Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ethel Irene Kabwato, Blessing Musariri, Fungai Rufaro Machirori and Joice Shereni

Title: Sunflowers in Your Eyes – Four Zimbabwean Poets
Editor: Menna Elfyn
Publisher: Cinnamon Press
ISBN: 978-1-907090-13-4
Year: 2010
Reviewed by Memory Chirere
These four women poets of Zimbabwe in this collection are young. Ethel Irene Kabwato, Blessing Musariri, Fungai Rufaro Machirori and Joice Shereni are poets who belong to the contemporary working class of Zimbabwe. It means that all of them are decision makers and amongst them you may find a mother, sister, wife or friend of someone big or small in Zimbabwe. They variably write about individual scapes. They write about woman’s love for man who usually does not return the favour in equal measure. They write about their country (Zimbabwe) at a time of deep political strife. Each of these women answers, in her own way, to the questions: what does a woman want? What is love? What is country?

Fungai Machirori’s is a questing poetry, sometimes demanding, and praying too, for the restoration of the dignity of woman. Machirori’s persona insists that she is:

…not ketchup,
to be had on the side,
Along with a main course

She wants to be the main meal itself because she is ‘distinct and complete’. Fungai Machirori could be the most ideologically nuanced poet in this collection. She creates balance between suffering and hope and one is reminded of David Diop, the Senegalese poet. Sometimes Machirori’s poetry is about resurrection from a fall or the contemplation on it. Her persona, a radical feminist cries out: ‘No man is worth fighting for’ and ‘no man is worth dying for’, too. And if a genuine man’s love is hard to come by, she says:

I’d rather wrap cold chains and iron locks
Around the throbbing core of me
And watch and let my fetters grate and rust and cool
My blood

Machirori has no regrets and she writes with a clear certainty of those who are used to traveling until they arrive at destinations. Her other poem is even boldly entitled ‘Tears Will Not Cure’.

But Joice Shereni writes for matrimony. She does not give up on anything. Hers are probably the deepest poems in this collection, compelling and conversational. Her persona wants to reach out, to converse and reconcile with the runaway man and heal from old wounds. She hurts very deeply from inside. Suffering is not a curse but a school. It is even a career. She knows how fire burns. But she also does not want to lose control. ‘Should I let myself need you?’ she asks in ‘Destiny’. In ‘Hunters’ she feels that when you are an object of pity, you become naked until you run for cover like Adam and Eve. Shereni addresses man out there who doesn’t know how to be husband. Any man who participates in the humiliation of woman is also humiliating himself, seems to be the philosophy here.

Blessing Musariri’s poetry has lots of room, literal and metaphorical. She writes maybe the most transcendental poetry of the four, causing collocation of time and place. She is carefully laid back, edgeless like fog and reminiscent too. You find that in ‘Last Goodbye’. Musariri is a calm day that promises to be hot right there in the morning. She can also be as treacherous as honey! Because her lines pretend to wonder about, when in fact, they gather up bits and pieces to brew a final whirlwind effect as in ‘Breaking News’ and in ‘Related’. Her prose poetry is sometimes deliciously dreamy:

Daytime flights are dangerous because you see the place you might land should you chance to fall. Here among rolling clouds my thoughts meander- this is as close to snow as I as I’ll get today, as close to you- standing in the foyer, laughing about how your father bought you an Easter egg for your birthday. A glass of wine with lunch has aroused my fancy- touching cool glass as I have touched your face. High in this blue sky, in nothing else but sky, I am further than I have ever been from you.

Ethel Kabwato’s haiku are better than all that she writes here. There is especially the very short poem ‘Hate’ which goes:

So consuming
like uncontrolled
veld fire.

Or the other one called ‘Painting’:

Show me that painting
of happy children

But Kabwato’s political persona is a rock with a jagged edge. She goes deep to the jagular vein, as violent sometimes as Zimbabwean politics. She shouts at what she sees as betrayal of the nation by its own politicians. She writes the most tumultuous poetry in this collection, pricking you especially where the heart is supposed to be. Kabwato has no faith in the nation’s history or its institutions for she thinks that they are only full of political mobs. You travel down her lines and discover that she actually has faith in the individual conscience that registers and registers and registers the misdemeanors of those with power, reminding you of Charles Mungoshi’s friend in Waiting For the Rain, who is being buried alive, ‘minding the sand no more’.

This is a collection to remember; crispy, inspired and sparsely put together for readers who hate melodrama and verbosity.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Contemporary african literature: call for essays

New and young poets from different African countries performing together an improvised piece at a recent SADC Poetry festival in Gaborone.

Call for Essays
To be Edited by
J. K. S. Makokha (Free University of Berlin, Germany)
Leonard Acquah (University of Cape Coast, Ghana)
We are seeking critical essays for a new edited volume on major works of African literature by new writers emerging after 2000 or by established writers but published after 2000AD. Contemporaries of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ngugi represent the two age groups of African writers. We are interested precisely in new critical essays focusing on themes and thematics in the new works of these two writers and/or their African contemporaries across the continent or living in Diaspora.
The first decade of the 21st Century has just ended affording critics with the window for retrospection needed in order to ensure objectivity in our critical enterprise as set out in the intention of this project. The aim of this celebratory collection of new essays is to offer emergent critical perspectives on the concerns highlighted in the exciting new literary output of African writers after the fin de si├Ęcle. The works under study should be in English or in other Afrophone or Europhone languages with English translations.
The contributions should be original and couched in relevant and current theories and frameworks of literary interpretation. Essays on new African literature that are related to the broad focus of the collection (i.e. theory of literature) and move beyond specific cases in an attempt to expand the discussion within a theoretical perspective are highly encouraged; the role of African literature or writers can be two good points of such a broad focus. Contributions are invited on essays that explore any of the following topics/themes/ideas in prose, poetry or play genres. Moreover, we explicitly invite contributions on topics or thematics not mentioned below but still fitting under this book project title above:

1. Representing the Diaspora
2. Gender
3. Memory and Hybridity
4. Cultural translation
5. Borderland subjectivities
6. Translocation and multilocality
7. Migration and nomadology
8. Multicultural and/or multilingual writing (narratives)
9. Traveling Selves
10. Maps and Mapping
11. Postmodernism and Postcolonialism
12. Genre Criticism
13. Politics of Writing/ Cultural Politics
14. Democracy and Governance
15. African Renaissance and new Pan-Africanism
16. Urbanization and Cosmopolitanism

NB: Send us a short abstract of 300 words via the email adds below by February 14, 2011

JKS Makokha - copy to and
Leonard Acquah –

The book will be published in 2012. Kindly note the important dates below:

1. February 14 – February 28, 2011 – Assessment and Selection of Abstracts.
2. March 1, 2011 – Notification of Acceptance.
3. March 5, 2011 - July, 5 2011 – Writing and Submission of Article.
4. July 5, 2011 – August, 5 2011 – Blind Peer Review Process.
5. August 5, 2011 – October 5, 2012 – Revision of Articles in line with Peer Review Reports.
6. October 6, 2011 – Deadline of Submission of revised articles.
7. December 5, 2011 – Submission of Complete Book Manuscript to Publishers.

The formatting guidelines will be sent on March 1, 2011 to the authors of the selected abstracts.

Monday, January 3, 2011

writer Julius Chingono dies

KUDZAI (by Julius Chingono)
Kudzai when your first birthday passed
Without a word
Without a symbol
You kept quiet
And when your second passed
Without a present
Without a party
You kept quiet
But when your third birthday passed
You made your own car
A mud car you drove around
Making your own world
Marking your life with care
At the closed gate of privileges.

** Famba zvakanaka mudhara wangu