Emmanuel Sigauke grew up in Zimbabwe where he started writing at the age of thirteen at Mototi Primary School. Aaron Chiundura Moyo, premier Zimbabwean Shona playwright and novelist, was one of his early influences. In the 90s he was part of theexecutive team of the Zimbabwe Budding Writers Association, which was instrumental in nurturing young writing talent. He worked as the National Secretary of the association in 1994, 1995 and part of 1996. At that time he was also a University of Zimbabwe student, where he worked with student writers to arrange poetry performances, worked closely with another of his idol writers, Chenjerai Hove, who was the Writer-in-Residence at the university. He has written book reviews for newspapers, has published poetry and short stories in magazines in Zimbabwe and the United States, he teaches college English in California, where, inspired by the Sacramento Poetry Center and his teaching, he now participates in public poetry readings. He is also putting together several poetry collections for publication and is considering, thanks to teaching and the free summers it provides, a return to fiction writing.
Writing, Language, and Inspiration This is a topic I have been quiet about for a long time, but lately I have been thinking. When I was an active member of the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe (BWAZ), I often ran into people who criticized the idea of organizations for writers, especially ones catering to special groups like inspiring writers, women writers, gay & lesbian writers (this one would have been illegal in Zimbabwe at that time), local language writers, and others; they argued that such groupings were at best (at worst) political, and writing that was politically-driven was not good writing; in fact, they argued, it was not writing at all. I listened; then I responded. One day I said, "I'm in the budding writers group and each meeting I attend sends me home raging with inspiration." I am certain that that's how I said it because at that time I was perfecting, that is, raising to higher levels, my intercourse with words, and the whole question of language, which was also raging in some college circles. Oh, I was a college student then, studying Linguistics, Shona, and English. I remember meaning to ask my Shona professors why they were teaching Shona in English, but then my papers in the English Literature courses would address the issue of linguistic imperialism, in well-written, standard (British) English... I was saying the BWAZ meetings and workshop, some of which I moderated, were always benficial to me - there was an element of the collaborative and rehabilitative spirit in the way we would talk about the unfairness of the publishing industry, how it seemed to always prefer the established names which brought them profit and how no publisher seemed to want to risk publishing a budding writer. So we talked and talked about them as monsters; then we talked about how we would form our own publishing house one day in order to publish all the budding writers. We would conclude our meetings or workshops with performances of poetry, which would be followed by voluntary exchanges of manuscripts, addresses and phone numbers. We were a practical, not political group; our meetings were our authors' twelve-step approach to positive thinking about our prospects in the publishing industry. I felt published them, and the fact that I was majoring in all those languages I mentioned earlier, made me some type of consultant in the organization, together with other expert members, helping younger writers "tighten" their writings. Were we a political group just talking about writing and not writing? No, we had members who actually wrote something (I know the years I was a national secretary for the organization were when I did the least writing, but that was fine because I was using my expertise--in talking about writing-- to assist others). Today I look at the Zimbabwean writing scene and I am impressed by the number of writers (from the budding writers and women writers' organizations) who have matured into prize-winning authors. I look back at those Chimanimani and Zvishavane workshop days, the Bindura/Darwin/Mavhuradonha and Mutoko/Murehwa/Dande gatherings, and I say, the organizations were necessary. I have been away from the country for over ten years, seven of which brought my writing to a halt because, as I always say, when people ask why I haven't written as much as I should have, that life took over. I have been writing again, on-and-off, for the last three years, and have recently grown aggressive in marketing my works since I understand that new rules demand that once the idea is rich enough in your head and on paper, it needs to be marketed like a business venture. But why revist and mention BWAZ again? The Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe, because of the impact it had on the growth of my desire to write, remains one of my inspirations, one institution, beyond family, that reminds me of the sense of responsibility in the process of writing. Of course, there are other factors that inspire me to write. The life that I always say took over has provided enough resources for literary exploration, my job is essentially writing-based, and books often keep me company, and you know when you are working with the ghosts of people like Yeats, Faulkner, Nehanda (she was one of the authors of Chimurenga), Vera, Marechera ( especially Marechera), Frost, and others, you feel the obligation to be diligent in your writing, and as I write, I am remembering a BWAZ workshop in Mutare at which we debated the issue of Language and the Young Writer; later a newspaper article I wrote quoted me as saying, "This is the time when the writer, especially the budding one, has to realize that all languages are created equal." The idea was to encourage continuous writing that knows no language barrier.
All poems are copyright of the originating author. Permission must be obtained before using or performing others' poems.
CALL FOR POETRY SUBMISSIONS (09/08/2007)
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