The famine, which ravaged the nation in 2002, has offered irresistible inspiration for one of the country’s talented and rising modern-day poets, Ndongolera Mwangupili, to weave a piece that has found its way into an international collection of poetry.
Mwangupili’s poem, In Queue for Relief Maize, is among the 40 poems rolled and packed in an anthology titled Free Fall, which features works by other 14 poets from such countries as Norway, USA, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South Africa, among others.
In an interview, the poet said the devastating 2002 famine might have been forgotten, but it left painful memories in its trail as some people died.
“I was teaching at Champhira in Mzimba at that time and I witnessed the snaking queues of famished people waiting for relief maize. It was distressing as some literally collapsed while children cried uncontrollably,” said Mwangupili who is now senior inspector of schools based at the Northern Education Division in Mzuzu.
He added: “It was quite traumatic. It was pretty heart-rending.”
And true to his word, the opening stanza of his poem aptly evokes sorrow as it goes: It drizzles, it drizzles/Yet we stand in the queue/Our soaked coupons in our hands/For the coupon/Is light/Is hope/Is salvation.
The poet observed that it is unfortunate that it appears such gloomy history keeps on repeating itself.
“I understand a disturbing famine also hit the nation way back in 1959 before it resurfaced in 2002 and this time around it is here again,” said Mwangupili whose other poems have been published on international literary websites.
Apart from In Queue for Relief Maize, Mwangupili has two other abstract pieces, Upon Facing the Moon and Abysm, featured in the same anthology, with the former highlighting feminine beauty and the power of womanhood while the latter explores the fear of emptiness in life.
Published by Authorspress of India and edited by Zimbabwean Ndaba Sibanda, Free Fall, by and large, reflects a fascinating diversity of cultures, concepts, colours and continents as the poems delve into a wide range of pertinent issues such as human rights, treachery, love, freedom and domination. n