling in the cold weeping. Andea must have lost everything as well but her sorrow is for the loss of her trinkets. One wonders if there is a hint of sarcasm at the priorities of man even at times of deep trouble. All feel that the gods failed them, so too their ancestors whom they generally prayed and placated often.
‘The sea eats land at home’ is a powerful poem which gives an impactful description of floods. When the sea is in rage nothing can stop it. The sea sees no difference and destroys everything. The poem concludes stating that the sea that eats the land can eat anything; there is nothing that is beyond the limits of the sea.