Emmanuel Sigauke was born in Zimbabwe, where he started writing at the age of thirteen. After graduating from the University of Zimbabwe with a BA in English, he moved to California, where he completed graduate studies. He teaches English at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento, where he is an editor for the Cosumnes River Journal.
Five Questions with Emmanuel Sigauke:
1. Who are your favorite poets? Which authors have most inspired or informed your work?
I am addicted to Dambudzo Marechera, William Butler Yeats, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, and Freedom T.V. Nyamubaya. I read all kinds of poets too; I am an equal opportunity reader.
2. What do you hope to accomplish with your poetry?
At first I was just writing to send two or three poems to Memory Chirere of the University of Zimbabwe, who had asked me to send a few lines for an anthology he was editing.That was in August of 2006. The anthology was derailed by the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe, but I have since written over 370 poems, so now I plan to publish collections, once I arrange the poems thematically.
3. "The Other Side of the River" speaks of how being away from your homeland has affected you. What has been your personal reaction to Zimbabwe's current economic and political crisis? Does your distance change your reaction? If so, how?
I left Zimbabwe before the crisis began, about eleven years ago, but I have been deeply affected by the changes, especially in the sense that I have had to take financial care of my entire extended family every month. Inflation there has tended to create a dent in my wallet here, and I believe that the diaspora has contributed to the country's survival. The distance has had the effect of helping me respond to the crisis through poetry. As a writer, I find myself digging deeper into the crisis, and seeking to ponder on its root causes, going beyond the superficial depictions in the media. The poetry is not necessarily a political response, but it seeks to expose the true Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe I remember, the Zimbabwe I envision.
4. What can be done to better promote and support African writing in the United States?
We have to start publishing ourselves. Thank you for One Ghana, One Voice. On October 5, I am launching Munyori Poetry Journal, which focuses on works by authors from anywhere on earth. I value the fact that it is going to be an online journal published by an African editor. I am also going to join Zonet Online Radio (run by Zimbabwean DJ's) to introduce an African Writers segment. Of course, African writing is already promoting itself here. African writers are attracting mainstream publishers through their award-winning works, and I see a shift and increased interest toward Africa as a source of creative talent. For African writers who want to promote the African image in world literature, this is the best time to do so.
5. How would you compare the English education you received at the University of Zimbabwe and that which people receive in America. Do the students and/or staff approach the subject differently?
I attended the University of Zimbabwe at a time of great transition. I emerged from A-Level drunk with British and American literatures, but the University of Zimbabwe exposed me to African writers. For the first time we called Achebe, Ngugi, Soyinka and other African authors real literature. The students had been starved of a literature to which they could easily relate; thus this exposure was necessary therapy. Now, that's not to say we forgot British and America Literature altogether. After that first year of emersion into African literature, taught by young (and sometimes old) African professors, we then returned to Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Yeats, Faulkner, the same writers who had influenced a majority of the African authors we were studying. We then widened to other world literatures - we had gulps of Russian, Caribbean, and Indian literature. We went on to add an important dimension to our studies: most of us discovered Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and Alice Walker. In short, our English studies had a wider scope than that I found was offered at most American universities. Now as a college professor in the United States, I stress the importance of expanding the canon to include more world literatures, something that an American English degree should deservedly reflect.
Websites: chisiya echoes: new zimbabwe poetry
Munyori Poetry Journal