From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Book Review: Harvest of Hate: Stories and Essays: by John Carter.
Apr 12, 2010, 19:05

Author: Roland Bankole Marke
Publisher: Publisher America MD, USA
ISBN: 1- 41337-7592-6
Publication date:  2006

An émigré found writing helps ease his roiling stomach.

It’s an old story. An immigrant comes to America to fulfill a lifelong dream, to live in the land of milk and honey.  Then there’s the homesickness. And the dream, the promised land, is not only bathed in the sunshine of opportunity, but the shadows of reality as well. In 1990, a Sierra Leonean left the shores of Freetown for the promise of America. But soon Roland Marke – a former teacher with a knack for creative writing - was worrying about the folks back home in West Africa, struggling with his thick accent to get a job, wondering why his dream was beginning to feel nightmarish. He began to experience severe stomach pain. He was treated with strong prescription drugs, but the pain always returned. But, almost by accident, he began to make himself feel better.

Harvest of Hate Book Cover

His medicine was the written word. When he moved to Jacksonville in 1996, he began to write poems.

“I just wanted to share my emotions,” said Marke, who lives in East Arlington, Jacksonville, Florida.

Then he began to write fiction, based largely on his experiences growing up in a war-torn country.

Every time he wrote, the pain went away. When he took long breaks from writing, the pain returned.

Roland Marke in Gara Attire

“I suppose it’s like meditating,” he said. “I guess I’m meant to write. It seems to heal me somehow.”

He discusses how writing improves his health in a chapter in his latest book, Harvest of Hate - Stories

and Essays: Fuel for the Soul. The chapter was also posted by a few news-and-views online magazines

 under the title “The Travail of an Immigrant Writer.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“Eventually, I developed my own pain management technique and therapy. A soothing voice within once

spoke to me. For a while, I only exercised disdain to its call. It was compelling, peaceful and truly transforming.

 Eventually, I obeyed it and began to write poetry and inspirational stories. This experience was a rare

therapeutic journey that relieved my pain.” Now Marke tells others about his secret therapy.

He suggests to friends and readers that they could try expressing themselves in writing as well. Everyone, he says,

has a song inside, which he says is “the voice of the soul.”

“Can a bird exist without a song?” he asks in Harvest of Hate.

“It’s just not good for people to keep strong emotions bottled up inside,” he said. “Expressing these smoldering emotions lightens the load. And you might be surprised how interesting and powerful what you have to say really is.”

Harvest of Hate (Publish America) is a collection of Stories and Essays delivering a bare-knuckled look at greed, conflicts, the child soldiers of Africa, girl victims of an enduring slave trade, the global effects of terrorism on humanity and even the cultural ugliness exposed by Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.

Marke grew up speaking Krio, a sort of African Creole passed down through the generations. He says he listened to the BBC everyday to learn “proper” English. Marke is also the author of two collections of poetry: Teardrops Keep Falling, published in 2003 by Minuteman Press, and Silver Rain and Blizzard, which was published last year by Publish America.

Marke, who was a school teacher for 10 years in Africa, has also published numerous articles and stories nationally and internationally over the past decade. He came to the United States in 1990 with $20 in his pocket and says much of his writing is “therapy” to help soothe his own soul, scarred by growing up on a continent of perpetually warring nations.

“Somehow when you let your buried emotions surface, sort them out and share them with others in the form of a poem or story, it’s very healing,” he said. “It’s amazing that the peace I now enjoy can be shared with others.” He’s working on a memoir. “I’ve written a lot of it in my head,” he said. “Now I just have to put it on paper.”  Just the thought, he said, makes him feel good.

John Carter

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.