Riding on the moon in Mpina’s poetry
By Foster Benjamin:
Prolific poet, writer, economist and teacher William Khalipwina Mpina’s latest collection Mooning the Morning is, by far, a wild ride.
The ride, packed with 44 verses, out from Montfort Media, takes off with ‘Kampepuza’.
“In ‘Kampepuza’ I’m honouring the memory of those 22 people who died in a truck accident at Kampepuza Market in Ntcheu, in 2021,” Mpina begins, “As a poet, I explore various emotions, including loss and grief.”
He boasts that this volume—which is his fourth after ‘Shadows of Death and other Poems’ (2016) ‘Blood Suckers’(2019) and ‘Princess from the Moon’(2020)—truly remains his masterpiece; a kaleidoscope of sort that “depicts the real feelings and emotions in a manner [that] every soul can relate to.”
“This is a therapy for the things we’re going through in life,” he says, “Honestly, I write to speak the unspeakable, to tell the untold, and to sing the unsung.”
Along the journey, Mpina takes the reader up to Sapitwa Peak—Malawi’s highest point.
In Sapitwa Revisited, ‘the speaker’ meets benevolent spirits/and beg those ripe fruits.
However, the spirits’ generosity, sad to say, is a double-edged sword. Beneath it lies deception and ‘a big threat/to have us around//and never return’.
“Sapitwa Revisited is a call for the return of souls lost in the invisible caves of Mulanje Mountain,” he explains, “when those souls get lost, or trapped, they’re detained by the spirits; hence the call to have them back.”
And the call, Mpina adds, is also a sheer protest, or rather, as he rightfully puts it “a peaceful demonstration to the higher authority to give back what was taken by force, or in unforgiving circumstances.”
Of course, his other poems clearly take readers on an inner journey, exploring their deep consciousness. In ‘Africa is Not a Drum’, he vividly captures the push-and-pull of the Western attitudes towards Africa’s economic status.
“Our continent is still subjected to economic exploitation by the West and, lately, the East,” Mpina laments, “They toss us this way and that, literally beating us like a drum, and recolonizing us indirectly.”
In this piece, Mpina cries out:
Africa is a drum beaten
By everyone who thinks is
Clever enough to make noise
In the world and break its belly
Africa is an eye
….the secret path to the soul
Of the earth whose members are black
Why creating loops of suffering on blacks?
Power white power
The Moon though white
Can’t heat the world
Africa is not a drum
Well, the ride in Mooning the Morning pauses for the reader to acknowledge the power of prayer. In “Prayer for Dew Drops,” the persona is faced with a dilemma: two rivers, both serving bitter waters, drying up and a hut—by the rivers’ side—disintegrating.
“Here, the narrator views this scenario as a result of migration, separation, carelessness, and self-destruction,” Mpina explains, “The three units [ two rivers and a hut] cannot, in any away, be redeemed from the pangs of life, trials and travails; pain and suffering. What he [the persona] only thinks as a solution is a prayer to invite dewdrops to fill the rivers or debris, the ash and the shimmering sun to break and turn the pain of poverty.”
Through suchlike poems, Mpina has established himself as one of Malawi’s poetry greats writing today. He’s, no doubt, following in the footsteps of his uncle Edison Mpina, renowned poet and novelist.
Fellow poet Benedicto Okomaatani Malunga attests to William Mpina’s fierce lyrical powers.
“Mpina is a typical example of a rising star in poetry because, despite training as an economist, he has taken time to understand his craft. In my view, he’s currently the most prolific writer in English who is taking Malawian poetry to greater heights,” the “Ndizakutengera Kunyanja Ligineti’’ hit-maker says.
He’s not the only poet singing Mpina’s praises.
Zimbabwean celebrated and outspoken poet and publisher, Mbizo Chirasha, is quite another. Chirasha, who calls himself the “black poet,” describes Mpina as a “griot-poet-chronicler, whose chronicles are purely didactic, who pens soul-rending psalms with a heavy heart.”
“In one of his introductory poems, ‘Africa Is Not a Drum’, the poet spits unto the corrupt-charged face of the capitalistic community/master architects of neo-colonialism without mincing his verbiage. Yes, this poet-griot-chronicler, this African literary warrior, is all ready for a new revolution. He just turns into one militant writer, fighting for the truth and liberty of his Africa-land. Surely, Africa is not a drum, cannot remain a drum, and will never be a drum again,” Chirasha told this reporter.
Commenting on Africa’s poetic landscape, Chirasha, who is also a poetry festivals manager, a live literature producer and advocate, observed that it [the landscape] is one transformative, candid and diverse.
“Artistic voices are rising and candid. They speak truth to power, the truth against machinations of colonialism. Indeed, the voices are growing and becoming even more diverse, and they need not to be ignored. Let me say that Mpina is one such voice [needed] to be taken seriously.”
In fact, Mpina’s voice is already echoing through “Mooning the Mooning,” inviting his readers a ride on a life’s journey in time and space.