Kofi Awoonor’s poem “The Sea Eats the Land at Home” was published in 1964 in his first collection, Rediscovery and Other Poems. An elegiac poem, written in free verse full of vivid imagery, it captures the destruction of a coastal African town by natural disaster. The sea in the poem is personified throughout, taking on greater metaphorical meaning in order to convey not just the all-consuming power of nature, but also the horrific devastation of colonization and the tragic loss of home and identity as a result of emigration.
At home the ...
... back at night;
The sea eats ... land at home.
It came one ...
... land at home;
It is a ...
... the angry sea.
Aku stood outside ...
... Weeping mournfully.
Her ancestors have ...
... have deserted her,
It was a ...
... the cruel sea;
The lap-lapping of ...
... the living sea.
It has taken ...
... and her joy,
In the sea ...
... land at home.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
Kofi Awoonor's Obituary — An obituary of the poet, tracing the cultural and familial roots of his poetry.
The Colonization of Ghana — A Khan Academy video chronicling the history of Ghana's colonization by Britain.
Ewe Funeral Dirge — Listen to the Smithsonian Folkways Recording's of an Ewe funeral dirge.
Kofi Awoonor's Life Story — A biography of the poet at the Poetry Foundation.
"Home" in Ghanaian Poetry — This article discusses “home” in Ghanaian poetry focusing on three well-regarded poets: Kofi Awoonor, Kofi Anyidoho, and Mawuli Adze.
1At home the sea is in the town,
2Running in and out of the cooking places,
3Collecting the firewood from the hearths
4And sending it back at night;
5The sea eats the land at home.
6It came one day at the dead of night,
7Destroying the cement walls,
8And carried away the fowls,
9The cooking-pots and the ladles,
10The sea eats the land at home;
11It is a sad thing to hear the wails,
12And the mourning shouts of the women,
13Calling on all the gods they worship,
14To protect them from the angry sea.
15Aku stood outside where her cooking-pot stood,
16With her two children shivering from the cold,
17Her hands on her breasts,
19Her ancestors have neglected her,
20Her gods have deserted her,
21It was a cold Sunday morning,
22The storm was raging,
23Goats and fowls were struggling in the water,
24The angry water of the cruel sea;
25The lap-lapping of the bark water at the shore,
26And above the sobs and the deep and low moans,
27Was the eternal hum of the living sea.
28It has taken away their belongings
29Adena has lost the trinkets which
30Were her dowry and her joy,
31In the sea that eats the land at home,
32Eats the whole land at home.