Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Togara Muzanenhamo

Featured Poem:

The Chronicles

Enlarge poem

They still drew the old roller over the cricket pitches with men
yoked like a team of oxen to the stubborn iron wheel.
The grass smelt as the grass did, all rich beneath the afternoon sun –
the heat flashing to the ground with a blinding flick of steel.
All the fields were there – but much smaller than remembered –
the rugby and football grounds unused, the whitewashed lines
washed out by the rains, but the names of dead Jesuits, on signs,
still stood on the preened edges – in traditional white and red.
Up into view the memorable tower of stone rose with all the dreams
of climbing up the winding cool stairwell, up to the top of the turret
where thoughts of fields, soft with breaths of Natal grass, met
the sky with hope and refuge. But those were just a schoolboy’s dreams
brought on by the sight of the huge bronze plaque of St. George
plunging his spear, extinguishing our fears of the dragon.
Though all that bullshit vanished with age, the staged hero on the forged plaque still remained some old myth the Jesuits liked to work on.
‘I’m here to go through the Chronicles.’ ”86 to the mid 90’s.’
The receptionist is grey and half-deaf, I’m apparently soft spoken –
so there’s a lot of repetition accompanied by grimaces and apologies.
‘I’m here to go through the Chronicles.’ ‘Yes’, to another question,
‘I did attend here some years back.’ ‘Yes, an Old Georgian, an old boy.’
The phone slowly goes up to her ear as she mentions something
about visits and strange requests from foreign journalists wanting
to sit in on classes or have private interviews with the boys.
‘Penny?’ ‘Yes, Penny it’s me’. ‘I seem to have a safe one here.’
‘Wants to go through the Chronicles.’ ‘Something about poetry.’
Her small eyes look up. ‘You do remember the way to the library?’
I had forgotten, but then retrace the steps in my mind to get there.
Each class I pass, a voice spills from the mock-Edwardian windows,
the red polished floors tap under my feet, and a sweet blessedness
fills me that I’m not sat in those sweat-rooms of learning, shadows
of my youth, daydreaming about a new-world after the first kiss.
The study-hall has lost all its desks and holds an array of instruments
and chairs for classical musicians. The fountain in the quad is gone now, and at first it didn’t mean a thing to me – but then a crude bewilderment took hold when a memory tried to find its place in the absence; and how on earth they removed it had me lost – the lawn was perfectly smooth. The weights’ room, where our hands were beaten blue by a leather wad, where iron was pumped on hot afternoons, was now clean and had the smell of sweat and leather replaced by veneered internet booths.
Outside an office a boy lifted his hat and said ‘Good morning’ in a way
that had me question what he’d said. It was only when I looked back
that I noticed the strain on his face, his rheumy eyes and the big black
words scoured across his chest, FAGGOT. I could see how easily they
could have pinned him down. The tree was there where we sat at break
trying to forget the colour bar that still hasn’t faded outside the gates;
the smell of musasa leaves and old orange peels revived a dead ache
that filled my belly: a mob outside the science-labs, fists of other kids…
When I met Penny she smiled, and something told me it wasn’t a strange request to come here and go through the Chronicles. She had them stacked up on her desk, all piled up chronologically – towers of memories, names and dates in black and white at my disposal. I sat down, leafed through the pages, the photographs alive in my head; and after an hour of being immersed in the vivid quiet, the bell rang: It was still that same high-pitched drill that once brought relief as it sang through the long corridors, but with it also came a certain dread.

TogaraMuzanenhamo

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Biography

Togara Muzanenhamo was born in Lusaka, Zambia, to Zimbabwean parents. He was brought up in Zimbabwe on his family’s farm. He went on to study Business Administration in France and The Netherlands. After his studies he returned to Zimbabwe and worked as a journalist, then moved to an organisation dedicated to developing African screenplays. Later Muzanenhamo went to England to pursue an MA in creative writing. He now divides his time between writing and farming.
Togara Muzanenhamo’s poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies in Europe, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Togara is a poet scarcely known in his home country, Zimbabwe. His first collection, Spirit Brides, was published by Carcanet Press in the UK in 2006, and his work has appeared amongst others in Carapace, PN Review, The Zimbabwean Review, Revue Noire, BBC Radio 3 and the BBC World Service.
His poetry is beautifully observed, his imagery finely perceptive, his language and its rhythms hauntingly simple as he pulls back the blinds from a world that is known but too often hidden from view. He does so with an empathy and gentleness that speaks of compassion and yet he cuts and shapes his poems with the precision of a surgeon. Various themes echo through his poetry: the magic and mystery of childhood; departure, loss and death; and love, understated, and in all its many and complex connectivities.

Togara Muzanenhamo

TogaraMuzanenhamo
TogaraMuzanenhamo

Biography

Togara Muzanenhamo was born in Lusaka, Zambia, to Zimbabwean parents. He was brought up in Zimbabwe on his family’s farm. He went on to study Business Administration in France and The Netherlands. After his studies he returned to Zimbabwe and worked as a journalist, then moved to an organisation dedicated to developing African screenplays. Later Muzanenhamo went to England to pursue an MA in creative writing. He now divides his time between writing and farming.
Togara Muzanenhamo’s poems have appeared in magazines and anthologies in Europe, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Togara is a poet scarcely known in his home country, Zimbabwe. His first collection, Spirit Brides, was published by Carcanet Press in the UK in 2006, and his work has appeared amongst others in Carapace, PN Review, The Zimbabwean Review, Revue Noire, BBC Radio 3 and the BBC World Service.
His poetry is beautifully observed, his imagery finely perceptive, his language and its rhythms hauntingly simple as he pulls back the blinds from a world that is known but too often hidden from view. He does so with an empathy and gentleness that speaks of compassion and yet he cuts and shapes his poems with the precision of a surgeon. Various themes echo through his poetry: the magic and mystery of childhood; departure, loss and death; and love, understated, and in all its many and complex connectivities.

Featured Poem:

The Chronicles

Enlarge poem

They still drew the old roller over the cricket pitches with men
yoked like a team of oxen to the stubborn iron wheel.
The grass smelt as the grass did, all rich beneath the afternoon sun –
the heat flashing to the ground with a blinding flick of steel.
All the fields were there – but much smaller than remembered –
the rugby and football grounds unused, the whitewashed lines
washed out by the rains, but the names of dead Jesuits, on signs,
still stood on the preened edges – in traditional white and red.
Up into view the memorable tower of stone rose with all the dreams
of climbing up the winding cool stairwell, up to the top of the turret
where thoughts of fields, soft with breaths of Natal grass, met
the sky with hope and refuge. But those were just a schoolboy’s dreams
brought on by the sight of the huge bronze plaque of St. George
plunging his spear, extinguishing our fears of the dragon.
Though all that bullshit vanished with age, the staged hero on the forged plaque still remained some old myth the Jesuits liked to work on.
‘I’m here to go through the Chronicles.’ ”86 to the mid 90’s.’
The receptionist is grey and half-deaf, I’m apparently soft spoken –
so there’s a lot of repetition accompanied by grimaces and apologies.
‘I’m here to go through the Chronicles.’ ‘Yes’, to another question,
‘I did attend here some years back.’ ‘Yes, an Old Georgian, an old boy.’
The phone slowly goes up to her ear as she mentions something
about visits and strange requests from foreign journalists wanting
to sit in on classes or have private interviews with the boys.
‘Penny?’ ‘Yes, Penny it’s me’. ‘I seem to have a safe one here.’
‘Wants to go through the Chronicles.’ ‘Something about poetry.’
Her small eyes look up. ‘You do remember the way to the library?’
I had forgotten, but then retrace the steps in my mind to get there.
Each class I pass, a voice spills from the mock-Edwardian windows,
the red polished floors tap under my feet, and a sweet blessedness
fills me that I’m not sat in those sweat-rooms of learning, shadows
of my youth, daydreaming about a new-world after the first kiss.
The study-hall has lost all its desks and holds an array of instruments
and chairs for classical musicians. The fountain in the quad is gone now, and at first it didn’t mean a thing to me – but then a crude bewilderment took hold when a memory tried to find its place in the absence; and how on earth they removed it had me lost – the lawn was perfectly smooth. The weights’ room, where our hands were beaten blue by a leather wad, where iron was pumped on hot afternoons, was now clean and had the smell of sweat and leather replaced by veneered internet booths.
Outside an office a boy lifted his hat and said ‘Good morning’ in a way
that had me question what he’d said. It was only when I looked back
that I noticed the strain on his face, his rheumy eyes and the big black
words scoured across his chest, FAGGOT. I could see how easily they
could have pinned him down. The tree was there where we sat at break
trying to forget the colour bar that still hasn’t faded outside the gates;
the smell of musasa leaves and old orange peels revived a dead ache
that filled my belly: a mob outside the science-labs, fists of other kids…
When I met Penny she smiled, and something told me it wasn’t a strange request to come here and go through the Chronicles. She had them stacked up on her desk, all piled up chronologically – towers of memories, names and dates in black and white at my disposal. I sat down, leafed through the pages, the photographs alive in my head; and after an hour of being immersed in the vivid quiet, the bell rang: It was still that same high-pitched drill that once brought relief as it sang through the long corridors, but with it also came a certain dread.

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (1)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Comments

Your email address will not be published.