William Khalipwina Mpina is a Malawian poet, fiction writer, essayist, editor, economist and teacher. His writing reflects on the mundane and the everyday. Many of his works appear in online international literary magazines such as Kalahari Review, Literary Shanghai, Writers Space Africa, African writer, Nthanda review, Scribble Publication, Atunis Galaxy Poetry, Poetica and Expound Magazine; and in over ten local anthologies. A co-editor of 'Walking the Battlefield' a 2020 Malawian anthology on corona virus, Mpina contributed succulent verses in a book 'LOCKDOWN 2020', prose and poetry on living in isolation and surviving corona virus, which features authors from 24 countries around the world. His books include Princess from the Moon (2020), Shattered Dreams (2019), Blood Suckers (2019), Shadows of Death and other poems (2016), Namayeni (2009) and Njiru (2003).
Works of art hatched from the soul, presented to the public, are given the loudest applause everywhere they go. In their undiluted form, they fly beyond boarders and bring back a suitcase full of medals, physical or imaginary. You may not understand my point here if you have not read a collection of best poems from Africa in my possession, but it will still make sense that after reading this write-up, you can as well look for it and regurgitate every bit of it. The issue here is an anthology, Best New African Poets 2019, which has featured poems by my fellow countrymen and many others across the African continent.
The anthology, edited by Tendai Rinos Mwanaka from Zimbabwe and Nsah Mala from Cameroon, is part of an initiative which started in 2015 with the aim of giving African Poets a platform to showcase their skill and grow.
Comprised of 197 poems in English, Portuguese, French and a whole host of African indigenous languages, the anthology draws writers across Africa, tackling themes ranging from love, relationships, politics, governance, spirituality, existence, identity to place.
Since 2015, there has been an increasing pressure on writers to be professional and editors of Best New African Poets project to be multi-skilled in order to enrich the project with new talent and new ideas. This drives me to confess that the BNAP project rich with knowledge, beauty, rigour and generosity is a gift which those in love with the art of poetry will live to appreciate. In addition, the richness of Best New African Poets 2019 anthology lies in its openness to continental contact among writers, their ideas, and the collaborations which stir a sobering appetite to read all the pages of the book.
Very unique are the collaborations which appear in three parts. The first part includes fragment pieces of poetry which deals with climate change and wildlife by thirteen writers. The second part includes prose and poems on re-imagining Africa by eleven authors and the last one is a play by two authors Chenjerai Mhondera and Susan Muchirahondo entitled 'A Boy in search of Africa.' This is what attracts my attention for it feels like African writers are talking to each other.
As already stated, the book includes five youthful Malawian poets; Beaton Galafa, Emmanuel Chitsanzo Mtema, Jonas Zaithwa Chisi, Martin Chrispine Juwa and Mtende Wezi Nthara, who have gradually become a darling in poetry circles having contributed their work both in local and international projects. Their poetry pieces; Words Untold and Behind It by Emmanuel Mtema, Time is a Farce, Black Hole and R.I.P by Beaton Galafa, Refuse to Die, Doppelganger and My Adze by Jonas Chisi, and African Pride and An African Drum by Martin Juwa, colour the pages of the anthology fittingly. Mixed with other able hands, these Malawians demonstrate great mastery in producing quality work through eloquent language, intense images and metaphors that great authors have. Together, all poets in the anthology have woven spells of mystery, snapshots of everyday life, glimpses and depth of emotion.
In Malawi, one cannot find such viable projects that can run annually as these. Well-known publishers engrossed in publishing textbooks do not have initiatives to support the budding and upcoming writers. And youthful Malawian writers are finding solace in blogging, self-publishing, on-line publishing and sending their work outside the country to expose their works and raise their voices. That is not supposed to be the case. Charity should begin at home for Malawi to be visible than being shortlisted in continental and global awards. A Book publisher can take a solo project just to borrow a leaf from this Zimbabwean publisher to establish a podium for grooming local writers and exposing them to the world. If that would be too much for one publisher, then associations such as Malawi Writers Union (MAWU), Book Publishers of Malawi (BPAM) and Malawi Union of Academic and Non-fiction Authors (MUANA) can create a pool of stories, poems, essays and academic papers. Artworks from Malawi combined with others to the rest of the world by a Malawian publisher would be ideal for substantiating the reason why Malawian poets have previously grabbed global awards.
Sorry for the digression, but the anthology in question woven in more than one language, and focused on good quality, addressing emerging issues is a master piece.
In his poem 'An African Drum,' Malawian poet, Martin Chrispine Juwa, reminisces life in the rural Malawi;
I left my farm to the next village Where drums were shouting And women ululated; followed by rolling and turning of hips And scratching of the 'spirits' feet Both men and women danced and faced different directions Dripping memories of a short-lived joy Like punctured water balloons
Collecting for this anthology, Tendai Rinos Mwanaka, who is a publisher, editor, mentor, thinker, visual artist, musical artist and literary artist with over 30 books published in English and Shona, cast his net wide in search for the African soul through poetry, a journey he started in 2015, and which will be carried on for many years to come. The 300-page book is a wilderness of poetry inciting an endless emotional drive for reading, learning and research. Thus, I find it difficult a task to be calm, having fed my eyes on the beauties and remarkableness of this anthology, and opened my ears to the intelligent, thoughtful, truthful and rigorous voices, especially the mysterious element in it.