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The old, the new meet in ‘The Rising Voices’

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PREACHING NEW CONSCIOUSNESS— Malunga

There are many things to expect from The Rising Voices poetry anthology which, like a mantrap, is ready to grab every poetry lover’s attention.

In itself, the anthology signifies that there are no frontiers between established poets and those who are cutting their teeth in the industry.

For, in the book, the age-gap tumbles into a uniting factor between legendary poet Dr Benedicto Wokomaatani Malunga and relatively new broom Mashallo Samilo, who, after opening their brains into a chasm that has to be filled with stanzas, make sure that the anthology is strewn with poems that are a relish for the old and the young.

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More than anything else, this is what one finds in The Rising Voices, which truly shows that Malunga and Samilo are fortresses, steeped in their own order.

In the book, each of them rise from wherever they are and, through carefully concocted words, show that the sun of poetry in the venerable Malunga is still shining, even if many thought his art had reached its crescendo long ago.

For Samilo, who is still in the morning of his career, his otherwise infantile sun is allowed to rise with that of Malunga, and, like a duet, take the poetry lover on a journey of, at best, the mind.

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After all, self-discovery seems to be a subtle goal of the new poetry anthology, The Rising Voices, a co-creation of two poets of different generations.

According to Samilo, the very fact that the two of them have come up with works in the books is metaphorical, in the sense that he represents renewal while Malunga represents the foundation, the fountain of knowledge— the proverbial mdambo mozimira moto.

“Our poems are exploring stories that cover a diverse range of subjects,” he said.

True to those words, themes include those of struggle, joy, pain, abuse, pandemics, religion, neglect, war, politics, economy and nature.

“For me, it is a pleasure that I have collaborated with the finest living bilingual poet in Malawi, whom I have passionately adored. In fact, he has popularised poetry since the early 80s,” Samilo said.

According to Malunga, it is their cherished hope that the anthology will be a welcome addition to the corpus of Malawian verse in English.

The anthology, he further indicates, is a contribution to the tourism industry in Malawi, more so because it documents attractive places in Malawi.

The two poets added that “the publication will also facilitate the decolonisation of our syllabus, as we need to study and understand ourselves before we venture into other foreign literature”.

The Rising Voices, which is set for launch in September this year, has poems such as ‘The Dead Ant Walks’ by Samilo and ‘Cogitating’ by Malunga, among others.

‘The Dead Ant Walks’ goes thus:

An ant rises from the grave

It wanders on a floor of life again

It goes to the market,

Only to discover fellow ants,

Wearing masks, shields…

Washing hands every 20 minutes.

It goes to the bank only to find

peers

Being scanned at entry,

Social distance as a popular

habit,

It’s kind are siphoning liquor

With their hands.

It goes to the hospital to find;

Its kind dying

Like mosquitoes with pyrethroids,

Mosquitoes that made

A huge death row in Africa….

In ‘Cogitating’, Malunga is at his best:

In these tranquil environs

Of Chabwera Replete with serene greenness

Gifted to mother earth by

nature

In its infinite bountness

Amidst brooding

Indigenous trees

Carrying birds as babies

On their generous branches

Turned willing backs

I am a free man again

Insulated against toxic

Thoughts conceived

By tadpoles pretending

To be fully grown frogs

Capable of croaking

Loudly like they were

Endowed with the ability of scaring a herd

Of cows from drinking water

On a river bank…

There are, surely, many poems in the anthology which, when September comes around, promises to be a glittering pile of logically piled words.

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