Monday, December 04, 2006

Poems by Tinashe Mushekavanhu


We stopped at every station

Bakerloo Piccadilly Hammersmith Jubilee Victoria Waterloo

I had no idea where I was going,

I was following the train where it was going

Once the train halted for 10 minutes

In a dark dark dark tunnel, Is hell so black?

Panic panic panic

I thought we would never get out of this merry go round

We sat in a pause anticipating, anxious, and frightened
10 long minutes

My ears were stuffed with black earphone stubs listening to a Shona song
Pindurai Mambo, Give us Answers Lord

A girl opposite me caught my eye, she did not look away
I smiled. She didn’t.
It was not her pierced navel or pierced lip that disturbed me,
I remember, it was her posture
The girl was big and composed like a piece of sculpture
I wanted to caress it, feel its velvet texture, its stone coolness

someone coughed. The air in the train was thick

And finally a light appeared, I had to drop out
At the next station

Reading Hemingway sitting in Regent’s Park

The sun was up. The time was 12:15.
I had checked out of the International Students House.

It was a boring Sunday.

Fountains splashed on noon-warmed pigeons, someone took a picture,
A squirrel parachuted from a tree.

Myself bored stiff.

I was reading Ernest Hemingway’s Men Without Women
A female jogger passed by; I could see the outline of her G-String

Oh Christ-mas! Mama used to say, ‘Never swear using the Son of God.’

I didn’t sleep well last night; a woman was pursuing me in my dreams,
My vest was soaked in sweat, my boxer shorts mapped with dried semen,

It was the smell of sex!

Midas voice

My first day in London

On an inner city bus, I sat next to a young black woman
Assuming she was English speaking like the rest of the city
I decided to ask for directions in English

“E-eh excuse me
I don’t know
where e-eh
I am e-eh going
but I e-eh…?”

Stupid me, I was in the middle of England but the Shona daemon had followed

“Bhudhi muri kuda kuenda kupi kwacho London yakakura?”

She smiled showing front gold teeth
Long artificial black hair covering part of her face
Things she had obviously picked in London

We ended up sleeping together at her flat

A badge was pinned on her uniform
NETSAYI MASIYAMBIRI, a nurse at Princess Grace Hospital

We came from the same rural village under the same chief back home
in Zimbabwe.

Tinashe is from Zimbabwe, and is currently doing a degree in creative writing at the University of Wales. His poetry was one of the standouts of the Crossing Borders project for me, because of its directness and straight-talking, very much in the tradition of Dembudzo Marechera. There's something of Frank O'Hara in these poems about his first encounter with London: a kind of Zimbabweann version of I-do-this-I-do-that. Also, Ginsberg and the Beats. Its very roughness, the fact that he hasn't made some neat and ordered out of his experiences (as a quietist English poet might) is what attracts me to these poems.


eshuneutics said...

"...because of its directness and straight-talking, very much in the tradition of Dembudzo Marechera."

Dambudzo Marechera: his poetry is anything but direct, rather elliptical. I cannot detect any of Marechera's influence in Mushekavenu's poetry. Yes, he shows no need to polish, but that could align him with many poets...Marechera's poetry, though it suggests a sense of roughness, is actually anything but, and quite carefully organised, in terms of imagery and linguistic echoes. As Marechera knew his Pound well, his presentation of the image is invariably careful, not loose like some of the poetry here.

Steven Waling said...

Somewhat unfair, I think: Tinashe is at the start of an artistic career that can only ger better. Yes, Dambuzo's better organised, but although elliptical, his attack is similarly direct.

eshuneutics said...

I take your point. But no, not exactly "unfair." You seem to suggest that Mushakavanhu is young and I am comparing him with an older writer, Marechera, and somehow condemning him. Mushakavanhu, I assume, is 23-24, so about the same age as as when Marechera wrote the early Liberty poems and The House of Hunger. You are forgetting that Marechera was a young protege too. Obviously, Mushakavanhu has picked up Marechera-talk when he complains about English making him into an Uncle Tom, so knows his Marechera, but I still can't see any similarity in the work between the two writers beyond their country of origin. And there are few comparisons between these poems and say the major Thrones of Bayonets...Mushakavanhu hasn't learnt much from Marechera, which would be my main point, no real influence, then.