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Utendi or Utenzi


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African Verse

The Utendi or Untenzi (Swahili meaning deed or act) is a Swahili stanzaic form that I first found at Vole Central that is a Zejel without the Mudanza. The form is usually a narrative and should tell a story. Swahili epics appear in this form.

The elements of the Utendi are:

African Poetic Genres and Forms

  1. a narrative.
  2. stanzaic, written in any number of quatrains.
  3. syllabic, 8 syllable lines.
  4. rhymed, rhyme aaab cccb dddb etc. The b rhyme is a linking rhyme between stanzas.

    example from Vita Vya Wadachi Part 12: Stanzas 1 & 2
    Utenzi wa Vita vya Wadachi Kutamalaki Mrima
     BISMILLAHI Ghaghara                                                                                  
    alWahidi - lKahari
    mwinyi kuhui shajari
    na jinni na insiya
    Yu pweke ARRAHAMANI
    wala hayuko wa thani
    mruzuku duniani
    ila ni yeye mmoya

    The German Conquest of the Swahili Coast
    IN THE NAME OF GOD, the Forgiving,
    the One, the Dominant,
    the giver of life to plants,
    to spirits and to mankind.
    He is alone THE COMPASSIONATE,
    there is none other that
    provides for the world
    but Him alone.

    Devil's Bridge

    A devil's pact as it is told,
    he'd help build a bridge, for first soul
    to traverse the viaduct bold.
    So goes the ancient folk story.

    Strong bodies and masons of stone
    with fieldstone and hard granite honed,     Devil's Bridge Wales.jpg
    cut and fit rock, worked to the bone.
    A labor from hell to glory

    Once done, the devised, dry-stone span
    arched over the  river as planned,
    now for the payback of one man.
    Who will be consiliatory?

    A goat is baited by thrown bread
    to step upon the bridge instead.
    the devil raged, he was misled.
    in the end, complicitory.

    Today the arched stone bridge still stands,
    a testament to grit and bands
    of like minded folks joining hands.
    Out witting the signatory.
                     ~~Judi Van Gorder Dec 18, 2018

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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