A collection of short stories and poems by Awesome Authors
Compiled by Thandiwe Nyamasvisva
A Review by David Mungoshi Part 2: The Poetry Section
In my first installment I dwelt on the short story section of the anthology and argued that with better editing the anthology could have been quite engaging and appealing. I also made the observation that the poetry section was much more accomplished by comparison. In this installment we explore the poetry. Before we do, however, I find another salvo at the editing too appetizing to forego. It is somewhat presumptuous of the team to sub-title their collection’ A Collection of short stories and poems by Awesome Authors’. If we ignore the incongruous register we cannot but see that Nyamasvisva on behalf of the writers and poets in the anthology has arrogated to herself the role of the critic. Humility does it! It is really not the business of interested parties like the editor to then critique their own product. Objectivity is obviously compromised. My thinking is that this publication is likely to be the first of several such publications. It is, therefore, imperative that we describe the terrain in some detail and also highlight as many shortcomings as possible. Put simply guys, let critics like me (and readers too) be the ones to evaluate your literary efforts. Now to the poetry!
The anthology has twenty-six (26) poems according to my count. The titles are as varied as they are interesting and they traverse a vast expanse of poetic territory and experiences, from the mundane to the sublime, from the pleasant to the fearful and from the ordinary to the pedantic. To some extent that affliction of the not-so- thorough editing persists in the poetry section, but is happily not so conspicuous. The poets have greater finesse than the prose protagonists in the short story section of the book. They sound more cultured and more erudite with depictions that are sometimes metaphysical and at times lyrical. A look at some of the poems should be instructive here.
‘The Eerie Feeling’ by Cornath Macheka is like a clone of Walter de La Mare’s ‘The Listeners’. In both cases the feeling of otherness is unmistakable. You experience together with each poet that phenomenon that theology professors call ‘the sense of the numinous’. Your hair stands on end and you have this overwhelming feeling of being watched by forces you cannot see or fathom. In the end you shout with the horseman in de La Mare’s poem as your horse crops the turf in the receding moonlight: tell them I came … and no-one answered me! Cornath’s persona wails almost audibly:
I’m terror-struck and visibly shaken
by the witch’s ominous cry, piercing the dark night
crackling from the rooftop!
Listen, listen, listen with me…
to the dry thatch
Swishing and cracking under invisible feet unshod!
Reader, is your heart cold with fear? Are you numb with bewilderment? So vivid is the imagery here and so intense is the depiction that that feeling of otherworldliness is almost palpable. Macheka is a master at evocativeness and at executing a turn of phrase that is inclined towards the poetic epigram. His ‘A Grain of Insanity’ is equally forceful. It is an empathetic poem that feels for the poet’s endless search for the one big poem that will catapult him or her to greatness.
Where Macheka is preoccupied with the mysteries of life and the universe, Aleck Takabaiwa Mabenge seems drawn to the foxy phenomenon we call death. His refrain is reminiscent of a pilgrim’s incantatory chant: Father here I come, death comes to us all.
I fear you might be thinking that the poetry in this collection is all gloom and doom. You couldn’t be further from the truth. In ‘I need you’ Amanda Ranganawa invokes that spirit of humility and inadequacy that rises from the depths of humanity when faced with the prospect of abandonment. As Hemingway’s Harry Morgan in ‘To Have and Have Not’ observes, “No matter how a man alone ain’t got no bloody fucking chance.” We all need someone or something sometime.
Aubrey Kamba’s ‘Arrested Development’ is a thought-provoking poem with profound insights. In recognition of his limitations Kamba laments:
when i can’t hear
my own voice
then i cease to be
what i am
i cease to get
what i want
it seems i live within
What would poetry be without love? Constance van Niekerk’s ‘Ode to Lovers’ is a celebration of life and love. Love is ‘A mystery unravelled’, she writes as she wonders:
Who would have fathomed
How beautiful, how magnificent
The true meaning of love!
Cynthia Marangwanda waxes lyrical as she alliteratively asserts:
Sex is a boiling bore
She is in a stunned state of disaffection and disillusionment, so she weeps metaphorically:
Conversation rattles the nerves
Leaving me reeling with annoyance
Sleep is a waking horror, insomniac times
All because love has vacated the vicinity
I need to medicate
But I can’t find no medicine.”
Dafydd leuens injects some Welsh sensibility into the anthology. His ‘Embracing A South Wind’ is reminiscent of the romantic tradition of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats and others of that school. The south wind is a conveyer of warmth and new life as winter wanes and recedes before the onslaught of spring when effervescent life blooms and practically bursts out. He writes:
Crocus, the first guest arriving at the party,
is embraced with relish—happy to see and be seen,
Such a fragile looking sprite—
but surprisingly terse and stubborn enough to push through numb, snow-covered earth—
signing the end of hibernation.
Soon the whole countryside is alive with daffodils and hyacinths, flowering pear and cherry. It is a season of plenty soon to perish as life obeys its cycles. And the poet decries his absolute uselessness in affecting the scheme of things:
My tasks are meaningless without this eruption of beauty coaxed by the South Wind;
Its purpose becomes kindling for mine.
‘The Shrine’ by Khetani Banda exudes an unmistakably sarcastic and irreverent kind of humour that questions all and sanctifies nothing. Banda in his detached arrogance writes:
A tempest of moths has made
A home out of your eyes.
Now, when you weep rotten garments
And pyramids of dust
Peel down your cheeks
Leaving the thin trails
Of unbelieving pilgrims.
You rave of the beautiful rack of the cross,
The potent chatter of the
You have even tested the orgasmic prick of the devil’s horn,
But, in truth, you only have faith
In the dead acreage of your skin.
Tonight the dead visit you
To remember the sourness
Of affected amens;
Your loose rosary of prayers has lowered
Them into deeper purgatories.
Your mouthful of offering
Dissolves into vomit before
You reach the altar.
Now the priest both holds and
Avoids your stare
Noticing the horror of the whore in it.
Though your mouth has never
Sold your flesh
Nyamasvisva and the rest of the poets in this collection are to be congratulated for a provocative and engaging anthology. While some work can still be done on the poems they are without doubt, and by comparison, well-written. In case you feel violated by Khetani Banda’s shrine, Thandiwe Nyamasvisva ends the collection with her ‘He Whispers Stand’, a poem that reaffirms the power and dependability of providence.
About the Author:
David Mungoshi wrote this article for L’Afrique Beat. He is a multi-talented practitioner, has until recently been employed by the University of Zimbabwe in Harare where he taught Communication Skills and Applied Linguistics courses in the Department of Linguistics. David is a published poet, short story writer and novelist as well as a text-book writer, freelance copywriter, actor and editor. In 2010, David’s novel, ‘The Fading Sun’ was awarded Zimbabwe’s prestigious NAMA for outstanding fiction. The book has since been incorporated into the Advanced Level Literature syllabus in Zimbabwe. For the moment David is keeping his options open and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The eBook can be downloaded for free from http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/513181