Monday, September 27, 2010

Deon Marcus' Sonatas Reviewed

Review of Deon Marcus' poetry collection Sonatas from

Deon is a musician, a member of the Bulawayo Philharmonic Orchestra. The title Sonatas could be expected from a musician. The title also fits like a glove (forgive the cliché) as most of the poems are musical.
Reading this collection of poetry by Deon Marcus, it is not difficult to understand why he won a NAMA award for Best First Book 2005 and Zimbabwe Book Publishers Association award for Poetry and Drama 2005.
My firm belief is that poetry should be accessible; I am unwilling to develop a headache trying to understand what a poet is talking about. There is the myth that poetry should be abstract for it to be good. For the majority of Deon’s poems, you do not develop a headache trying to understand what he is talking about and the subject matter is relevant, take for example the poem The Erl-king:

What ever happened to those Sunday
afternoons when time for a moment stood
quite still, when poetry was read with tea and
scones and Schubert lieder filled the air with their

spinning wheels and Erl-king tales?
What ever happened to walks at Hillside
Dams and sitting sunning summer brows with
silky sweat and melting ice-cream cones and coke...

You can detect some musicality in Deon’s poems; the arrangement is not what I, who is totally tone deaf and without rhythm, would do. Deon’s collection is a must have for poetry lovers. I cannot resist sharing the very short poem Intermezzo:

A collage of moments nailed
together in the hope of making
something pretty?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Bongani Ncube-Zikhali wins the Intwasa Short Story Competition

Bongani Ncube-Zikhali has won the 2010 Intwasa Short Story Competition, following in the footsteps of other 'amaBooks writers: Thabisani Ndlovu, Bryony Rheam, Chaltone Tshabangu and Novuyo Rosa Tshuma.
Three of Bongani's short stories have so far been published by 'amaBooks: Just Trust Me in Echoes of Young Voices; Freedom and The Face of Truth in Silent Cry: Echoes of Young Voices II. All three of the stories appear in the combined collection Silent Cry: Echoes of Young Zimbabwe Voices, which is available through online bookstores throughout the world. The Echoes of Young Voices project was supported by British Council Zimbabwe.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Long Time Coming - in London

Putney Library in Wandsworth, London, will present 'A Long Time Coming' on Wednesday 20 October at 7pm as part of Wandsworth's Black History Month. Writers at the event, talking about what inspires them and the writing process, will be Monireh Jassat, Nadifa Mohamed and Samantha Commey-Taylor. Monireh will be reading her short story A Lazy Sunday Afternoon from Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe. Monireh has travelled extensively from her family home in Bulawayo and has published newspaper articles, magazine features and book reviews, as well as short stories. Nadifa's debut novel, Black Mamba Boy won the 2010 Betty Trask Prize and has been shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. Set in 1930s Somalia, the novel charts one boy's long walk to freedom through dangerous, conflict ridden East Africa, based on the true story of the author's father's life. Samantha has spent most of her adult life working and living in Wandsworth; her writing being inspired by the people and streetscapes of Wandsworth.

Admission is free, but please book on (020) 8871 7090.

Monday, September 20, 2010

'Memorable Moments' in This September Sun

Emmanuel Sigauke discusses some key moments in his reading of Bryony Rheam's This September Sun on the Wealth of Ideas blog.

The article will also appear later on the Moments in Literature website.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chenjerai Hove comments on Chris Mlalazi's Dancing with Life

Chenjerai Hove comments in a letter to Christopher Mlalazi about his Dancing with Life: Tales from the Township (with permission from Chenjerai and Chris):

I got your short story collection and have already finished reading it. I enjoyed tremendously the ‘chase of the week’. I was laughing alone in my place like a mad man. I think the story captures the real atmosphere of a township, and the vagaries of living there. I must say my favourite story, though, is the last one, ‘A Heart in my Hole’. I enjoyed the filmic technique or the kind of montage you make of the various shots in the life of the young man. And some of the images are fantastic, just magic:

‘Next to uncle’s stool, also enjoying the cool shade, and in domestic harmony, a chick sits on the cat’s back. The cat is dozing between the legs of Bamba, uncle’s biggest and fiercest dog, that keeps nibbling lazily at an irritation on his left haunch. The hen and the rest of the noisy brood are nowhere in sight.’

That is great cinematographic stuff, a beautiful image almost beyond words.

Also I enjoyed the way the old man and the young man are in such harmonious discord in their views of the world, at least they agree on the use of condoms, and on having sex with the German woman, with and without condoms.

But the tragedy of the young man who can only manage a distinction in isindebele and nothing else borders between humour and deep sorrow. At least he takes it in its stride: life goes on with or without all the subjects taught in English.

As I read your stories, I could not help but think of an American writer, Ambrose Bierce, of a century ago, in the way he saw life’s coincidences. Bierce has become very popular again in the last decade or so. Look for his short story collection and I am sure you will see what I mean. He wrote also ‘The Devil’s Dictionary’, in which he gives words his own meanings which are not usually socially accepted in conventional dictionaries.

Well, thanks for writing the book, and I look forward to many more from such a sharp pen.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Another Review of Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe

Tales of a troubled nation



Long Time Coming: Short Writings From Zimbabwe

Edited by Jane Morris

'amaBooks, 2008

An independent Zimbabwean collection reveals another side to this tragic country. By Clare Lanigan.

In recent years it seems the only news stories coming out of Africa are about poverty, corruption, violence and misery, so it's easy to forget that the continent is more than just the disaster zone of the world. Fiction, poetry and art continues to flourish, although even in this day and age, many European readers' knowledge of black African writing begins and ends with Chinua Achebe, despite the high profiles in recent years of notable writers such as Purple Hibiscus author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. However, collections come along every now and then to remind us that Africa's literary life is not in stasis, and Long Time Coming is a welcome addition to this list, presenting a view of Zimbabwe infinitely more nuanced than the typical media vision of a bleak, depressing place presided over by a tinpot dictator.

Not that the authors in Long Time Coming, published by independent Zimbabwean imprint 'amaBooks, gloss over the difficulties of life in the country today. Themes of deprivation and hunger crop up again and again, but the capacity for humanity to find hope in otherwise desperate situations allays even the bleakest tales. The poverty-stricken narrator of 'The Chicken Bus' by Linda Msebele is cheered by a smile shared with a stranger in a bus. Sisters draw strength from each other after abusive marriages end in 'Loving The Self' by Bhekiliwize Dube, and a young woman driven to prostitution after her family are rendered jobless by an unscrupulous businessman exacts an extreme, but still satisfying revenge in 'Justice' by Wim Boswinkel. The cultural identity of white Zimbabweans is not ignored, with stories like 'The Pencil Test' and '10 Lanigan Avenue' featuring sympathetic white and mixed-race characters. The only group that face universal, and deserved, opprobium are the corrupt political leaders and their business cronies, portrayed to a man and woman as venal, greedy and self-justifying. However, one of the best stories in the collection, 'The First Lady's Yellow Shoes' by Peter Ncube, gets inside the mind of a Mugabe-like dictator forced to flee his country in a fictional revolution and reveals the skewed, but real humanity behind the delusions of authority.

With over 30 stories and poems in a slim volume and some stories only running to a couple of pages, the collection has a somewhat unfinished feel to it, and certainly plenty of the stories count as little more than impressionistic sketches. But there is enough new talent here to keep the casual reader interested, and enough decent characterisation to provide context for the recurring themes of hunger, HIV and inflation that naturally crop up. There have been shake-ups in the Zimbabwean government since the collection was first published in 2008, but in other ways very little has changed. It will be interesting to see how the next 'amaBooks publication deals with the country's story.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mai Palmberg – “If Zimbabwe’s soul isn’t completely eroded before its nightmare is over, it will be thanks to people in culture”

Mai Palmberg, a Finnish cultural researcher who has done work about Zimbabwe, said her first reaction about Zimbabwe artists was: “How do they have the strength to continue in a situation where everything seems to fall apart, from the availability of bread to decent behaviour among fellow citizens?”

“And yet they continue; if it is not possible to paint in bright colours, the artist paints in grey and brown nuances; if the leading actor moves abroad, someone else is there to fill in. Not to mention people who persist and continue to create and spread culture: publishers like Weaver Press in Harare and amaBooks in Bulawayo, the Amakhosi theatre in Bulawayo, the Book CafĂ© in Harare, Harare International Festival of Arts, musicians like Oliver Mtukudzi and many more, and the Delta art gallery.”

“Culture has a wondrous toughness. The authorities and the economic crisis disturb it, but do not have the power to
destroy it. If Zimbabwe’s soul isn’t completely eroded before its nightmare is over, it will be thanks to people in culture,” she said in
an interview published on the Nordic Institute of Southern Africa website.

The full article can be found at

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Another Interview with Bryony Rheam - this one from Ghana

Bryony Rheam's interview with Nana Fredua-Agyeman, from Accra in Ghana, has appeared on the ImageNations: Promoting African Literature website. This September Sun is attracting a lot of interest around the world, with this interview from Ghana, Ambrose Musiyiwa's from the United Kingdom and Emmanuel Sigauke's from the USA. An article by Bryony about her writing is due to appear in the next issue of a South African literary magazine. More to follow...

If you are outside of Zimbabwe, please email for information on where to purchase the book.

The ImageNations interview can be found at