Tendai Mwanaka

an Eastlit Interview by Graham Lawrence

Graham’s Note:

Tendai usually concentrates on Africa but in a couple of our early issues he had some Asian themed poetry published. It was always great to see poets and writers cross continents and regions.

What do you do outside of writing?

Tendai Mwanaka: Eastlit interview April 2015Visual art (photography, drawings, collagen, painting, video) sound and musical art, and once in a while marketing consultancy. I am a good cook; gardening, socialising…and church related activites, too.

How do you find time for your writing?

Basically that’s what I do full time, so I am always writing, and its easy because I do it from home, so that everything else that I do revolves around writing.

When did you first start writing?

In 1994, when I was barely 20.

Could you briefly summerize your literary activities and achievements?

VOICES FROM EXILE, a collection of poetry on Zimbabwe’s political situation and exile in South Africa was published by Lapwing publications, Northern Ireland in 2010. KEYS IN THE RIVER: Notes from a Modern Chimurenga, a novel of interlinked stories that deals with life in modern day Zimbabwe’s soul was published by Savant books and publications, USA,  2012. A book of creative non-fiction pieces, ZIMBABWE: THE BLAME GAME, was published by Langaa RPCIG (Cameroon 2013), a novel entitled, A DARK ENERGY will be published by Aignos publishing company (USA, 2015) and a follow up nonfiction collection to Zimbabwe: The Blame Game, entitled Zimbabwe: The Urgency of Now, will come out from Langaa RPCIG (2015). Published work in over 300 magazines, journals, and anthologies in over 27 countries.

Which poem or collection of your own writing means the most to you and why?

I love the poems I have been writing the last two years, as I begin to really see my journey to myself through these poems. I have gone too personal. I am not ashamed of expressing some things, feelings, thoughts, that I couldn’t express with my earlier poetry. I am becoming secure in my thoughts and feelings thus I do enjoy what I haave been writing for the past two years

What does being a poet mean to you?

I love poetry. It is my first love…and other art genres or fields comes second. I feel proud being a poet, even though it doesnt reach a lot of readers and is not well appreacited anymore. It is this that really makes feel proud of myself as an artist because it makes it easier for me to access my innermost me because by nature poetry is always emotional and personal.

What is poetry?

In order to find poetry or meet poetry, you have to run away from home on a way to yourself. Thus poetry for me surfaces sometimes plainly, sometimes vaguely, from the boils and lesions of sleep, so that as a poet you are wounded. Its through the wound inside (tortured heart or soul) that the artist in you holds you in your bosom.

How would you describe your writing process?

It’s a void (wound) inside me that propels me to write, like we seek food, love, appreciation, to quench different types of hungers and wants in us. I have to write to sooth or quench this void, that makes me want to write so as to sooth it or quench it off, and like hunger, once I have quenched it, I feel real good with myself, but it comes back again. I have to write some more to quench it, again and again. So, it becomes an endless or perpetual process of hunger and feedings. That’s why I feel I don’t know how to stop doing this, or being part of this. If I can’t write it’s as if I have forgotten to breath. It means I am always writing to stay normal. The biggest part of the year, I rove around genres, writing and collecting pieces, until when I decide to focus on a particular project, because I feel there is enough to go by with that project. Thus I stumble upon most of the projects I write. But sometimes I just decide I want to write around some concept, topic…, and thus straight off I concentrate on the project, and I can only stop when I have completed it.

Are there any Asian poets, writers, artists among your major influences?

Anne Ranasinghe, Changmingh Yaun, Aju Mukhopadhyay, Essarci, Rabinranath Tagore, Vattacharja Chandan, Upal deb…

What is your favorite poem? Why?

I don’t have one favourite poem…I am open minded so I tend to enjoy poems from all over. I love experimnental free verse poems, poems that bore really really deep into the psyche or soul of the poet, or me, the reader…

What are the Asia-related subjects that have recently engaged your attention?

I love and enjoyed hearing how the Asians are making it happen, by taking over from the western world as leaders in almost every facet of life…just as examples, the Indians produce the best doctors, science and technological products and experts in these fields, the Chinese’s massive leaps towards taking over from the USA as the world’s largest economy, the Japanese’s engineering methods, the Koreans, etc…, hoping someday Africa would have its day, too. I am fascinated by everything Asian. It is always a fresh breath of air.

If you hadn’t been a poet what would you have been?

President of Zimbabwe! Just joking, but I could be anything…I have always been adept at taking to new careers. Growing up, I wanted to be a scientist, at one time a lawyer, accountant, was a marketer. At school I was good in pretty much every other subject (pure sciences, human sciences, business subjects), except for english which I was poor in, thus being a poet or writer is what I never thought I could be.

How did you find Eastlit and what are your impressions of it?

I do journal a lot, so I stumbled upon it online, and liked having my stuff published in Asia. Generally I really like it when I get published in not huge english speaking countries or regions. Eastlit do publish great writers all over the world and its an exceptional adventure. I am grateful to have my work published there (Asia).

*****

Thanks to Tendai Mwanaka for taking the time to give us an interview. All of us at Eastlit wish him the best in the future.

The following work by Tendai Mwanaka has featured in Eastlit:

Tendai Mwanaka’s The Blame Game is available from the African Books Collective. You can find a synopsis or purchase it by following the link. His book of short stories Keys in the River is available from Amazon.

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