Lovemore Mataire The Reader
MEMORY Chirere is one of the few versatile authors ever to come out of Zimbabwe with the ability to effortlessly criss-cross the usage of Shona and English in their creative works covering a wide range of subjects and issues. Chirere’s versatility is aptly illuminated in his latest inaugural poetry offering titled “Bhuku Risina Basa; Nekuti Rakanyorwa Masikati” set to be soon available in the country.
The title of the book, which can be simply translated as to imply “a book without value” defies the serious surgical examination of society undertaken by each poem in the book.
In his own words, Chirere says: “These poems are not a product of my conscious need to publish a book of Shona poems. No. These poems were written over a period of 20 years. I just wrote at the spasm of a moment at home, work or as I interacted with people in society.”
Indeed, the natural flair exuded by each poem makes them less contrived and adaptable to various situations and identifiable to almost every reader’s individual experience.
The facts that Chirere wrote the poems merely as a pastime endeavour does not make them in any way muddled up but are a clear testimony of the author’s gift in vividly making seemingly mundane subjects and issues assume new meaning and relevance.
Prominent author Chenjerai Hove, now domiciled in the United States, also observed Chirere’s ability to capture landscape and illuminate meaning out of daily experiences when he says: “Chirere’s talent is his capacity to capture characters and landscape in most apt way, with a phrase or a simple comparison. He is one of the most observant writers ever to emerge in our cruel beloved homeland.”
Chirere’s love of nature and its relation to human existence threads through the whole book something that can probably be attributed to his upbringing in the not-so rolling plains of Bveke communal lands in Mt Darwin.
In his introduction (Mazwi emupepeti), Ignatious T. Mabasa, another prominent author who is Chirere’s contemporary, makes a very important point when he refers to the author’s style as pioneering in its terse stanzas and simple usage of the Shona language.
Mabasa asserts that Chirere has managed through this book to open a new literary dispensation or chapter in terms of poetry writing especially his economic use of every day expressions and words that make poetry writing seem like an easy endeavour.
However, the economic use of words and straight forward kind of prose inadvertently provokes the reader to have some kind of introspection of who he/she is, where he is coming from and the pitfalls that lie ahead.
Ironically, one of the poems is almost shorter than its title, “Aka katetembo hakana basa nekuti kakanyorwa” only nine words;
Kakova kanonzi rudo rwangu,
A casual glance of the poem gives the illusion of unfinished construction, as if someone was in a hurry but alas it is a finished product that provokes the reader to have a serious introspection about the journey we call life, its meaning and purpose.
The poetic devices visible in each poem are so embedded making them less contrived and forcibly employed to evoke a certain meaning or build a certain picture.
But there is one long poem titled “Bvunza Vatema”. This poem is a celebration of what it means to be black, their historical civilisational triumphs, their dark sides and including their anxieties.
A reader does not necessarily be accustomed with a myriad of Shona idioms or proverbs to have a meaningful discourse with the poems as they are laid down in simple everyday phrases and words.
This book is a masterpiece in both its presentation and also as a first single collection of poems by Chirere. His major favoured terrain is that of short stories and has published in Nomore Plastic Balls(2005), “A Roof to Repair” (2000), “Writing Still” (2003) and “Creatures Great and Small” (2005). He has also published short story books: “Sowmehere in This Country” (2006), “Tudikiki” (2007) and “Toriro and His Goats” (2010).