Registered under the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe

21 July 2010


By Beaven Tapureta

Some journals of international art, literature, and ideas are excellent but they are infrequent in Zimbabwe.

Leafing through the latest issue of the Cosumnes River Journal (Spring 2010, Vol IV) got my day going. So much happens in our busy lives that sometimes bypass our conscious mind and when writers worth the name express the same things in their unique language, life takes a new route towards discovery.

Cosumnes River Journal is published annually by the English Department of Cosumnes River College (Sacramento, USA) where one of the journal’s editors, Zimbabwean writer and poet, Emmanuel Sigauke, lectures.

The latest issue is a mixed bag of compelling, skilfully written creative nonfiction, short stories, poems, and photographs.

Among the young writers featured is Zimbabwe’s rising poet Tinashe Muchuri (aka Mutumwapavi) (PICTURED), whose poem ‘Gestures’ radiates with an emotional yet powerful supplication, a quest to be free from the bondage of ‘unsaid words’. Muchuri’s poetry amplifies a moment, an experience, and an emotion; yet using a few, well chosen words he captures the essence of it all. This is not the first time that Muchuri has been featured in an international journal. His poetry has also appeared in Illuminations, Rattlesnake Review, and State of the Nation: Contemporary Zimbabwean Poetry, and on several websites such as StoryTime. Apart from writing, Muchuri performs his poetry at various local and regional festivals such as the forthcoming SADC Poetry Festival.

I also found interesting the creative nonfiction and short stories in Cosumnes River College journal, achieving what can be called ‘identification and empathy’, that is, in a sense, the pieces lure you to identify with the characters through a live language that invokes empathy. Skill fuses with emotion at best, instinctively.

Take for example, ‘Broken’ by Audrey Allen, in which although there is no mention of any character’s name, the reader can identify and feel empathetic for the narrator who loses (through a car accident) someone he loves dearly before he has said something very important to her, something that had been eating his mind, yet at pains to reveal it. There’s fast paced, tactful handling of fantasy and reality. Consequently, after the accident, the man is lonelier than before, and double-broken, so to speak. Allen, the writer, is only twenty, how creative!

‘Being First’ by MJ Lemire has much to say about children’s behaviour. If you are a parent, the story strikes you right between the eyes as it challenges you to think again about the little questions, which our children ask. ‘Being First’ is a vivid anecdote in which a parent, the narrator, closely follows the contrasting behaviours of her two kids Andrew and Grace. There is so much to the question posed by the inquisitive Grace to her mother: Why do we have a last name that starts with L?

Grace goes on to say, “ I never get to be first because L is in the middle of the alphabet. A’s get to go first. Even Z sometime has to go first when the teacher starts from the end. But forwards or backwards, I am always stuck in the middle. The teacher never lets the middle kids go first.”

Grace’s family last name, by the way, starts with an L and this, Grace thinks, is some kind of ‘jinx’. Andrew, on the other side, whose first name starts with an A, is a quiet boy who does not find any fault in the letter L and portrays an un-questioning character, which his parent fears may be tragic in his adulthood. I personally grew up like Andrew, so quiet but for me there was this feeling that there must be something special in ‘quietness’. It does not mean in danger you do not run. In Shona culture, possibly in African culture in general, being last, especially in the family, is a blessing, isn’t it!

There is an interesting subject of LUCK tackled from different perspectives in the last part of the journal, and a supplement of quotes about LUCK: Good &Bad, taken from a variety of international personalities such as Thomas Hardy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ralph Waldo Emerson (my favourite essayist), and Mark Twain.

Hear what an Arab proverb says about luck: Throw a man into the sea, and he will come up with a fish in his mouth.

The poems such as ‘Like the March of the Second Hand’ by John Hesselbein or Taylor Graham’s A Question Arrived While Waiting at the Lawyer’s, are meditative, narrative, musical and sensuous, involves the apperception of the inscape, something like that. The photographs appeal to the core of our emotions as much as the fiction does appeal to our responsive humanity.

Surely, the Cosumnes River Journal is worth browsing through in your office, in the bus, or at home, under a tree before a lecture starts (and only if you could grab a copy, which I know could be difficult!). The Cosumnes River Journal editors may be reading this, and well, really, we need more of the issues circulating in our writers’ clubs. For the budding writer, the journal opens spanking new avenues of seeing things and writing.

Well, for those who want to contribute to the journal, kindly send enquiries to Heather Hutcheson ( between October 2010 and March 2011.

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