Old, rugged road for poets


Poets,  who shape words into emotion-inducing tools, remain isolated from the royalties’ cake, as if they are sickly fruit trees set apart to prevent them from corrupting other ‘noble’ fruits.

Ask Poetry Association of Malawi president, Felix Njonjonjo Katsoka, and he will say: “We are working with Cosoma [Copyright Society of Malawi] on that and we are hopeful.”

Even Cosoma Senior Licensing officer, Rosario Kamanga, will echo the sentiments, saying “even with musicians, it [the issue of them receiving royalties] did not just start. There were procedures [that were] followed and that is what we are doing with poets”.


Consequently, as the poet waits for a bright, sunny day that will bring royalties to the table, creativity remains largely an unrewarding task for them.

Creativity should, in an ideal setup, be exciting.

Under a conducive environment, it opens the floodgates of success and reduces poverty—for a long time the sub-theme of Malawi’s dominant theme of warm-heartedness— to ashes.


So, as 2016 comes to an end, it is the same, old story for poets. Despite the fruits of their brains enjoying airplay on radio stations, and despite some poets venturing into the business of producing DVDs, only few poets can claim to live on poetry proceeds.

One of them is Joseph Madzedze.

“I abandoned work to concentrate on poetry. This is how I earn my bread and butter,” Madzedze says.

How comforting.

For the large part, though, the poet’s life is lonely and the financial rewards a pittance.

It must be borne in mind that it is not enough to make a name in the arts: those who join the industry must not only acquire a certain greatness, but become richer and happier than those who opened the way. This is the state of affairs that should be applicable in an ideal world of creativity.

Not for Malawi, though.

Instead of the creative industry being exciting and well-paying, it is grisly.

Take, for instance, the case of poets- those unique human beings who are capable of compressing the world they know and the world they create into stanzas.

One would think that the Felix Njonjonjo Katsokas, the Nyamalikiti Nthiwatiwas, Hudson Chamasowas, Sylvester Kalizang’omas, Evelyn Maotchas, Joseph Madzedzes would be reaping the fruits of their creativity.

However, theirs is a vindication that, sometimes, justice is blind. Poets who have produced albums will tell you that they have fought tooth and nail to convice with little success.

Poets who produce albums are left to check on piracy by themselves. They wish they could be the ones showered with monetary rewards because they deserve to lay their hands on the loot, too.

Add to the dish the problems of piracy and the picture changes from hopeless to ruthless.

Of course, sometimes the poets put the copyright authorities in dilemma. For instance, when some clueless poets incorporate folktale and village songs in their act, they make their story commonplace, forcing the copyright authorities to face a Hobson’s Choice as they walk the thin line of distinguishing the poet’s original work from stuff owned by the entire nation (the case of folktales, for example.

As we get into 2017, the hope is that progressive thinking – on part of poets and the authorities— can put an end to this fruitless misunderstanding.

Maybe, just maybe, 2017 will be different.

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