When he was asked what art poetry is and what a poet actually does, renowned and legendary man of verse Allen Ginsberg replied: “Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It’s a time of the night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think; making the private world public.”
Little wonder, both fun lovers and artistic minds are increasingly getting captivated and attracted to the verse for entertainment.
Huge audiences tune in to poetry programmes on radio stations while thousands turn up for poetry shows, be it at Robin’s Park in Blantyre, the Great Hall in Zomba and ICA Marquee in Lilongwe.
To spice up the party, Lilongwe-based Christian CANtv has gone a step further by introducing a television poetry recital programme.
According to Chris Roka, co-producer and presenter of the programme, CAN intends to serve an audience which they feel has been left out due to their different daily schedules.
He further explains that the aim for the programme is to provide a forum for talented poets with a special focus on those who compose spiritually uplifting verses.
“We want to influence the visual senses of our audience. We are already running trial broadcasts and a fully-fledged programme is rolling out pretty soon, probably end August or early September,” explains Roka.
The programme, called Mlakatuli, is exquisitely presented with some richness of styles.
“It’s a one-hour programme airing on weekends and it was arrived at after observing the massive interest that people are having in poetry in recent times. As such, CAN radio and television wanted to give people what they like at the right time,” states Roka, who presents the programme alongside ChikondiChadza.
Roka underscores to Society that Mlakatuli will enhance the diversity of the medium for spreading the gospel.
“Apart from promoting and exposing hidden talents and acting as a platform for upcoming and existing poets, the programme wishes to teach and expound the gospel with creativity and innovation. The justification of the programme is that it falls within the domain of CAN’s mission statement in the sense that it delivers the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ to all nations,” he adds.
On how they identify poets for the programme, Roka discloses that preference is given to wordsmiths that weave spiritually encouraging messages.
“We don’t play poems or feature poets anyhow, but we first assess the messages so that we give out something which can motivate and encourage people spiritually. We require poems of good quality and those in-keeping with our vision of making Jesus Christ known to all nations,” says Roka.
He also assures the programme’s followers on its sustainability based on its model.
“We don’t think the programme will die just like that because we have modelled it to be successful. It’s also gender balanced and that’s why my co-host is female. This was done considering that it is not only men who love poetry, women also do. Apart from the regular radio and television programmes, we will also continue to host Mlakatuli Fest just as we did in September 2014 where different poets from across the country performed at Sheaffer ICA Marquee in Lilongwe. The patronage was marvellous and we are planning a bigger event this year,” he discloses.
Felix Njonjonjo Katsoka, president of the Poetry Association of Malawi, has described the programme as a positive development worth adopting by all television stations in the country.
“Much as us, poets, haven’t ventured into video productions, we hope this initiative and, of course, the coming of so many television stations, would help us grow and diversify. People are increasingly demanding that poets be as innovative as possible so as to move with the times. I believe that such initiatives as CANtv’s will spur us into producing poetry videos and we will strive to be more creative and come up with works that are of higher standards to appeal to television audiences,” he explains.
Katsoka then asks producers to involve the poets in the actual conceptualisation of such programmes.
“It’s important to get us involved so as to inform proper programming and make them more lively and appreciated. The stations themselves also need to be creative in terms of how they will be selecting poets to be featured in their programmes,” states Katsoka.