Songs We Learn from Trees, an Ethiopian poetry anthology edited by Chris Beckett and Alemu Tebeje, which styles itself as the “first in the English language,” launched last week.

Alemu Tebeje is an Ethiopian journalist, poet, and human rights campaigner who left Ethiopia in the early 1990s and now lives in London, UK. His poems have been published in Amharic, Chinese, and English, as well as being projected on buildings in Denmark, Italy, USA, and UK by US artist, Jenny Holzer. His first bilingual collection of poems, Greetings to the People of Europe (Tamrat Books, 2018) includes the script of a sketch commissioned by BBC Radio 4 for a migrant re-imagining of Homer’s Odyssey, My Name is Nobody. The poet and Chris Beckett are the co-editors of a new anthology of poetry published by Carcanet Publishing called Songs We Learn from Trees.

Songs We Learn from Trees which has May 28 as the official date of publication on Amazon has contributions from among others Misrak Terefe, Alemtshay Wodajo, Makonnen Wodajeneh, Zewdu Milikit, and Lemn Sissay. Its blurb goes thus;

This is the very first anthology of Ethiopian poetry in English, packed with all the energy, wit and heartache of a beautiful country and language. From folk and religious poems, warrior boasts, praises of women and kings and modern plumbing; through a flowering of literary poets in the twentieth century; right up to thirty of the most exciting contemporary Amharic poets working both inside and outside the country.

These poems ask what it means to be Ethiopian today, part of a young fast-growing economy, heirs to the one African state which was never colonised, but beset by deep political, ethnic and moral problems.

The anthology launched over a series of events with the editors and some of the contributors doing readings at the publishers’ YouTube channel from June 8-13. You can watch the readings below.


For information about how to get this collection, please click here.