21 April 2019

Zimbabwe: Poetry Is Life - Dzonze

interview

He has published a number of books and more of his work is published in journals and magazines. Edward Dzonze is the author of Many Truths at Once, Wisdom Speaks and Breakfast with Marechera and has published more than 200 poems. Our correspondent Sukuoluhle Ndlovu (SN) caught up with Dzonze (ED) and got a glimpse into his promising career.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

SN: Readers would want to know about you. Who is Edward Dzonze?

ED: Edward Dzonze is the author of Many Truths Told at Once (Royalty Publishing, USA, 2015), Wisdom Speaks (Royalty Publishing, USA, 2016), both being online editions, and Breakfast with Marechera (Diaspora Publishers, UK, 2018). Dzonze (30) is also the co-editor of the Zimbolicious Poetry Series Volume 1 and 2 with co-editor Tendai Mwanaka having to do the Volume 3 alone due to pressing commitments on my part. I have contributed to more than 20 journals and anthologies across the globe.

SN: Why did you choose to do poetry?

ED: I fell in love with poetry at a tender age. I was only nine when my mother found me going through lines from Okot p' Bitek's Song of Lawino. Picking from the title, I was reading the poems with a musical appreciation when my mother told me that what was before me was actually poetry, not songs, and I told her there and then I wanted to become a poet. My love for words grew stronger. The first thing I would do whenever I picked a new read, I would go to the biography, which usually came on the back cover, I would read it out trying to picture what my own bio summary should be like. Me and poetry met by coincidence, if I can put it that way.

SN: Your work falls under which genre and why that specific genre?

ED: Since it is already established that poetry is my art, I guess I am here called to specify my poetry. On countless times, I have tried to dispute it, but my poetry is mainly revolutionary. Under revolutionary, falls protest and counter-culture articulation.

iconoclastic and idealism; I believe in possibilities. Everytime I set to write, l want to breathe a certain dimension to the status quo.

SN: What are the achievements you have made so far as a poet?

ED: When I started off as a writer, the picture of me getting published was just bleak, I guess that should explain the pseudonym NamelesRadioStation. I thought I would live as an underground poet, broadcasting the gospel around me in the streets from corner bridges where the ghetto youths converge for their daily business of smoke and booze. I have made strides not only on the local scene, but also on the global radar. I have also got the honour to edit and work with internationally-acclaimed writers, some of whom I studied with at school -- that remains to me as my biggest achievement. Talk of John Eppel, Ivor Hartmann, David Mungoshi, Albert Nyathi and Mbizo Chirasha, among others. When you have seasoned writers entrusting you with their copyright, it is an acknowledgement of who you have become. The Zimbolicious poetry series as my own brainchild is a milestone judging from what has become of it to date.

Recently, I got recognised as an international fellow by the Poetsasdelmundo (Poets of the World) as Harare Consul along with other poet comrades.

SN: Who is your role model?

ED: When I look at Dambudzo Marechera, I want to figure out what he would have done to beautify the face of literature. Though I was mainly exposed to a lot of American literature as a child, I am lost between what Marechera did as a Zimbabwean writer and what Maya Angelou rose to become as an African-American writer. Zora Naele Hurston's writing style cannot be left outside those brackets either.

SN: Where do you see yourself next in the five years?

ED: In five years, I should be there to speak as an African writer. You know how the Ngugis, Chinua Achebe and the late Charles Dambudzo Marechera come to mind when African literature calls, that African voice unmistaken. Every tree grows from a shrub, by then I would have written my name where Shakespeare wrote his decades and centuries ago. My writing pen is not exposed to limitations, I want to remind people of this article with pride, having achieved the alluded milestones.

SN: What challenges are you facing?

ED: Of course, nobody expects funding for no cause, but then cause or no causes, in most cases I have looked at opportunities pass me by because I could not rise to the financial demands. At least if we have a corporate world that recognised wordsmiths the same way they do with musicians. To a larger extent, l think that has also contributed to the dwindling reading culture. Imagine if we have one of these big companies taking on board spoken word artistes as their brand ambassadors, not only will that help to capacitate the artiste towards their growth, but that would also expose the listenership, be it viewership, to the world of writers and what goes with their world. We get to publicise and promote the brands and the next moment I am sharing a poem on Cyclone Idai. Poetry is quite an effective tool for socio-economic and political transformation since it is informed and articulate.

I have done publications which I cannot put on the shelf because my pocket cannot permit it. I have resorted to merging my spoken word pieces with recorded music, using my smartphone, which is all the office I have for recording because l cannot afford what they charge at the studio. We do not want that money for nothing, just like musicians can render a service as well and use the money to produce the best out of our creativity.

The cost of publishing a book with local publishers is quite something else if you are coming up the rungs. That is why I had to resort to publishers outside the country, but then you would also need to ship in the copies for the local market.

SN: Tell me about the all the works you have produced so far?

ED: I have published more than 200 poems to date, some published in the publications I highlighted on the introductory note. My poems appear in more than 15 anthologies from across the globe. I have 30 poems that can be accessed free on poemhunter under my name. Every day I write and submit every month. I get published twice or thrice mostly in journals and magazines and that is why I cannot specify all my publications.

SN: Any awards you have received?

ED: So far I do not have any awards though I have received a couple of certificates, but in most cases I have never bothered to claim them. Twice I was honoured by the Society for Young Nigerian Writers, but again I never bothered to claim it. I was recognised by the Kafla International in India as their Zimbabwean contact on poetry affairs from 2014 to 2017, but, well, that is not an award, I guess, but an achievement I made. I am mentioning it because I had to travel to India for the International Writers' Conference, which they hold annually. I have no award on my shelf so far, but soon is soon for me.

SN: Any message to others coming up in the arts industry?

ED: Sometimes it looks like you are doing nothing when you read about what others are up to, but always remember to write your own story. Those challenges are mere chapters in your big book. Speak from where you stand; there is nothing wrong in enduring a little pain.

SN: Any live performances?

ED: Every Friday I am at Theatre paBridge in Highfield, Harare. I also respond to invitations as they come, but for now paBridge is my home, courtesy of Action Hub and Edzai Isu Trust.

SN: Is there any project you are working on? If so, what is it?

ED: Quite a lot to crack my head, hey. I am looking forward to establishing a poetry slam at the Action Hub next month called Word at the Hub Poetry Slam. I am also looking forward to publishing a poetry anthology, Lyrical Interface, which is an extension of poetry intercourse where we propose a topic and the poets get to respond. This initiative does not only seek to take submissions for publication, but also to mentor and critique poets so that we grow poetry as a brand with Dr Tanaka Chidora as our moderator and Jabulani Mzinyathi as the project adviser.

Another poetry collection, Child of the Terrain, is also in the pipeline.

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