Literary Zone

Poetry by Jack Mapanje

28 June 2008 at 02:49 | 652 views

After Celebrating our Asylum Stories at Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds.

By Jack Mapanje

So, define her separately,
She is not just another
Castaway washed up your
Rough seas like driftwood,
It’s the nameless battles
Your sages burdened on her
People that broke her back;
Define him differently,
He is not another squirrel
Ousted from your poplars,
It’s the endless cyclones,
Earthquakes, volcanoes,
Floods, mud and dust that
Drafted him here; define
Them warmly, how could
Your economic émigré queue
At your job centres day after
Day? If you must define us
Gently, how do you hope
To see the tales we bear
When you refuse to hear
The whispers we share?

*Poet, linguist and human rights activist, Jack Mapanje(photo) has published about five poetry books and has poems in three anthologies of poetry from Africa. These include Of Chameleons and Gods (1981), The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison (1993), Skipping Without Ropes (1998) The Last of the Sweet Bananas: New and Selected Poems (2004), and the recent Beasts of Nalunga (2007), which was recently shortlisted for the Forward Prize . He co-edited Oral Poetry from Africa: an anthology (1983), Summer Fires: New Poetry of Africa (1983) and The African Writers’ Handbook (1999). He also edited Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing (2002).

Mapanje is the recipient of the Fonlon-Nichols Award for ‘his contribution to poetry and human rights’ and also received the Rotterdam Poetry International Award for his first book of poems. After political detention in 1987, while he was Department Head of English Studies at the University of Malawi, he was subsequently released in 1991. He has since lived outside Malawi with his family and currently teaches at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in England.