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.
"Home" was first published at Chisiya Echoes.
Five Questions with Emmanuel Sigauke:
1. "Home" is almost a "word sonnet" - a poem of 14 lines in which every line contains only one word. Were you familiar with that form when writing this poem? If not, what drew you to writing a poem with only one word per line?
I knew about word sonnets, but I hadn't made the connection between them and "Home". It's safe to say that the poem dictated its own form, and I'm happy about it. My goal was to make each word stand alone in a sort of empowered position. Currently, I am reading poets like William Carlos Williams, Derek Walcott, Dambudzo Marechera, Dennis Schmitz, and the San Francisco surrealist poet Chad Sweeney. The more I read, the more I become aware of the importance of craft. I believe that freeing the word can be one of the most important characteristics of poetry as an art.
2. Speaking of your "Home", can you update us on how the political upheaval in Zimbabwe has affected Mototi?
Like most of the villages in Zimbabwe, Mototi is experiencing high levels of poverty. Recent droughts have weakened the subsistence of the village, and instead of it being the supplier of grain and produce to nearby towns, it's increasingly depending on the little the towns have to offer. As to the full impact of the political upheaval, I can just guess what's likely to be happening. Mototi usually has little political conflict; a recipient of government food assistance for many years, it used to be the stronghold of the ruling party and would not let any opposition establish itself. I haven't heard of inter-party strife: the most important need for the village is food and the most basic acquisitions. My focus, as is that of other Zimbabweans in the diaspora, is to make sure my family is taken care of. My writing, of course, shows that Mototi is always on my mind.
3. It seems every time we profile a poem of yours you have started a new literary project, the latest being "Mototi Litscape". Could you tell our readers a bit about this project?
Mototi Litscape actually started at the same time as Munyori Poetry Journal, but I never promoted it. I intend to use it as an expansion of the work I am doing with Munyori, to present it as a multi-genre journal for writers from all over Africa. The fact that writers haven't discovered it on their own makes me question the feasibility of the project. I am increasingly discovering that these internet-based projects don't run as planned, but I certainly love the talent that Munyori has managed to attract. Not all literary projects are created equal.
On a more positive note, when Mototi Litscape finally takes off, when I register and promote it, it might turn into a small press. Since there is a need for more publishers of African writing, I have given myself the challenge to start working towards that role.
4. Is it difficult to keep so many projects on the go? How do you manage your time between these projects, your working life, your writing life, and your personal life?
Managing these projects, I have found out, is easy. You concentrate on those that are doing well and ignore ones that are struggling. Given my busy life, I sometimes cannot manage all of them at once, so I wait for a time like now - Summer. I am not as busy anymore, which means I can take another look at Mototi Litscape and say, "Okay what do you want me to do with you?"
I am fortunate in that my work life is connected to my writing. I just finished teaching a fiction-writing course, and along the way I have renewed my interest in short story writing (I have a story coming out in the summer issue of SNReview). My college is also very active in the poetry scene, being the home of several poets. We have a poetry series and we publish a literary journal, which I help edit. So at work I exist as a writer in one capacity or another.
Personal life? I have plenty of that, and it's always the one triggering things to write about. Having believed I am a writer since I turned thirteen, I don't know how to separate the writer from, say, the man pumping gas, calling relatives in Mototi, or shopping at Safeway. But, as I said, I prioritize some projects over others, and when necessary, I use what corporate America taught very well: multi-tasking.
5. To steal a question you ask poets at your Munyori Poetry Journal, what writing projects are you involved in currently?
When I started writing I did everything: I wrote plays when I was a teacher at Glen View High in Harare; I wrote things I called novels; I wrote poetry and short stories; and I even attempted to write an English grammar textbook once (and I am close to doing this again). This summer I am going to perfect the craft of short story writing. I will continue to edit my poetry, but I am currently in a state of satisfaction since my poetry collection, Forever Let Me Go, is coming out at the end of June. I like the short story because there are a lot of competitions which pay well, so you can say I am writing short stories for the wrong reasons. Remember, I said I want to start a literary press eventually. Winning a good prize may bring me closer to doing this. Look at Binyavanga Wainaina of Kenya, who started Kwani? after the Caine Prize. Those prizes validate you and give you the right exposure, and targeting a prize because I want to fund a literary press helps me keep focused (on the art and the money).
Also, I was recently accepted into the Sacramento Poetry Center Board, where I host poetry readings every second Monday, and I contribute book reviews to their publication Poetry Now. Working with the SPC has shown me that Sacramento has a lot going on in the writing, especially poetry, scene. I am attending book launches and writing workshops. Somehow, this involvement will benefit Mototi and help bring an aspect of African writing to Northern California.
The new issue of Munyori Poetry Journal will be out on June 15. I like the range of talent and variety of poets in the issue, which features an international mix of writers from Zimbabwe, India, Cote d’Ivoire, the United States and other countries. The interview with Louie Crew of Poetry Publishers Who Accept Electronic Submissions is worth reading. I plan to include a book review page, the first installment of which will feature Quinton Duval's Among the Summer Pines, published by Rattlesnake Press of Sacramento.
Oh, I am reading too. Poetry--lot's of poetry. I mentioned some writers earlier, but I also finally purchased a copy of Harold Bloom's The Best Poems of the English Language: from Chaucer through Frost. I like Bloom's confidence in himself as a "colossus among critics"; he has done great service to English & American Literature. That he ignores other literatures is just as inspiring, as it serves to show that you can't always expect others to promote your literature. So I am also reading Dambudzo Marechera, Charles Mungoshi, Yvonne Vera and other African writers to find ways of presenting analyses of their best works.
Websites: chisiya echoes: new zimbabwe poetry
Munyori Poetry Journal