Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review of Tendai Mwanaka's Voices in Exile by J.S. Watts

Voices in Exile is a visceral, immediate and raw collection of poems by the South African based writer Tendai R. Mwanaka.

The poems contain stories of horror, torture, despair, “steady howling and gnashing cries” and just occasionally some hope, as the unheard voices of Zimbabwe are given full rein. It is poetry which sometimes sacrifices the perfection of language for the passion of the moment, but is not necessarily lacking because of that.

The passion and urgency flowing through the poems is so unrelenting that at times I longed for a few more moments of respite, but it would be a respite that has been denied the people of Zimbabwe. There are some quieter moments. In the gentle lyricism of poems such as the titular “Voices in Exile”, a quieter voice can be heard, that of the country itself:

“This poem is the soft call of one lonely raven
That has lost her loved birth-ones
It is the voice of reason in times of pestilence
It is the voice of the spirit that left luggage
And bundles of bones in Limpopo River
It is the voice of flesh and blood that sustains
Fish and crocodiles in Limpopo
Year in, year out
It is the voice of the badger swallowing in grief
It is the voice of the raccoon choking in blame.”

The same voice can be heard in the hopeful “Lest We Forget” stating that:

“flowers have
different colours

but they all beautify

altogether as
one nation

different colours.”

But these poetic pauses, though welcome, are brief. The driver of this poetry is inevitably “the unblinking/muzzle flash of a gun again”, the “casualties/ Constructing these sentences/ All alone, unaided, lighting/The threshold to the wordless potent”. In this collection by Tendai Mwanaka, though, the wordless are given words once more through the “Tales hidden in tears” within the poems themselves.

Voices in Exile by Tendai Mwanaka is published by Lapwing Publications at Lapwing Poetry.

Author bio:

J.S.Watts lives and writes in the flatlands of East Anglia. Her poetry, short fiction and reviews are published in a variety of magazines and publications in Britain, Canada, Australia and the States including: Ascent Aspirations, Envoi, The Journal, Polluto and The Recusant. Her debut poetry collection "Cats and Other Myths" is published by Lapwing Publications. For further details see J.S. Watts.

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