Saturday, April 18, 2015

Textures, poems by John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo, reviewed on

Zimbabwean textures: the poetry of John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo

Reviewed by Rosetta Codling
Rating: *****

Format: Paperback
Country of origin: Zimbabwe

Fascinating note: Togara Muzanenhamo (born 1975) is a Zimbabwean poet born in Lusaka, Zambia, to Zimbabwean parents. He was brought up in Zimbabwe on his family’s farm – thirty miles west of the capital Harare. He studied in France and the Netherlands. After his studies, he returned to Zimbabwe and worked as a journalist. Later, he connected with an institute dedicated to the development of African screenplays. Muzanenhamo’s first collection of poems, Spirit Brides, is published by Carcanet Press in 2006.

Video: Togara Muzanenhamo reads ' Mercantile Rain' from Textures

John Eppel was born in Lydenburg, South Africa. He moved to Colleen Bawn, a small mining town in the south of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe),[1] at the age of four. He was educated at Milton High School in Bulawayo, and later attended the University of Natal in South Africa. He completed his English Master’s degree in 'A Study of Keatsian Dialectics'. He married at the age of 34 and has three children; Ben, Ruth and Joe. His ex-wife, Shari, is a poet and prominent human rights activist. Eppel teaches English at Christian Brothers College, Bulawayo.
He has published 13 books (so far), one of which has been translated into French (The Giraffe Man), created a creative writing course for the University of South Africa and published three 'O' Level and one 'A' Level literature study guides. He was awarded the Ingrid Jonker Prize for his first poetry book, Spoils of War and the MNet Prize in 1993 [2] for his novel, D G G Berry's the Great North Road.[3] His second novel, Hatchings, was nominated for the MNet prize in 1993/4.
His works are studied in universities across South Africa.

Video: John Eppel reads 'A Suburban Night in August' from Textures

Synopsis: When questioned about the differences between the poets and poetry of John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo, John Eppel stated:
“I think I’m a more subconscious poet. Togara uses a lot of his consciousness to craft his poems.”
This statement serves to foreshadow the tempo of the selections to be read, contemplated, and reviewed within the Textures (2014) collection. Muzanenhamo gives the reader ‘conscious’ prompts in the selection ‘I’ (as he writes):
“When he looked into her eyes
he knew the world would not
change greatly after his death.
Her skin, warm-olive brown,” (Muzanenhamo, 71)
These lyrics resonate from the consciousness of a poet well aware of the mortality of a man and his world. Further, Muzanenhamo serenades the listener into his consciousness with ‘XII’ and the poem’s “Che pensieri soave, che speranze.” The selection focuses upon the frame of two men recollecting times and a friendship….  “building bridges of war” over beer and dinner. (82)
The subconscious of John Eppel allows the poet to revel in “Only Jacarandas,” as the poet paints a pictures of willows and jacarandas. And this poet finds majesty in the power of the flower to…  “take their reflection/from the dull sky of tarmac.” Beauty is seen in something that is able to defy the confines of limitations and reflect over the dark. Overt and less covert is Eppel in his selection “My Muse.” This is an ode to the muse in his life. The muse is the woman within the poet….is …  “Not my mother/Not my sister/Not my daughter/Not my lover/Not even you.” Eppel speaks from within to without. He recognizes that which equally female within him which emerges to administer his creative energies.
The textualities of the poetry of John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo contrast well for English educators to fully utilize the selections (format, style, inspiration) in literature classes. Additionally, lovers of poetry will find that the Zimbabwean poets enable one to hear a different voice from a different land. All African literature and poetry is political. The voice, the craft, and mode of African, literary, and poetic expression stimulates the senses in a unique way rivaled by few others. This is the poetry of Zimbabwe in Textures (2014).

Critique: I have reviewed the work of John Eppel earlier (Absent: The English Teacher and Together (with Julius Chingono) in the past. I enjoyed these works and this new collection has not failed to educate and inspire me. Togara Muzanenhamo permits me to be privy to his style and talent in this joint venture with Eppel. These are different poets. Eppel is ever the university scholar and educator. His poetry teaches and he crafts his lines and lyrics well in a well- structured format. Togara Muzanenhamo does not retreat from academics or teaching. The method of his teaching is different because of his background as a journalist. A journalist is more direct in the conveyance of ideas and observations, by trade. Journalism and Communications, as disciplines, alert one to utilize all of one’s senses. Muzanenhamo displays his journalist and communication skills in his poetry. I enjoy his voice and the journey to becoming acquainted with his style.
Zimbabwe is a nation in flux. It is ever changing and complex. The poetry in this collection reflects the flux and turbulence of the political times and people. I offer my recommendation of this work to lovers of poetry and those who will bear witness to the times in Zimbabwe.

Rosetta Codling, European Literary Scene Examiner

Dr. Rosetta Codling is a literary scholar and critic. Her critiques of African and African-American literature have appeared in numerous journals throughout the world. Her latest critiques appears in The Journal of African Literature, Literary Criticism (IRACLC), The African Quarterly, and the CIEA7 World African Conference (2010). This year, she has served as a panelist at conferences in Puerto Rico, Peru, Portugal, and Spain. She is Education Editor for G&G Magazine, writing a column for educators. She is most currently composing her own book of short stories focusing on America's indigenous people. A graduate of CUNY, New York University, and Teachers College/Columbia University, Dr. Codling earned her doctorate degree from Bircham International University (Madrid). Professional honors have been awarded to her by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York. 

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