”News is best in its absence if it’s not the birth of a child . . . ” Mbizo Chirasha
Calling the morning with a mournful urgency, sleep fell off the
routine checks of protocol and the gong silently, if urgently,
summoned a sermon of fleeting feet. A son beheld the sun’s shadow with
loving thoughts packed hurriedly into a strained back. The beauty of
smooth roads and distance hills failed dismally to tell the dreams on
a runway refusing crafts to land. Temporariness is a weed with long
tendrils as only those with healthy respect for shadows know. To part
with tomorrow’s hope to the hands of a paid Piper whose mission in
“his appointed career” is to poach livelihoods of passerby’s in quest
for a nights nest on this migratory routine is a pain bordering on a
tooth extraction without anaesthesia. That this accepted sin is
described in business lingo as lucrative is tearing off fresh from the
living and asking to be thanked.
And the revolutionary chant is not over!
Am blind and love it because that way I judge nobody.
Am deaf and trust it because that way I hear only hope from Angels from afar.
Am immune to cold and heat so the elements don’t scare me,
I am a lamp post planted by hands I can only guess at. Am a child and
a man honest enough to acknowledge God exists in the spirit of
creation and the heart of men however few.
When borderslam doors louder than an irate spouse demonstrating
disgust at an assumed slight by love, common sense stirs the soul for
an instinctive triple jump.
Am a son of the South where the sun rises with the song of the hills
and cattle calling milk to duty,
Milk is a source of life and it’s absence is a bitter song that speaks
kwashiorkor and other third rate needs unmet.
Am a product of great souls that the universe unites to clear the
morning smog with a heart’s torch.
And the struggle song is not over!
What is Man but a product of Man?
I refuse to reject humanity and I do it with humility.
Where I am is a location whose dust reminds me of my earliest form and
my final formlessness.
I am a journey on a travel and now is time to chant an old tune,
That no struggle is without cause and course if it’s the one that chose you,
And in the beauty of such times as we are living in, islands within,
Am counting thousands of breaths in gratitude for the spice that life
and living is.
For spice true, is in the variety,
Not only of terrain but of origin,
But also the hand that tended it,
The hand that picked and packed it,
Making the whole a part of the bits and vice versa.
Cycles refuse to rest, like a month in flight, a soul flies in the
night leaving a sad dream on a prodigal sons wet eyelids,
And the liberation vibe is not far!
Who can say the taste of life is anything but mysterious and hard at its best?
News is best in it’s absence if it’s not the birth of a child,
Am awake to all truths even the most banal and morbid,
Am human enough to weep at wickedness and laugh at jest,
But tell me fair men of this land that “ unlanded” me how to virtually
bury my own,
Tell me like am a three year old how to grieve with dignity this
vehicle that bore me to your shores and must now bid a silent goodbye
in my blinded monastery upon this cavernous existence,
And the redemption thunder is rumbling more closer!!!
Am flesh and flesh has demands to weep and touch it’s own in making
Who will roll this mist back a day and allow a wish to plan a shared hug?
Am a child of the universe bleeding hard on the winds that make
commandments of demented bafoonery,
I fall on these weakened knees sending this mute anguish up into the
If I see tomorrow it’s all because silence has given me a route to
walk in this barren vacuum of misplaced hunger of human touch,
That voices sprout hands that feed my sanity with a purity only angels
know, am grateful,
And some day, when the grass has grown over that mound that settled unto itself,
This boy with a grey beard shall come back to plant a fruit tree on
the home square and name it “ Silver” in honor of all dawns and dusks,
And the tender hands that give me dew upon this journey at the
earliest of arrivals.
Am all that because you are all that, even as you now ride the stars
in the silence of night and the wind of days.
And the revolutionary chanters are chanting still
Its not yet uhuru . . .
Aluta Continua, the fight and chant for freedom continue.
MBIZO CHIRASHA (Mbizo, The Black Poet) is one of the newest members of The BeZine core team. He is the founder of Womawords Literary Press, which is dedicated to giving space to the voices of women and girls and is a partner in The BeZine International Poetry Month,a blog event. He is a multi-award winning poet from Zimbabwe who is on the run. We have been coordinating in the search for safe harbor. In part I am posting this today to remind everyone that while we’ve made progress with funding, we still need to find a host for Mbizo, preferably Germany. Open to suggestion. Connect with me if you are able to help, have leads, or have questions. You can read more about Mbizo and his story: Zimbabwean Poet in Exile: Award-Winning Poet Mbizo Chirasha, A Life on the Run, Interview.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Nelson Mandela
In yesterday’s essay by Mbizo, we learned what life is like for him and for artist-activists who are exiled for so passionately loving their countries and humankind that they are left vulnerable for standing against abuses of power. Through Mbizo’s essay today, we learn exactly what are those abuses and what is the fallout from them.
Thanks to those of you who donated to the fundraiser for Mbizo sponsored by the International Human Rights Arts Festival. It was a successful. Mbizo was able to buy food and a second-hand computer on which to continue his work when he has access to electricity. A few have provided letters of support to the organizations that fund writers-at-risk moving to safe harbor. We now have the attention and support of a couple of those organizations. Progress! We still seek a host for Mbizo in Germany or someplace in Northern Europe preferably, though England or U.S. would work as well. If you can help, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you! / J.D.
When chickens sprout claws and chase the eagle up the misty mountain, the corner has turned the road and normal is redefined. Shouted whispers armed with lethal prayers are unleashed at the naked torso of a man, whose crime is spotting the looters of the lone old lady’s granary, leaving her myriad orphaned grandchildren with emptiness for dinner. Her acidic inner tears cough curses behind cupped hands as she coaxes the dying brood to rest in peace. What is stolen, is then sent to the market for the moneyed to fill their carts and celebrate the independence of a nation.
An itchiness wraps the land with a grandiose malady of anxiety and paranoia for the eyes of state hoots everywhere assessing the hearts of the masses for disloyalty. The music of the land has turned to a one liner in praise of a uniformed gravestone dressed in military fatigues. Even empty farts of the quarreling bowels must be timed to resonate with the loving tribute of the figure looming over the dry dreams of ruler ship. What a time of it the
dwellers of this land have. Daily they’re served with weighty slogans in praise of structures bent by the wind of gluttony. They watch in resignation as every rural youth runs across the border searching for sense and direction to a full stomach.
Africa, the land of mystery and the bucket list of many a Foreigner is a case of rot trading insults with vulgarity. You have been set up by outside drama kings of commercial shenanigans and now you are setting yourselves up. The irony is not lost on your coarse manner in which you treat your fellow kin. Your hand is rough and your manner immoral. Your heart is darker than your night sky’s on a moonless night. You are drunk on the ideas imported from lands that know not to respect the Creator. Blaming the past is a past time and preoccupation akin to prescription intake of medication. The only news welcome to your elephant ears specially tuned to hear dissenting voices is a deal where you earn more than the economy of older nations. Largesse is your middle name and spares nothing and no one when it comes to grander.
Africa, your name is a shocking pronunciation in decent society. You rape your own without shame and invest where others provide security. You cripple every effort of social growth fearing your exposure by opened senses. You imprison the voices of truth and murder protesters. You sponsor battles and wars against unarmed masses. You bring your people to their knees through ignorance and denial. Your only class is repeated mantras of the rising star of “your Nation” even as the world looks on in horror.
Africa, when shall you awake to the fact that the truth has no price and that greed is a short holiday before time catches it with the proverbial fire, purges it and shames it, sending a story for history to chronicle? Africa, the land of giant mines, rich forests and magnificent wildlife, what other blessing do you need when you mismanage the very resources others covet? The very brains you chase across borders for their truth are the very priests that would have presided over the senses of your sickly mind, healing it enough for you to see the insanity of your ways.
Past the jungle of netting goons, your sons find welcome respite in soils away from their hearth. They brood over lost times and relationships even as they toil to stay alive. They survive. They thrive. And make names for themselves thousands of miles away from where their umbilical cord weeps with yearnings for the footsteps of lost sons.
As you spit nonstop at the news of their success, having shorn your followers of any and all sense of truth making them fear to tell anything close to reality, you continue your marauding verbosity that makes for sad entertainment at news hours in your own media which – if you cared to check – airs to emptiness in the homes of those you assume are your faithful’s.
A dictator is a sick and wounded skunk whose stench is only accommodated by fellow skunks and vultures who thrive on the dead and dying. He loves his own stories and jokes and misses the well camouflaged yawns and embarrassed looks of those in attendance. Then, there is the opposition politics. Lol!
Another lot of voices with eyes on what’s wrong but with no plan on how to make the wrong right. If they have, the chance is crippled by marred protests as they try their hand at contesting the tick on the tit at statehouse.
Theatre of the absurd is the daily show in most of our beloved states. Pockets lined with promissory notes at deals to be sealed upon succeeding in a coup or bought and botched elections, confusion is the ration to the nation each tribe pitted against the other in the quest of looting and not governance.
Which way for Africa really? Which way for its people who are pawned in their homes and on their streets by the lawlessness masquerading as law keepers? Which way for a people who know not which way the sun will rise tomorrow and whose tune shall be embraced?
Africa, the land of much is married to less that is lessening by the day. With leaderships whose allegiance is to self-first, then the sponsors of the seat which sit the leader, the land breeds continuously with a narrative that reads like a never-ending dirge. Africa, you lament at the bent of your story told by foreign mouths, but check the faces of those you gore on the heads with yet unpaid bullets for telling it as it is. Which angle does their mistreatment, arbitrary arrests, imprisonment without trial and even death under a ghastly cloud of mischief tell? How else can death from lack of medicines and hunger be told except as it it?
Militarizing social interactions where each is afraid of the next and the death of human camaraderie is told by the silent tongues and opaque staring eyes. And they tell much, those who suffer in silence. They tell about those who ride the nights under fire from your goons. They tell much of those who rely on bush treatment for their ills. They tell much those who follow you as you abuse their manhood for a morsel and stale beer leftovers from your high table. They tell much those who see your motorcade snaking around town with top of the range fuel guzzler while TB wracking lungs wheeze at the roadsides to cheer your dead soul on to your next mission of visionless leadership.
Africa, the land of diversity and resilient souls, when shall you learn to be your own men and stand for what is right even if it’s the neighbor playing truant with his kin. You have mirrored the world and come up with prefects capable of predicting treads of upcoming disasters. Why do you wait till the rapist is through the wreckage of life before arriving for talks armed with first aid bandage for the deep gushes of inflicted injuries? Are these fine institutions for window dressing to show the world you live in a modern bungalow or is there more? If there is more, what is it and where has it worked and what are the results for earning mileage and allowances besides the hefty salaries? Perhaps its job creation for the elderly and the relations of their sweethearts to loot from the wider continent under guise of Africanism.
One has to wonder why a distant figure takes human interest in a human who is thrown to the dogs by his own, for that is the fate of Africa with those either insane enough to stand to the truth, or foolish enough to dare it knowing the consequences.
Africa, the land of beautiful drumbeats and of majestic sunrises only rivalled by their sunsets. When shall you ever sit long enough to read the history of what brings you to where you are? Politics has no friendships but a whore serving for a moment for a fee.
Politicking has a price and when it involves you trading with the devil you must know he is worse than Shylock. He shall come calling. This time not for repayment but for your soul and soil. Africa, once upon a time when your eyes only knew the truth, a stranger came calling. He hoodwinked you, stole your wit and your children. Another has come calling. This one has a magic purse and rains on your every wish with a sly eye.
As you smile all the way to a numbered account and palatial homes far away from your beggary populace, remember this. The man you bludgeon for telling the truth is not the enemy, neither is he after you or your raw power. He is the hope of the land you are dispossessing. He is the voice of those you have silenced. And like all who are dead to truth, your day is well on its way. What shall your defense be when the deadness you have blanketed your people with wears off?
MBIZO CHIRASHA is a recipient of PEN Deutschland Exiled Writer Grant (2017), Literary Arts Projects Curator, Writer in Residence, Blogs Publisher, Arts for Human Rights/Peace Activism Catalyst, Social Media Publicist and Internationally Anthologized Writer, 2017 African Partner of the International Human Rights Arts Festival Exiled in Africa Program in New York. 2017 Grantee of the EU- Horn of Africa Defend Human Rights Defenders Protection Fund. Resident Curator of 100 Thousand Poets for Peace-Zimbabwe, Originator of Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Movement. He has published a collection of poetry, Good Morning President, and co-created another one Whispering Woes of Gangesand Zembezi with Indian poet Sweta Vikram.
Thanks to our rich connection with Zimbabwean poet in exile, Mbizo Chirasha, I have the pleasure and privilege of expanding The Poet by Day to include African artists, to feature their efforts in support of human rights and just governance. More to come in 2020 from poets and other artists all over Africa. I hope readers will enjoy the lyrical difference in English, the passionate action, and the creativity demonstrated. The Poet by Day jamiededes.com and The BeZine support crossing borders and honoring shared humanity. One world. One race: the human race. / J.D.
Machipisa in Highfeilds is a paradoxical African high density suburb in Zimbabwe. It gave birth to the both iconic song maestros and political heavyweights inclusive of the late George Nyandoro, Enos Nkala. Robert Mugabe the late nationalist and former long serving president of Zimbabwe resided in Highfeilds before his long trip to Mozambican jungles to preside over the liberation struggle in the 70s . Highfeilds shaped the life and creativity of the late Dendera Superstar Simon Chopper Chimbetu, father the current Dendera crooner Sulumani Chopper Chimbetu. while the Oliver Tuku Samanyanga, the iconic Ketekwe maestro had most of his musical walk to stardom inside Highfeilds .
Like an other creatively fervent generation, to revive the legendary traits of Highfeild Tafadzwa Muzondo of the Edzau Isu fame, an independent theatre guru and human rights defender have artistically turned an old disused bridge into a popular, edutainment and infortainment theatre, arts and poetry venue. The artists and human rights defenders are using these venue as a space for artistic exhibition, freedom of expression through arts as they continue to promote civil dialogue through theatre arts production. Theatre PaBridge (pa Machipisa) has become a common artistic oasis or Theatre Arts hub for both young and established artists in Zimbabwe and abroad .
If hate is the only beverage in the bar,
I’m holding on to my thirst,
suppress the crave for the meanwhile
reciting lines and verses that question our sanity,
rhythms and rhymes that expose us to our stupidity.
Assuming we still have the conscience
I want to see them meet the hatred in the streets…
i want them to know how we so much yearn for peace
– Edward Dzonze
To mark the International Human Rights Week Tafadzwa Muzondo, Edzai Isu Theatre Arts and Action Hub curated and hosted the inaugural Zimbabwe Human Rights Festival (ZHRF) at Theatre PaBridge from the 10th to 13th December 2019 . The artists spoke human rights through poetry, expressed freedom through dance, sung songs against political tolerance through Katekwe violins and used stand-up theatre to stop corruption, political abuse and injustice in high offices. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Festival was an entertaining, engaging and empowering platform, which took stock of the human rights situation at local, national and international levels. It was a profound artistic initiative meant to mainstream human rights in an innovative way by rallying together rights holders and solution holders.
ZHRF featured theatre, music, dance and poetry performances on human rights as well as post performance discussions and exhibitions by relevant civic society organizations and responses by invited solution holders. Major highlights of the performances, discussions and representations will be streamed live on our social media platforms as well as other partner platforms.
The theme of the inaugural festival is “AFTER”, which is an abbreviation for Arts Fostering Total Enforcement of Rights also meaning AFTER all the bickering, sloganeering and propagandizing, citizens need their rights to be respected not trampled on.
It is encouraging that the Zimbabwean government has established the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, a Constitutional Commission to promote awareness, protection, development and attainment of human rights and freedoms in Zimbabwe. As a transformative arts organization, EDZAI ISU Trust conceived a creative and innovative initiative in the name of ZHRF to commemorate Human Rights Day and contribute to the need to respect human rights in our dear country.
Besides the Zimbabwean constitution being clear on human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ratified by Zimbabwe, recognizes the inherent dignity of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. It includes civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights, like the right to social security, health and education.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Festival, the brainchild of award winning transformative artist and social activist Tafadzwa Muzondo, is a rallying point in the mission to improve accountable, democratic governance that serves an engaged citizenry. Respect for human rights is at the core of social and economic development as without citizens enjoying and authorities respecting human rights, we cannot talk of any meaningful people centered development.
LitFest Harare Voices stitched together the November sacredness with the December Christmas fever.
Africa is gifted with a blessing of spoken word artists, literalists, wordsmiths and poetry arts activists. Recently in Zimbabwe dub poet and UNESCO Affiliate Chirikure Chirikure and fellow poets hosted a lineup of accomplished writers and poets through the the highly recognized literary arts fete Litfest Harare in partnership with Glasgow University, Daves Guzha’s Theatre in Park, United States of America Cultural Affairs in Harare and others. LitFest Harare Voices stitched together November sacredness with December Christmas fever.
The Sotambe Live Literature Hub curated by fellow poet Mbizo Chirasha saw poetic words bathing copper belt of Kitwe to welcome the beautiful month of October. The Sotambe Live Literature Hub was a collaboration of Sotambe Film, Documentary Arts Festival with the International Human Rights Arts Festival founded by Writer and Artist Thomas Block. The Festival brought together poets from the SADC region that included Pusetso Lame of Botswana, trailblazing Vanessa Chisakula of Lusaka Zambia, and the dare – daring Philani Amadeus Nyoni of Zimbabwe. Africa’s poetry year was capped by the Maruping festival (GBV issues themed festival) in Botswana in partnership with European Union Delegation in Botswana bringing poets from around the world.
In that same literary arts activism wavelength, the Brave Voices Poetry Journal and the Zimbabwe We Want Poetry campaign founded and curated by Mbizo Chirasha an internationally acclaimed literary arts projects curator and poet introduces the Freedom Voices Poetry Writing Prize, an International poetry writing contest that saw more than fifty poets and activists participating from all over the globe. The contest was judged by globally revered poets and acclaimed writers that included Professor Michael Dickel, Poet and Editor James Coburn, and Reputable Journalist and writer Omwa Ombara and Professional Writing Mentor Tracy Yvonne Breazile.
The Winners of the 2019 Freedom Voices Prize are:
Adesina Ajala, a Nigeria poet with his poem FOR KEN SARO-WIWA ( First Prize),
Chrispah Munyoro, a Zimbabwean Poet with her poem ECHO CHAMBERS (Second Prize), and
Christopher Kudyahakudadirwe, a South African based Zimbabwean poet with his poem THE BUDDS ARE FRUITING ( third prize) .
There are seven special mentions. The winners are to be published in five digital poetry spaces including the new look Brave Voices Poetry Journal and the seven special mentions will be featured in two platforms including the BRAVE VOICES POETRY JOURNAL.
The 2019 Freedom Voices Poetry Writing Prize was paying Tribute to Unique Heroes/ Heroines. It is an Ode for Cadres of Resistance (human rights, anti-imperialistic, antiapartheid, freedom of expression, fight for political justice, right to economic justice and right to social inclusion) including:
Ken Saro-Wiwa for movement for the survival of Ogoni people ( Nigeria,) Dedan Kimathi (Kenyan liberation struggle),
Steve Biko (fighting inequalities in South African apartheid,)
Lookout Masuku (fighting for political justice in Zimbabwe),
Charles Dambudzo Marechera (PenSlinger of Truth in Zimbabwe),
Ambuya Nehanda (medium spirit of Chimurenga (war of liberation) in Zimbabwe),
Ruth First (South African fighter for civil rights),
Winnie Madikizela Mandela (Fighter for political and economic rights in South Africa,
Itai Dzamara (fighter for human rights and freedom of expression in Zimbabwe), and
Freedom Nyamubaya (gunslinger during war of liberation, poet against dictatorship regime in Zimbabwe).
ADESINA AJALA (Nigerian Poet) on winning the First Prize
SOZA’S BOY AND THE LEMONA’S TALE
For Ken Saro-Wiwa
October 10, 1941,
A sweet cry creaked into the crevices of Bori,
Cascaded with the swings of time
into songs in a time of war.
Like the anopheles mosquito, war was the drill poking Basi & company—
an ethnic minority, crisp lands & fecund rivers.
Shrapnel of crude oil scared faces of waters.
Oil marched the wicks of farmlands, wrecked every lushness in its paths.
A forest of flowers wilted, shed petals,
Became silhouette on a darkling plain.
The singing anthill homed bland silence.
This loud silence would be treason merely set in some four farcical plays.
Berserk bites of genocide in [Ogoniland] Nigeria.
& the Sozaboy chanted the Lemona’s tale—
the agony in the Ogoni girl became bared on the transistor radio.
& the warlords wrangled Wiwa’s weighted words,
Clasped him like prisoners of Jebs,
& clenched his body between the teeth of gallows.
Tell the hand that cuts the mahogany, his stump has sprout fresh leaves.
This poem, a leaf, sways.
Adesina Ajala is sprouting Nigerian medical doctor and writer, Adesina Ajala, desires to grow roots in the loam of the pen and the stethoscope. He does not know how he would fare, but he believes in journeying, in chances, possibilities and the divine. His works have found home in Writers Space Africa, EBOquills, Libretto, Featiler Rays, Brave Voices Poetry Journal and elsewhere. He was the co-winner of the first place of 2018 TSWF Writers Prize. He is on Instagram as and tweets @adesina_ajala.
CHRISPAH MUNYORO (Zimbabwean Poet) ON WINNING THE SECOND PRIZE
When eobiont is my father
Living in darkness
Languishing sodom and gommorah
Christened by vampires
Baptised in Hades
My toys,wails and anguish
Bathing with my sweat
Lullaby of sjamboks,button sticks and tear gases
I am a graduate of doom
Hunger and thirst my delicacies
Daughters and sons of darkness
That chieftain ,who rule by subterfuge
Who had fried his heart eons ago
In glee at the cries of the babies
Salivating in total erasure of humans
Ejaculating venomous fire
How then can i think paradise is there
When i am a citizen of hell
Pot trained to be a hardcore bandit
Shrivelling,flowers squashed mercilessly
Future suspended and eroded
Pissing on the precious blemis
Expecting fruits from cactus
Chrispah Munyoro says, “I am a woman who never backs on what she wants to achieve. Ambiguous and hard work is the keys to success. Patience is a virtue I live by I don’t want cut out turn success. The saltiness of sweat unlocks hidden destinies. I am a down to earth woman who looks up to God with zeal.”
CHRISTOPHER KUDYAHAKUDADIRWE (Zimbabwe poet based in South Africa) on Winning the Third prize
THE BUDS ARE FRUITING
Who will tell Dambudzo Marechera
That the seeds that he sowed in us
Have sprouted and are doing well?
That’s right, we want him to know that
The flowers he left slowly budding
Have unfurled their bright petals
To grace the garden of literary bliss
Allowing bees to drink nectar sweet verse?
Who will tell our gallant literary hero:
One of the few who made living prophecies,
About the fermenting corruption
By trying nipping sprouting nepotism
And the cancerous looting in the bud
That would seize our house of stone?
Who will tell Dambudzo Marechera
What has become of the house of hunger
Which he was mind-blasting about
While non-believers stood on the fence
Pointing accusing fingers at him?
But, let me say: never mind your departure.
We, the little buds, will continue
That work that you left unfinished.
Christopher ‘Voice’ Kudyahakudadirwe is a Zimbabwean freelance writer, poet and teacher living and working in South Africa. His first poems appeared in a magazine called Tsotso which was published by the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe in the early 90s. Over the years his poems have been published in the following anthologies among others: Harvest: The University of the Western Cape Masters in Creative Writing Poetry Anthology 2016, Best “New” African Poets 2015 Anthology, Zimbolicious Poetry Anthology Volume 1. And his short stories in, Ghost-Eater and Other Stories, New Contrast, Moving On and Other Stories. He is currently running a poetry blog called http://www.kudyahakudadirwe.wordpress.com where he publishes his own poems.
The Magic was also in the Judging
“The competition was pretty stiff. I hated to let some poems go. I hope the rest get literary mentions. Thank you for the opportunity to judge.”
Omwa Ombara ( First Phase Judge ).Omwa Ombara is The Editor in Chief at Tulipange Africa Media, a diaspora based Magazine in United States of America and Contributing Editor of Women Global Affairs at WOMAWORDS LITERARY PRESS.
TRACY YVONNE BREAZILE
“Reading the poems, I was delighted to find polished and confident voices. The poets offered a promise of creative potential surpassing my expectations. The quantity and quality of the writing served to motivate and challenge the mind with a common respect for the voices that linger in our shadows, reminding us of the importance that poetry can bring to problems that demand solutions. The only problem that I found was removing some from the list. This task was far more difficult that I had imagined. In the end, the poems that most closely matched the guidelines were the only match for decision making.
They were all beautifully crafted in both form and function. Although ultimately, there will be a list of winners, I found all of the poems that I read to be prized pieces of poetry that deserve a standing ovation. I found letters meant for reading and listening. Literature and Orature. I do declare, this was a tough task. Thank you, Brave Voices Poetry Journal 67, for paying tribute to unique heroes and heroines and celebrating their uniqueness.
Although ultimately, there will be a list of winners, I found all of the poems that I read to be prized pieces of poetry that deserve a standing ovation. I found letters meant for reading and listening. Literature and Orature.”
Tracy Yvonne Breazile (Second Judging Phase). is a writer living in the United States of America. She was granted the opportunity to serve as Writer/Mentor in Residence with the 2018 Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Mentorship Program, originated by Mbizo Chrirasha. Breazile studied Language and Literature with a concentration in Professional Writing at Columbus State University, Columbus, Georgia, USA
“I was happy to read each poem. Each writer should be encouraged, as well as the ones not chosen. It was a pleasure reading the force and magnetic insight of each word. These are living words with a life of their own. Powerful and penetrating, forged in the flame of heart and traversing fear. Their ancestors would be proud.”
James Coburn is an Oklahoma poet in the United States of America. Coburn has always valued the subtext of life and seeks to reveal its undercurrents. He believes indifference is the enemy of man as it is the benefactor of ignorance, racism and xenophobia” James Coburn (Third Stage Freedom Voices Poetry Writing Contest). is an Oklahoma poet in the United States of America. Coburn has always valued the subtext of life and seeks to reveal its undercurrents. He believes indifference is the enemy of man as it is the benefactor of ignorance, racism and xenophobia.
“Poetry contest judges almost always must comment on the subjectivity of what we do. While the Freedom Prize has criteria to decide the quality of the poems, which I used, how well we / I as a single reader see the fit of any given poem to those criteria has to do with myself as reader as much as to the poem itself.
In this case, there were four criteria:
The poem fit the stated theme of the contest,
the poem was indeed poetry and not slogans and clichés,
the quality of the words and language used, and
the originality and creativity of the poem.
The first round of judging selected a “short-list” of ten poems, from which I was asked to select and rank the three best poems. All of this done anonymously, of course.
Another reader reading the ten poems on the short-list of poems might have found other poems of more merit for one reason or another. Reasonable readers may disagree with each other. I had the honor of being asked to select, and I have chosen three that I think stood out. However, this was not an easy task.
The passion of the voices in these ten poems would come across to any reader. The music of the poems, with rhythm and rhyme flowing, consonance and assonance, sounds crafted into what we call poetry. The poet of each of these poems deserves praise both for political activism expressed as poetry and for caring for others, their people, and the world.
The Third Place poem I chose is The Buds Are Fruiting. In this highly original poem, we learn “That the seeds…” Dambudzo Marechera“…sowed in us/ have sprouted and are doing well…” and “The flowers he left slowly budding/ Have unfurled their bright petals…” Unfortunately, “fermenting corruption,” “nepotism,” and “cancerous looting” have also budded, and need to be nipped. Merechera is blamed and indicted by finger pointers. Yet, the poem ends with hope: “We, the little buds, will continue/ That work that you left unfinished.”
The Second Place poem, Echo Chamber introduced me to a new word, eobiont (a hypothetical primordial pre-life chemical) in its opening line. The poem moves from the “father” (of life?) to “Living in darkness” and moves through Sodom and Gomorrah, vampires that Christen the speaker of the poem in Hades…the speaker’s “toys, wails and anguish/ Bathing with my sweat…” This dark poem paints a vivid picture in images painted with a few words, and in these images we see and feel the suffering of Africa and its children from “That chieftain, who rules by subterfuge/ Who had fried his heart eons ago/ In glee at the cries of the babies…” This poem strongly condemns and indicts the cruelty of those in power who savor the suffering of others. Rather than taking responsibility and stopping the suffering, they savor it, and this has cost them their hearts (and souls).
(For Ken Saro-Wiwa), my selection as the First Place poem in the Freedom Prize contest, combines the strengths of these other two poems. It speaks to an historical figure, using strong images and poetic skill to create a poem that reaches the heart, lays bare injustices, but also ends with a type of hope. After a significant date in the first line, “October 10, 1941,” we read “A sweet cry creaked into the crevices of Bori…” The repeated hard “c”— cry, creaked, crevices— pulls us along with some dread, given their contretemps to the “sweet.” The next line begins with “cascaded,” repeating that same hard “c” into “the swings of time/ into songs in a time of war.” In the next stanza we read that “Shrapnel of crude oil scarred faces of waters.” The oil goes on to “march” through farmland, destroying the environment as it goes, until “ This loud silence would be treason merely set in four farcical plays.” We are given “genocide,” “warlords,” and “gallows,” along the way “the agony in the Ogoni girl became bared on the transistor radio.” And after Saro has been hung, where is the hope? “Tell the hand that cuts the mahogany, his stump has sprout fresh leaves./ This poem, a leaf, sways.” The hope comes from the poem, from poets. At least, we hope that this will be true.)
—Michael Dickel, Jerusalem, November 2019
Michael Dickel (Finalists Judge). Michael (Dickel) Dekel has authored six published books and chapbooks (pamphlets) of poetry and short fiction, and published over 200 individually published poems, short stories, and non-fiction pieces, in addition to book-reviews and academic articles—under his birth name, Michael Dickel.
RESILIENCE IS THE KEY
“We advocate for freedom of expression and upholding of human rights through our voices of resistance –POETRY and Literary Arts Activism Interventions like the Freedom Voices Poetry Writing Prize.” MBIZO CHIRASHA is the Originator of the Zimbabwe We Want Poetry Campaign , Curator of the Brave Voices Poetry Journal and the Founder of the Freedom Voices Poetry Writing Prize .
Editor’s Note: This post is complied courtesy of Mbizo Chirasha, the three prize-winning poets, the four competition judges along with LitFest Harare, Brave Voices Poetry Journal, Freedom Voices Poetry Prize, and the Sotambe Festival. The poems, photographs and header illustration are under copyright to the poets, those photographed, and LitFest as noted. The judges own their narratives and photographs.
The blogosphere being what it is – a soundbite world – I know readers will be tempted to skim. I would submit the material here is worthy of close attention, the poems and the judges commentary offer much for us to ponder as caring and conscious human beings and as poets.
Jamie Dedes. I’m a freelance writer, poet, content editor, and blogger. I also manage The BeZineand its associated activities and The Poet by Dayjamiededes.com, an info hub for writers meant to encourage good but lesser-known poets, women and minority poets, outsider artists, and artists just finding their voices in maturity. The Poet by Day is dedicated to supporting freedom of artistic expression and human rights and encourages activist poetry. Email email@example.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.