Literary Zone

Poetry—Visiting Zomba Plateau

11 September 2007 at 03:03 | 5127 views

Visiting Zomba Plateau

By Jack Mapanje

Could I have come back to you to wince
Under the blur of your negatives
To sit before your braziers without the glow
Of charcoal, to cringe at your rivers
That without their hippos and crocs
Merely trickle gratingly down to watch
Dragonflies that no longer fascinate and
Puff adders that have lost their puff?
Where is your charming hyena tail-
Praying mantis who cared for prayers once?
Where is the spirit that touched the hearts
Lightly-chameleon colours of home?
Where is your creation myth? Have I come
To witness carving and jingling only of
Your bloated images and piddling mirrors?

*Malawian poet Jack Mapanje(photo) taught in Malawi Secondary Schools before he joined the Department of English at Chancellor College, University of Malawi, in 1975, first as a lecturer, then as Head of the Department of English. He has a BA and Diploma in Education from the University of Malawi, an M.Phil. in English and Education from The Institute of Education London, and a Ph.D. in linguistics from University College London in 1983.

His first collection of poems, Of Chameleons and Gods, was published in the UK in 1981 and withdrawn from bookshops, libraries and all instutitions of learning in Malawi in June 1985. He was imprisoned without trial or charge by the Malawian government in 1987, and although many writers, linguists and human rights activists, including Harold Pinter and Wole Soyinka, Susan Sontag, Noam Chomsky and others campaigned for his release, he was not freed until 1991. The poems in The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison (1993) were composed while he was imprisoned, as well as most of his third collection of poetry, Skipping without Ropes (1998).

He has edited with introduction Gathering Seaweed: African Prison Writing (2002), based on a degree course he taught at the Unviersity of Leeds, 1993-96, and has also selected and edited with introduction the poetry of David Rabadiri, An African Thunderstorm & Other Poems (2004).

Jack Mapanje lives in York, and is currently teaching Creative Writing and Literatures of Incarceration in the School of English, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. His book, The Last of the Sweet Bananas: New & Selected Poems was published in 2004, and his latest poetry collection is Beasts of Nalunga (2007).