Translator's notes

I'm Scared

By Recaredo Silebo Boturu

When I first met Recaredo Silebo Boturu in Malabo in 2011, his debut collection of poems had just been published in Spain. While on that trip to Equatorial Guinea I learned about his mother tongue, the Bubi language, and we had several discussions about its relationship to Spanish, especially within the literary landscape of Equatorial Guinea. The following poems, part of a book-length collection in progress, are what came from that conversation. Deeply grounded in Bubi culture and orality, these poems portray the imagery and voice of an island people, intimate with both the mountain and the sea.

The first moment I ever saw Boturu was after an hour-long interrogation by the police commissioner in a small room with blacked-out windows at the Malabo airport. He had come to pick me up, never having met me in person, and embraced me as if we had been lifelong friends. That embrace, in the kind of politically tense environment that would have inspired many of those familiar with the Obiang regime to flee entirely, epitomizes what is to me Boturu’s greatest quality: he is relentlessly brave, both in his friendships as in his work to decry injustice, primarily by means of his work as a playwright, actor, and poet. The last poem of this bunch, a mere three lines of protest against his nation’s infamously ruthless prison ‘Black Beach’, could easily be enough to land a Guinean writer in its confines. And yet Boturu continues to write and to publish, now in the Bubi language, confident in his belief that by doing so he makes the world a better place. I hope you will agree.

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