The Inaugural Freedom Voices Poetry Prize Goes to Nigeria and Zimbabwe; the winning poems

An annual international literature carnival, where writers, academics and readers discuss, critique literature. / copyright Litfest Harare

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.

Poet Sotambe Pusetso Lame at 2019 Sotambe Festival

Mbizo Chirasha

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 fifty poets and activist 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 SAROWIWA ( 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) .

Deceased Nigerian poet Ken Saro Wiwa for whom Adesina Ajala’s poem is written

We have 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).

First Prize Winner, Nigerian Poet Adesina Ajala

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

Second Prize Winner, Zimbabwe Poet Chrispah Munyoro

ECHO CHAMBER

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

OMWA OMBARA

Omwa Ombara

“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

Tracy Yvonne Brazile

“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

JAMES COBURN

James Coburn

“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.

MICHAEL DICKEL

Michael Dickel

“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:

  1. The poem fit the stated theme of the contest,
  2. the poem was indeed poetry and not slogans and clichés,
  3. the quality of the words and language used, and
  4. 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 BeZine and its associated activities and The Poet by Day jamiededes.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 thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, commissions, or assignments.

About / Testimonials / Disclosure / Facebook / Medium

Recent and Upcoming in Digital Publications: Five by Jamie Dedes on The World Literature Blog,  Jamie Dedes, Versifier of Truth, Womawords Literary Press, November 19, How 100,000 Poets Are Fostering Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, YOPP! * The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice, August 11, 2019 / This short story is dedicated to all refugees. That would be one in every 113 people. * Five poems, Spirit of Nature, Opa Anthology of Poetry, 2019 * From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems), July 2019 * Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review, July 2019 * Three poems, Our Poetry Archive, September 2019


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

In Support of Dissident Poets and Poetry, Responses to last Wednesday’s Prompt sponsored by Poet-in-Exhile, Mbizo Chirasha

 

Mbizo Chirasha

“In my works on African culture, I am not against races or tribes, but systems that betray Africa. People must stop being stooges and writers must write against second and third colonialistic winds.” Mbizo Chirasha in an interview with The Herald HERE.



Mbizo Chirasha

We did something unusual with the last Wednesday Writing Prompt.  We asked poets to respond specifically to the situation of Zimbabwean Poet-in-Exile, Mbizo Chirasha. (Not all the poets actually responded on theme, but they did respond on related issues that concern them and so we included their poems in this collection.) The purpose of the theme is to help us create awareness of the plight of our fellow poets like Mbizo and other writers, artists and activists who are directly fighting authoritarianism, despotism and kleptocracy on the front lines and putting their general welfare and even their lives at risk in doing so. These are socially-engaged creatives who are in danger from amoral govenments in their own beloved countries. We appreciate your participation as writers, readers and humanitarians in this week’s unusual and important prompt.

Mbizo writes in response to the submissions:

Great poets around the world, readers of poetry, esteemed audience of  The Poet by Day: I salute you with my sincere gratitude for timeous creative support. You are word revolutionaries fighting with me in trenches for the attainment of social justice, human rights, and  freedom of expression.  This is as it should be. Writers should be first to shoot words, sling metaphors, and pose readily in the artistic armour to wage a resilient, creative and nonviolent war.

I am heartily touched by the amount of  commitment, depth and detail in these submissions. We should remain resilient, focused strong and creative in the quest for national harmony, regional peace, and global sanity. Writers must write and continue to write to mitigate bad governance, corruption, injustice, hegemony, dictatorship, political violence, and social malaise.

Aluta continua!
Mbizo Chirasha

Our thanks to Gary W. Bowers, Paul Brookes, Anjum Wasim Dar, Mike Stone, Pali Raj, and Sonja Benskin Mesher for the richness of this collection. Countries represented in the post are: England, Kashmir, India, Israel, Pakistan, United States, and Zimbabwe.

We’ll return to the traditionally prompt response layout and inclusions next week. We’ve modified it this week out of respect for the occasion. Thank you for understanding. A brief update on Mbizo’s status (not good) closes this post.



artivist artifice artemis bolt

artivist artifice artemis bolt
wring out a dream and give despots a jolt.
artemis arm&fist activist strike
shake out a mindset and shore up a dyke.
artifice artdoesthis anarchist grow
muralize justice for over and throw.
antidote anecdote anthemnote strive
make visitations of souls kept alive.

© 2019, Gary W. Bowers

How To Be Corrupt And Be Seen As Honest.

Here is the syllabus. This will be a tough course.

Introduction will focus on the psychopathology of hard business and unwavering pursuit of profit.
We will teach you how to see people as things. Your mother and father will be unrecognisable to you, as will your kids and spouse. They are merely objects to be maneouvred.

Main course content.

1. How to steal money from public coffers, whilst supporting charitable causes. How to steal food from babies mouths, how to watch the poorer become poorer.
2. How to store stolen money in off shore accounts, defended by laws not available in your home country.
3. How to employ PR to defend your reputation, white wash your actions.

Good luck on the course.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

In Response to Mbizo Chirasha Freedom Poetry

For I sang the freedom song for years
in vain, in pain,
One day I will return
O my homeland ,my heaven, land of
pure peace,

I am the native child, born in captivity
my feet never touched my beloved soil
I breathed but for a while in mother’s
lap,
In sleep, led away, far away, to refuge
One day I will return, I sang my song-

It is a nightmare
futile dream of the happy return
my earth oozes martyrs’ blood spills
resounds with raped women’s screams
burns with saffron spreads in wide fields
weeps with weeping willows in the streams
One day I will return, and I sang my song,
in vain, in pain

I am the houseboat abandoned
I am the ‘shikara’ floating,empty
I am the moaning water of Dal
I am the aroma of sweet apples
I am the snow of mountain tops
I am the color of pansies and lotus
I am the music of the ‘rubaab’
I am the child of a captive state

One day I will return I sang my song
in vain, in pain

But now my heart is silent,my voice
stilled, my feet in fetters, my home
locked, my road blocked, guarded
I am tired of pellets bullets and gas,

I am cold like a stone, no ‘Kangarri’
I carry , no greens or beans I cook
I am but a listed item, a numberless
number, a lost identity, snatched
wrenched annexed conquered

My song of freedom rings aloud
but can anyone hear? Will anyone
come? Will anyone cry for me? Or
my land, to set free? Perhaps one day,

if the music sails on, reaches the stars
Showers the rain which pours free
and washes away the mud of captivity
breaks the chains lifts the barriers and
calls-
Come Your land is yours, gone is the
enemy- but I woke up again, in pain
in vain,
I hear the fearful scream-heavy boots
shaking the soil, tearing up roots
I do not wish to sing, but pray, hope
It is all a dream-
In vain I sing, in pain I try to-sleep

© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar

To The Defenders of Freedom

When peaceful protest fails
and protesters are put in jails
then forces must stand
bravely to defend the land-

In attack
outnumbered ten to one
crawled under enemy tank
martyred to glory, sank in
body, blood in native sand

In loyalty
you saved the land
blasting enemy tanks
with bravery supreme
grenades in hands

In honor
you remain for ever you live
those who die a life they give
and repel the enemy aggressive.

And now I say and know
battles have been fought
public protests prevail
as Freedom must be saved
at all cost-

or else, all is forever lost

© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar

In Freedom

In Freedom There is Fear
When a close and dear
one, is no more,

In Freedom there is blood
When all you made in life
Is washed away in flood;

In freedom there is sacrifice
When all you claim and own
Is taken away without a price;

In freedom there is liberty
For many just a statue
fights, no rights, nor equality;

In Freedom there are letters
promises and false hopes
soon you are in iron fetters;

In Freedom I was born
I never saw my land
I long for its beauty
In dewdrops shining
In the morn;

In Freedom there is a gift
treasure not and you find
it floating by and adrift;

In Freedom there is ease
calm and harmony, hold
it strong for eternal peace

© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar

Do Not Make War

1.

it must be painful for them to write, those poets in tough-times and hard places
where blood and tears and poverty contaminate the air, stain the sidewalks, and consume the people

the blood must be soul-sick and rusted and tasting of acid, not salt,
and the poems meant to heal the writer and stroke the cheeks of the wounded,
to dry their eyes and gently kiss their gray heads

to poem in such places must be like walking shoeless on glass shards

perhaps the most sacred thing in the dream-time meadow of poets’ desire is Light ~

can you awaken to meet the Divine when you are on the run, in hiding, on the battlefield, in the camps, in government housing or in the ghettos?

if so, you are a saint, not simply an artist

2.

in my small world, my civilized world, people fall asleep reading or after making love or playing in the yard with their children

if they wander, it is through books or planned travel

there are luxuries
there is food
there is cleanliness and paper on which to write
no bombs are dropping to scorch and scar the Earth
no government thugs stalk us with ill intent
there is a certain dignity

3.

in San Francisco we walk along the beach at night, near the Cliff House
we walk to the sound of the waves, the song of the Earth chanting its joys
our feet are bare and relish the comfort of cool sand

the air is clear and cold and easy to breathe, tasting of salt and smelling of sea life ~
here is a pristine moment of peace

i want to bequeath this peace to you, to everyone,
as though it were a cherished heirloom
it is really a birthright

i want to plunge into the waters and gather the ocean in my cupped hands, to offer it to you as sacramental wine

i want to form seaweed into garlands for all of us to wear, to hang over our hearts, a symbol of affection

i want to collect pine cones from the trees that congregate along the coast and feed them to the children to remind them to cherish this Earth and all its creatures, themselves included, and to say …

do not make war in your heart or upon your mother’s body

© 2016, Jamie Dedes

Silent, poor, innocent, youth
They witness democratic loot
Corruption rise,
And businessmen fight when
Economic slowdown
They are blown into religious fight
They seek a person with opposite ions
When their grief rise
You call me activist, but
I must also sleep the long night
Well, activism
I haven’t wished for it, nor consented to it
I only love my nation.

© 2019, Pali Raj

Then as Now

The sweet pungency of rose and violets
Floats on the gentle breezes
And down the road a ways the church bells toll
As they did then.

At the shooting range, you still see bullet holes
But they buried all the targets in mass graves,
Not helter-skelter like some graveyards,
But very orderly as they were then.

The tall poplar trees surround electric fences,
They seem inviting, leaves rustling in the breeze,
A nightmare inside a blonde and blue-eyed dream,
As it was then.

They scrub the showers, ovens, and the smokestacks,
The red brick raw and spotless.
A pile of shoes stands in silent accusation
But no one hears, then as now.

© 2019, Mike Stone

Hatred

And the prophet stood among a few people.
In the marketplace of ideas, there were many prophets
But this prophet spoke quietly. He said
Hatred is not a state of mind
That one can enter and leave at will;
It is a road that starts in innocence
Leading ever downhill
And ends in unplumbed evil.
I don’t tell you turn the other cheek
When struck, as another prophet said,
But I say don’t answer hatred with hatred.
Hatred comes from ignorance of others,
Thinking they are not like us,
That they don’t love their children
Or honor their parents
Or fear for their future as we do.
Why not answer hatred with hatred?
Because it creates a circle without exit or break
And perhaps their hatred comes from
Honoring their past or fearing their future.
What should you do?
When you understand those whom you call “other”
You will know what to do, and hate
Will wither like dry tumbleweed in the desert
Because there is no other,
There is only us.

© 2019, Mike Stone

Blessed Are the Rich

Blessed are the rich
For they shall inherit the meek
And enslave them.
Blessed are the rich
Who will inherit new worlds to suck dry
After they have sucked dry our only world.
Blessed are the rich
Who make their own blessings
And the gods to bless them.
Cursed are the poor
Who bow down to worship
The gods of the rich,
Who count the blessings of the rich
Who are sucked dry by the rich
Who are enslaved by the rich.
Cursed are the poor
Who bless the curse of meekness
For their children to inherit.

® 2019, Mike Stone

Birdsong

A small bird landed on the branch of an old tree
Where other loudly chirping birds were perched.
The other birds on this branch twittered critically
And decided she was not one of them.

If you want to perch on our branch, they said to her,
You’ll have to cut off your right wing like all of us
And the little bird saw that the other birds
Had only their left wings. But how do you fly, she asked.

One of the birds responded by jumping off the branch,
Flapping his left wing and spiraling downward
Until he crashed beak first into a rock.
To each bird, according to its needs, the other birds tweeted.

The little bird flew to another branch on the old tree.

If you want to perch on our branch, they said to her,
You’ll have to cut off your left wing like all of us
And the little bird saw that the other birds
Had only their right wings. But how do you fly, she asked.

One of the birds responded by jumping off the branch,
Flapping his right wing and spiraling downward
Until he crashed beak first into the hard tree root.
To each bird, according to its capabilities, the other birds chirped.

The little bird flew to another branch on the old tree.

If you want to perch on our branch, they said to her,
You’ll have to cut off both your wings like all of us
And the little bird saw that the other birds
Had no wings. But how do you fly, she asked.

One of the birds responded by jumping off the branch,
But having nothing to flap, plummeted down
Until he crashed beak first into the hard ground.
We are neither left nor right, the other birds sang.

The little bird flew to another tree
And sang a two-wing song for you and me.

© 2019, Mike Stone  

What Use Is Beauty?

What use is beauty
If it merely masks an inner ugliness,
If it just confuses us
Like too much wine
Making us think we’re gods?
What good is truth
If falsehood is far more useful
For getting what you need or want
And easier to believe by far
Besides, who has time for truth?
What purpose does freedom serve
If it only starves us
or makes us lonely?
Most prefer a bond or two
To a mindless multitude.
What’s the point of words
If they are not the right words,
The precise ones that we think
Or those that others want to hear?

© 2019, Mike Stone

The Emperor’s New Changes

Raanana, September 11, 2016

A hundred thousand poets for change
That’s us.
That’s what we called ourselves last year
And the year before.
So they’ve stopped lynching the poets in Arabia?
They’ve stopped stoning the raped women in Kabul?
What about the mutilation of genitals of young girls?
So they’ve stopped burning down Black churches in Bama?
Stopped desecrating the lands of our Sioux brothers?
How about the carbon they’ve dumped in the atmosphere?
Did they stop that?
Do they believe now the earth is too warm to live on?
Are philosophers kings yet?
Are kings philosophers?
I don’t mean to be cynical
But it doesn’t seem like much has changed since last year.
We’ve read a few poems,
That’s all.
Come to think of it,
Have we really changed,
Except for getting a year older?
If that’s change
Then we better change change
So that it’s palpable
So that we can feed people with it
So that people can walk tall from it
So that people can protect themselves with it
So that people can make love to it
Until change is done changing
And the world is all the Republic we need.

© 2019, Mike Stone

:: exiles ::

i heard on the radio.

they decided to walk.

he asked her what she had..

nothing she said, nothing.

money? nothing, nothing,
nothing. nothing.nothing.

nothing left except my girls.

i have not lost them, we hold hands,
hold hands, hold hands.

we have nothing.nothing. nothing left.

they decided to walk.holding hands

© 2019, Sonja Benskin Mesher



A Brief Status Update on Mbizo*

Mbizo Chirasha

We’re still $295 short of the Go-Fund-Me goal. Mbizo is in hiding, without any regular source of food or access to a computer, which would facilitate his radio interview and preparing his applications for asylum and other assistance. You are able to donate anonymously through go-fund-me. Even a few dollars will help us reach goal. This effort is hosted by an organizer from International Human Rights Art Festival.  If you can help in some other way, please connect with Mbizo at girlchildcreativity@gmail.com.Thank you!

*
RELATED

“We remain resilient in the quest for justice, freedom of expression and upholding of human rights through Literary Activism and Artivism. ALUTA CONTINUA.” Mbizo Chirasha



 

NIGHTS WITH GHOSTS, POEM FROM A CHILD IN ZIMBABWE

 

“Poets Against War continues the tradition of socially engaged poetry by creating venues for poetry as a voice against war, tyranny and oppression.” Mission Statement of Poets Against War.



Back around 2008 when I started blogging, Poets Against War, founded in 2003 by American poet Sam Hamill (1943-2018) in response to the war with Iraq, was still going strong and some of my poems were accepted for online publication. This was my baptism into socially engaged poetry. The thousands of poems that were contributed to the database from poets around the world are archived at a university, the name of which I’ve long forgotten. There were some other great efforts including Poetry of Solidarity, which made use of the easy and economical outreach the Internet offers. These two sites have gone the way of all things. The links I saved for them now get a 404 error code. Today we have 100,000 Poets (and friends) for Change, founded in 2011 by Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion.

Fortunately, I did keep notes on some of the poetry and activities I encountered in those early blogging days. What follows is a translation of a poem written by a child in Zimbabwe after the government made war on its own people in June 2005. 200,000 people became homeless.  This poem was included in an article by American poet Karen Margolis in the now defunct Poetry of Solidarity.

nights with ghosts
.
dear samueri, my friend
i will never see you again;
maybe i will.
but i shall not know
until father finds us a new address
,
addresses!
we have none anymore.
we are of no address.
.
now that i have written this letter,
where do i post it to?
shall i say, samueri,
care of the next rubble
harare?

“I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, ‘Mother, what was war?'” American poet, Eve Merriam


%d bloggers like this: