Togara Muzanenhamo: 'Poetry offers enormous satisfaction'

July 2008 -

Togara Muzanenhamo lives in Zimbabwe and works on his family's farm. This gives him the chance to write. "I can work in the morning and write in the afternoon, or work during the day and still have energy to write in the evening. Such flexibility would be impossible in an ordinary job." Poetry occupies an important place in his life. "I try to write every day. I find the process to be continually exciting. When I begin, I don't know where I am headed. It is as if I go looking for something, but I only find out what it is as I am about to complete the poem. That gives me enormous satisfaction."

Muzanenhamo had to publish his first collection of poems in England. While there are many poets in Zimbabwe, there are few publishers for poetry. "That is a problem; there is no market for poetry here. Because of the economic situation, people are just trying to survive; buying books is not a priority." There is a public for the new generation of performance poets. There are different podia in the capital where these poets perform. They frequently speak out against the government of Zimbabwe. One such a poet is Comrade Fatso, poet and activist, who was also at Poetry International (June 2008).

Muzanenhamo does not write explicitly about the political situation in his country. "Naturally this influences my poetry; that is unavoidable. You can see it in my first book, but I do not insert it consciously. When I write, I also write about my environment, my country, its beautiful side as well as its ugly side. But I primarily write about universal themes, about life and death, loss, beauty. I do not have a message. I want my readers to be emotionally affected by my poems."

Because he lives far from the capital, he does not mix with the circle of engaged performance poets. "As a poet, I am rather isolated. Moreover, I don’t like putting on a show; I am afraid of the audience." So appearing at Poetry was quite a task for him. "But I found it great to be here. A festival where such big names appear. I found it quite a shock to hear that I had been invited."

Poetry International is supported by the Hivos-NCDO Culture fund.