Registered under the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe

05 April 2011

WINZ Newsletter, Issue No 16


 Beaven Tapureta (standing) with Conrad Chiwanza, a young writer, at the ZIBF in 2007
My experience with unpublished writers in Zimbabwe has provided an opportunity to comprehend what goes on in their minds, their fears, visions, weaknesses, impatience and above all, their anger. Note, the anger is what drives most of them to keep hoping that they will one day break into print and speak to the world, thereby satisfy their wish to express themselves.
I first published my poem in an international journal called Compost, based in the USA when I was twenty years old or thereabouts. The poem had previously appeared in a local magazine called Tsotso. I remember being repeatedly asked to stand up in the middle of  a writers’ chapter meeting to explain my ‘achievement’. What’s more, I remember explaining to other curious budding writers how excited I was to receive a US$20 cheque via Western Union and being able to buy a striped shirt and a typewriter. This was also a time when I learnt how to use a manual typewriter bought from an auction in Harare. Hear this, the typewriting skills, meaning keyboarding skills, helped me to get a job in a writers’ association that was to lay bare a lot of hard, impalpable facts about writing in my life. One needs ‘the bones’ and not much of the ‘milk’ (kid gloves) which unpublished writers normally get from some people invloved in their careers. Add to that, this was a time when the Marechera bug had screwed its rot deep in my mind (That’s another story). My poem in Compost for which I got $20, by the way, is titled ‘Beyond the Horizon’.
As a Programme Officer in a writers association not many years ago, I had budding writers asking me to fast-track their manuscripts so that when they get published, I will have a piece of the cake. There is no shortcut to writing glory. Some even asked to see the kindless manuscript reader in question so as to explain their works, about which the reader would have written a ‘bad’ assessment report. If the manuscript is good, there is no need for supplementary explanations!
My point is that a young and unpublished writer is a hungry person, therefore angry. S/he is hungry for knwoledge, and yet angry at the inavailability of access to the true sources of that knowledge. S/he is angry with publishers and their editors. S/he is angry with anyone negatively critiquing his/her work.  Publishers seem to be the worst enemies, their rejection slips are like death certficates. (Imagine being issued a death certificate, instead of a birth certficate, while are alive!)
I can proudly say I never, in my infantile years as a writer, hated anyone who said negative about my works. The love for kindless assessors helped develop the ‘voice great within me’.
Aspiring writers live in an enclosure where they think that all that they write shall become a Zimbabwean thriller! No way, it’s a process, a patient process. The reading public is the final adjudicator. Anyone imposing his or her ‘thriller’ upon the reader is a propagandist. Real best-sellers are judged by the reading public.
Until one finds a caring mentor who listens, evaluate, and provide direction, one usually burns out soon like a burning  newspaper. We have lost talent to the dustbins of neglect and loneliness.
I personally came across mentors such as Memory Chirere, Charles Mungoshi whom I had to tell my name each time we met in the street, Shimmer Chinodya, Stanley Nyamfukudza, Virginia Phiri, the late Ruzvidzo Mupfudza, and many others whose ideas/guiding instructions at workshops, seminars, informal one-on-one meetings, assisted in shaprening my skills. Well, I naturally love networking with Zimbabwean literary greats and the so-called unpublished writers.
Writers’ organisations, if they are not corrupt, are helpful as well.
All in all, an unpublished writer always thinks that no one on this planet seesm to understand his/her dream. Yet in actual fact, the problem is that it is very hard to understand oneself when you are still alive. All it takes to break out of the shell is patience, and a 10% aggression.
One last rambling point, my dear reader: if being published is restricted to novels, collection of one’s works, then Oh God I am not. But if it means being published  in various anthologies, journals, websites, blogs, newspapers (nearly all newspapers in your country!), then I am beyond the world’s most misleading and meaningless semantic labels. Allow me to say to myself, Happy Birthday and thanks to the Lord for bringing me this far.
By Beaven Tapureta

Tinashe ‘Mutumwapavi’ Muchuri

After The Stage Where Does Our Poetry Go?

Poetry performance is becoming more and more popular in our beloved country of Zimbabwe, and yet one wonders if we have produced proportionate fruits.
Almost every weekend there is poetry performance in some provinces. In Masvingo there is Dzimbabwe Poets, in Bulawayo there is Umlomo Wakho, in Harare there is House of Hunger poetry slam, Sistaz open mic sessions, Mashoko, and other events normally held at the Book Café.
Festivals have also become major platforms of poetry. HIFA, which is forthcoming, Dzimbabwe Arts Festival in Masvingo, Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo, Zimbabwe International Book Fair’s Live Literature Centre, and various other festivals, have become a necessity in the life a poet in Zimbabwe.
However, my question is: After the stage, where   does our poetry go?
If my memory rings well only about two poets have published performance-inspired poetry anthologies. The two are Chirikure Chirikure and Albert Nyathi. The two poets popularised their poetry on stage before being collected into books. Ignatius Mabasa (pictured below) has also published his gos-poetry on CDs.
Intwasa Poetry by Amabooks is another anthology by various poets who graced the stage during the 2007 edition of Intwasa Arts Festival.
Apart from these poets and projects there is Mbizo Chirasha whose poetry can be enjoyed more when he performs it. He has seen his work in over 35 journals all over the world. 
However, there are poets emerging from the poetry slams scattered all over the country yet their poetry start and end on the stage. Is it because they do not know how to promote their performance further? Is it because they see the stage as a paying master or roadmap to stardom? Are non-paying poetry journals a nuisance to them? Is it that they are afraid of copyright infringement on their work that they decide to keep their poems to themselves? Is this why many poets who participate in these slams perform their one and only poem repeatedly making the poetry slams predictable? What is the problem then?
Is it because there are no longer forums where poetry could be published locally. In the past there was Tsotso magazine that used to publish poetry in three languages, that is, Shona, English and Ndebele, there also was the Norton-based NAMA nominated The New Voices Magazine, Gweru-based Moto Magazine, Harare-based Parade magazine. These magazines have become defunct or operating erratically like rains in a drought season.
What of the electronic journals that seemingly replaced the traditional magazines? Do the performance poets view these as waste of time?
Not that I say all the poems recited at these slams are worth preserving, there are some fine poetry recited at these slams that needs to be preserved and there are some which will suit to be archived in the propaganda  silos.
Nevertheless, it is now time that the poets, as much as they want to be on stage, work towards making their poetry accessible to readers, listeners and viewers. A small number of performance poets have published their work in various forms such as CDs or DVDs. Interesting to note that Sympathy Sibanda’s debut poetry anthology Matters of Life is being published in an electronic form.
Many just waste their energy on stage. I understand that sometimes the stage pays more than the book but the book give someone the respect that is needed to get more invitations to perform outside the country. It is through some tangible works that you are recognised by international talent scouts who may ask you to send a copy of your poetry DVD or CD.
Poets such as Batsirai Chigama, Barbra (The Breeze) Anderson, Comrade Fatso, Outspoken, and Primrose Dzenga are among those who shared their poetry at the Book Cafe, HIFA and other events and festivals in the country and the Southern Africa region. These poets have embraced the notion of putting their poetry in books or other forms to widen its appreciation.
It is in this regard that every performance poet should think about the future of his/her poetry. Is it going to end on the stage, only restricted to a small audience?
My encouragement is that, if resources permit, lets reach millions or thousands out there through audio, video, or print means of publishing? Make a decision now.
Until next time, cheers.



By Hosea Tokwe

The day will retreat
Fleeing from the glow
Of the clear summer moon
And yet the shadows bear witness
It is the arrival of night

The occasional nightjar flies past
As the first witness
In the tree branches the owl's hoot
Signals its mating time

In the huts kerosene lamps are lit
Youngsters run to the safety of their guardians
To be the first to hear the fairy tale
Dogs pretend to sleep
Settle, ready to bark all night

It will be a sleepless night
With rats scurrying in the scuttling grain
And those noisy crickets in the field
It is another long night
Closing another page,
Leaving us in wonder
What the next day will hold.

‘Unclipping wings of the imagination’

1 comment:

  1. Beaven, I just found my copy of Compost two days ago, and I read your poem and remembered the 78 Kaguvi street discussions. When the journal came out I was a magazine clerk in a US bookstore, so it was great to see my work in a magazine we carried. Muchuri's article on stage poetry is informative. Great use of this blog...