Discovering contemporary African poets

I’m in Zimbabwe at the moment, and thanks to the Irish poet, Joseph Woods, who recommended me, and the festival organiser, Chirikure Chirikure, I’ll be taking part in the 2018 Harare Literary Festival, so I’m acquainting myself with the poets with whom I’ll be reading Love Letters to Africa on Thursday the 29th November.

This is a poem by Numero Uomo Giese (photographed below), a writer and photographer from Nigeria, who also fund-raises for charities.

Ad-Vantage
a.k.a. Sonnet of the Breadseller’s Baby

My vantage point, upon the tender petals
Of my young soul did indelibly mark,
Like heifer‘s flesh branded with red hot metal,
A sense of business, value, clear and stark.
While peers in Europe‘s pushchairs had a vista
Broad with horizons of great means,
We Africans, me, my brother, my sister

Beheld from mother‘s back our glorious scenes.
More than just knees, buttocks and belts
From up there we saw customers assist
Her tray to the ground, pay, and duly help
It back upon her head as she‘d persist
In pursuing for us a better living.
Today I repay her for all that giving.

                                                         *

And here’s a lovely (untitled), award-winning haiku from the Ugandan poet, Carolyne M. Acen, pictured below.

the drunken cockroach
reels around the verandah-
rooster chuckles

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Zimbabwe’s Charity Hutete (pictured  below) is a dynamic page and performance poet whose written work has been described as ‘a layered feast’.
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Here is one of her poems:

Men & Alcohol

men are much like alcohol
some leave only a bitter after taste in your mouth but without any long term effects. some are a little more devastating. they relieve you of your senses, temporarily. only to wake up drowning in self-loathing, that hangover of the soul, a souvenir of a near death experienced barely survived.

if such a man is not speedily discarded however,
he will eventually be the death of you. he infects your soul with a slow and agonizing terminal illness similar to the liver cirrhosis one gets from excess alcohol consumption except this is the death of the soul.

he slyly stabs at your self confidence
resulting in the steady seepage of your person, drip drip drip. the leaking of your essence into the hundred and one other men in whom you will seek to find wholeness again. ironically it is in these rebound affairs we’re lost entirely, where personality dissolves like salt in hot water which is visually imperceptible but the bitterness is unmistakable upon taste.

yet some men are like a tall glass of red wine
mature, refined, full bodied. one small dose of him relaxes body and mind, making you want to kick off your shoes, lower your head into the centre of his sturdy chest
and drift into a peaceful slumber as you listen to the steady beat of a sincere heart.

i waited at many a bar for a tall, crimson drink
sipping on virgin daiquiris until I whiffed a glass from heaven’s vine. i recognised him immediately. a glass of red looks, smells and tastes like a glass of red, it’s never complicated. A Jack on the rocks will never appear or feel like a tall glass of red wine
unless you’ve had way too much to drink.

                                                                  *

Batsirai Chigama (pictured below)  is a Zimbabwean spoken word  poet and activist. She is a graduate of the University of Zimbabwe.  Gather the Children,  her first collection of poems, is ‘a reflection on Zimbabwe in the last ten years; chronicling stories of displacement, loss and desperation.’

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Here is one of her poems:

Frills of Winter

He comes to me

says we must bury mother

I say to him brother

we buried her eight years ago

incessantly he knocks on my door

at midnight

gathers the frills of winter about him

mumbles frosty things I don’t understand

words tripping on his tongue

in the chaos of it all

he insists we must bury mother

He wasn’t there when she died

he an economic prisoner in some foreign land

fending for us the economic orphans of this land

bought a white dome casket for mother’s send off

she would have been proud of her final resting home,

I bet

he says he didn’t cry, he couldn’t

and those tears must now harangue him

in places where his sleep should be

Up and down the corridor he paces

in search of closure in the doors facing west

I can only hold him for a while, hug him like a child

a fifty-year old man in my arms

in this temporary lull he mumbles.

                                                            *

Tawona Sithole (pictured below) is a Zimbabwean poet and musician living in Glasgow. He co-founded Seeds of Thought, a collective that aims to promote the sharing of cultures through the arts. His work is influenced by the oral traditions of his ancestors.

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Here is one of his poems:

casting off

cast your mind
to an age of clay
when earthly hands
sculpt lively earthenware
earthiness is worthiness
worthiness is earthiness

cast your mind
to an age of granite
when rocks are significant
vital and magnificent
a rockery is a gallery
a rockery is a gathering

cast your mind
to an age of iron
when iron ore from the iron core
forges truths of cast iron
ironsmiths are wordsmiths
wordsmiths are ironsmiths

cast your mind
to an age unknown
when unknowns are significant
vital and magnificent
realities of figment
figments of reality

                                                                        *

Momo Size (pictured below) is a self-proclaimed love poet and a leading Zimbabwean spoken word artist.

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Here is one of her poems:

Love Makes the World Go Round

Love makes the world go round they had told me.

When you  looked into my eyes that Saturday my knees had literally bent in joyful weakness.

Nights became filled with long text messages and those popular laugh out loud phrases.

Your  love brought me strange sweet chaos.

I had worn you  like a locket held fast around my neck.

Had worn you like the only hope anchoring my belief in love.

I had given you my soul ,my heart, my hands to fragments that had felt like home.

I felt dizzy with what was to come this was going to be happy ever after right?

I forgot that love has to grow.

So I got frustrated and we began to break, tearing away from the new foundation we began leaving the pieces of us behind.

Shrugged you off like a bad memory and said to myself that this is not meant to be.

Our young love torn by the commercialisation of love filled with high expectations, disappointment, mistrust, lust and the need to be always right.

We began disintegrating like a small town experiment gone wrong.

The words that had passed between us suddenly became lifeless and confused.

 

All the promises we had made with our heartbeats became dead and lay there, breathless.

I pray my heart forgets the warm feel of your hands on my skin.

I wait for the day when my soul does not yearn to reach out to  you on a bad day.

May these thoughts of you cease to float in my dreams.

I pray to forget the sparkle in your eye when you  looked at me like diamonds were found in these brown eyes .

I hope my arms forget your embrace and that 1st kiss that brought me down to my knees.

I bow  down with these scrapped knees and pray that no pieces of you were left within my veins that my mind extracts the beautiful music your laugh made.

Your fingers danced lightly on my soft skin like a lonely tango beat playing slowly at midnight .My mind feels like it’s suffocating with your memory sometimes. How sad that love grows apart .

Goodness I hope the eyes of my soul forget those beautiful eyes that planted fire-filled kisses with each stare.

It’s not your fault or mine that you couldn’t stay; some things are meant just for a season.

So when someone walks up to me and says love makes the world go round I  laugh out loud and show them my scars.

Love makes the world go round they had told me.

                                                                     *

Philani Amadeus Nyoni  (pictured below) is an award-winning Zimbabwean poet and actor. He is currently working towards his first collection, Once a Lover, Always a Fool.

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Here is one of his poems:

Ghosts of Freetown

You are not Haiti,
You have no Wycleff Jean,
And too far to make your problems our own,
So we can’t hear the crackling of your fires,
Nor smell your smokes of desperation.
The forests are buried as coffins,
Children drowning in mud
While the world chews the cud.
Is it because your skin is muddy
That there’s no humanity for your agony?
And what of those who look like you,
What did they say, what did they do?
How lonely is misery,
Though diamonds bring much much company!
But diamonds are stone they cannot see,
And children are precious beyond measure.
Today your real treasure returns to the dust,
Africa has buried her future again!
Weep not too hard, times death is mercy.
The future is buried again dear Africa,
Buried with hope, not just any hope,
With the hope, and a prayer to the Nile,
That one day we will all be free,
Truly free, as free as death,
Free, as these ghosts of Freetown.

                                                                   *

Tendekai Philemon Tati,  better known by his stage name Madzitatiguru (pictured below) is a is a Zimbabwean spoken word artist, six-time slam champion and comedian, who performs mostly in the Shona language.

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Here is one of his English poems:

Speaker

I feel connected to my inner self,
angry and disturbed
and as I stepped to the podium I felt my chest was stabbed
from with in

My heart beat harder as I knew I was jumping in
But I got louder and put these words that are in…
…Your ears
In…
…to my mouth
and my mouth speaketh out
And the speakers are not speaking
They are vibrating imitating
what my mouth bringeth out

If I’m louder than possible
then it’s because of the microphone
But the microphone does not amplify to that amplitude on its own
You’re going to need an amplifier
a mixer
and at least one loud speaker
I’m a speaker and I’m loud
so you won’t need your magnetic speakers
You need me

One native speaker whose nature is already loud
Who speaks when he’s given a chance
and speaks even louder when he’s not allowed

Who do I speak for
And who do I speak to
I speak to those who I speak for
And I speak to me too
As I recall the first time I was sent home for school fees at grade two
And feeding on Sadza reKenya back in 1992

Hot sitting at school tichipinda muClass na2
That was the class of the life I lived, I still do
And that’s who
I speak for
The so called second class citizens
Citizen class two

                                                                      *

Moffat Moyo (pictured below) is a poet who teaches English Literature and Language at the University of Zambia.

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Here is one of his poems:

Africa

It is the fire of the bushes
And the winds of the wilderness
And the dust of the skies
That gives Africa its name
It is the gods of the deep
And the devils of the high
And the fowl of the air
And the angels that care:
It is the green of life
And the dark brown of souls
And the clay pot of life by the Msoro tree
And the waters of the Zambezi
Freely but furiously falling to form the famous Victoria Falls
And, at dawn, the sound of nature
And, at night, the moon of beauty
And the nature we nurture
That gives Africa its name
This is Africa.

 

 

       

       

       

 

 

 



2 thoughts on “Discovering contemporary African poets

  1. Wonderful piece, Afric. I loved reading all these poems. Thank you for introducing me to such poets. All best for your time at the festival.

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