Exciting, cryptic and intimate are some of the words experienced writers have used to describe Grace Sharra’s winning poem My Letter To You which came second in a continental poetry contest.
The Babishai Poetry competition drew writers from across Africa.
The poem outclassed about 2 000 entries and has earned her space in the Babishai publications. Sharra, a teacher at Mitundu Secondary School in Lilongwe, said she joined the competition few minutes before the deadline with a single entry.
Her motivation was an encounter with the competition’s founder, Beverly Nambozo Nsengiyunva, who, after reading and listening to some of her recitals when she visited Malawi early this year, encouraged her to try her luck.
“I feel dazed. It is unbelievable if you take into consideration all circumstances. This is one poem that took me little time to compose and submitted just five minutes away from the deadline,” she said.
Sharra said the winning poem stems from many things.
“Nothing is sacred anymore. We no longer value things such as loyalty, integrity, kindness and honesty,” she said.
Reacting to the news, Malawi Pen president Alfred Msadala praised Sharra for her work.
He said: “People say we cannot continue to practice because of lack of publishing avenues, but that is committing homicide of the muse in oneself. What she has achieved is so impressive and as a country, we must all be celebrating.”
Beverly Nsengiyunva said Sharra’s poetry is unique in the sense that she writes with confidence.
“The form of the epistolary is revised and deployed to achieve certain intimacy; this poet has great promise,” she said.
Born and raised in Ntcheu, Sharra says writing is what has made her who she is today. She recalls her early days at Domasi College of Education where she began her writing and publishing with local newspapers.
The former teacher at Dedza Secondary School said she is inspired by her family members, most of whom are writers. She also admires the works of Frank Chipasula, Lindiwe Mabuza and Jack Mapanje on the local scene.
Sharra, who is now reading for her first degree in education at the University of Malawi, Chancellor College, says her dream is to publish a poetry book.
Her brother Albert Sharra, a journalist at Nation Publications Limited, said as a family, they feel honoured by the success.
“She is just amazing and we are not surprised by her success. She reads a lot and raises difficult questions on natural occurrences and lifestyles,” he said.
The top three winners of the competition are Marial Awendit from South Sudan, Sharra and George Gumikiriza from Uganda.