Beaven Tapureta Bookshelf
“Zviri Mugapu”, is a collection of Shona poetry which represents an informed community of new local word-smiths determined to share their emotive voices on current issues bedevilling today’s society. Here is poetry delivered not in a too complex, too dialectical style and yet the simplicity is something to reckon with.

When I got a copy of “Zviri Mugapu”, I was keen on finding out if the anthology does not fall under hackneyed indigenous poetry.

However, after reading “Zviri Mugapu”, I felt the new poets deserve the respect for investing their efforts in exploring relevant, new forms of poetical expression using our mother language.

Some poems in this anthology evoke serious critical thinking.

Of course, as a collection by new poets, there are a few instances in it which makes the reader wonder, as one local established poet once said, if “our poets just pick their pens and go like clerks’.

However, this does not provide basis at this moment to prompt a comparison of “the new” and “the experienced”.

In an interview, Edwin Msipa, the brains behind the anthology project, said he came up with the idea because he wanted to give a platform to upcoming poets most of whom had not been getting opportunities to showcase their talent.

After a meeting with writers at Tariro School in Hopley (Harare), Msipa said he felt that the writers/poets had talent but were being subdued by low self-esteem.

“I thought it wiser to empower them. Each one brought ten poems and it was the duty of the selection panel to come up with the best.
“The book was finally published by CJ Mylton,” said Msipa.

26 year old CJ Mylton, who shouldered a large part of the publishing costs, and two other poets, Givemore Mhlanga and Brian Tafadzwa Penny, did the selection and editing of poems that finally made it into the anthology. The three editors also contributed their works in the book.

Msipa’s sentiments about paucity in Shona poetry written by new poets is justifiable when one considers that there are a few indigenous poetical works available in the bookstores today due to the vicious economics (or politics) of local publishing.

Zimbabwean publishers seem to have set a trend of publishing group anthologies if it is Shona poetry and individual collections or single-poet collections if it is English poetry (mainly by established poets).

It is only recently that single-poet anthologies in Shona language are being published.

The spirit behind “Zviri Mugapu” must be commended as it came through a vision based on putting ideas and resources together.

The publication of this anthology is indeed an “aggressive” breakthrough by the new voices demanding to be heard in a tight publishing situation.

“It is very difficult to publish the conventional way with our local publishers.

They (established publishers) only accept manuscripts which suit their plan.

If you just dash in their offices they tell you that according to their plan, such and such type of work is not yet needed.

“If the works are accepted, they take long to publish. Sometimes you lose out,” said Msipa.

“Zviri Mugapu” carries a quest for answers pertaining to the suffering of the ordinary person in different contexts such as poor working conditions, the woman and the girl child rights, HIV/AIDS, love, and various domestic issues.

21 year old Lydia Ngore, the youngest poet and one of the only two women in the anthology, evades the over-trodden path of pitying the girl child and celebrates the progress so far made in uplifting girls.

Part of her poem “Vaititi Hatina Musoro”, says: “Vaishora mbodza neinozvimbira, aye vasina musoro voita zviminimini, toisa musoro pamwe chete tiri kumabasa, tosimudza nyika tose tose, vanasikana vowanikwawo pamusoro, asi vaititi hatina musoro”

There is experimentation with style and language by some of the poets, demonstrating depth of thought. Msipa, also a known poetry performer, inserts dialogue to make his poems lively.  Joel Masaidzi, who comes from Masvingo, brings out strains of dialect in some of his poems.

In Givemore Mhlanga’s “Gakamira Musona bhodhoro”, the poet captures the stammer of the persona in his wording.

There is the stammer, and then there is “musona bhodoro’s”, the lying persona’s hilarious message. Here is one of the poem’s stanzas: “zvakakachena muchadenga i-izvo haasi makore, mafuta, ehwayi dzaiitwa chibairo chekudenga, ndini ndi-inotungidza gwenya remheni kudenga, ndichiridza mitinhimira yemabhanan’ana ine maungira kupfuura Mbira Dzenharira, munondionera mumvura sehove kanhi? Svika kwedu ndikuratidze zvisionekwi.”

The poems in some instances sound like “salt on wound” for women, they add to some school of thought which have provoked women to rise against being wrongly perceived in society and in the home. One such poem says: “Kana ageza apoda mukadzi, kana ageza azvishonga, kana azvichenesa, anofunga kuti ndiye Ishe.” (“Kana Ageza Mukadzi”.)

CJ Mylton’s poetical presentation of love in his poem “Unoita Sengano” demonstrates a gift of the imagination. While there are other poems about love in the anthology, this poem is captivating in its narrative form; the reader comes out of it feeling sorry for the dreamer, as it turns out that love in a dream does not always transform into love in reality.

45 year old Emmelina Murawu, the eldest in the anthology, is a guiding voice.

Her poetry is compact. In her poems she mourns the death of culture, celebrates talent, real love and Zimbabwe’s beauty.

And although there are other poems in the anthology which one way or the other echo the book title “Zviri Mugapu”, Murawu’s poem “Hazvina Nguva” must have inspired this book title as one of the stanzas shows: “Rotenderera basa pasi rose, dzavo nhapitapi dzoratidza, unyanzvi pakati pavo hwovheneka, dzarovanidzwa dzavo pfungwa, hezvo kwazvarwa zviri mugapu.”

The poets show a great deal of awareness to current issues although, technically, there is an obsession by more than three poets with a single device, especially the end-word rhyme; at times it is the over-repetition of the same end-word in the whole poem.

“Zviri Mugapu” carries sixty three poems by twelve poets many of whom have not been published before. A few of the poets such as Edwin Msipa, Brian Tafadzwa Penny, and Cosmos Tafireyi, have had a helpful experience in their different local writers’ associations and have some of their poems published in other anthologies.

Last month on September 20, Penny and Givemore Mhlanga met a small group of Writers International Network Zimbabwe members in Harare to share some of their poems in “Zviri Mugapu” and their experience in various writing issues.


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