Mbizo is the official poet in residence for the ISOLA International Conference of Oral Literature 2010 at the University of Nairobi. He is also the Guest poet at the 2010 Arts in Translation conference in Iceland. He was Africa's 100Best Books delegate at Swedish cultural book/cultural centres and the Goteborg Book Fair in 2003. Mbizo founded the Writers Caravan, a creative writing initiative in Zimbabwe. He is also the founder of an amateur poetry conference, a poetry festival and other projects.
He is a widely anthologized poet, published in more than 35 journals, magazines and anthologies around world.
Five Questions with Mbizo Chirasha:
1. The title of this poem suggests the interaction between page ("pen") and performance ("breath") poetry. Do you write your poems primarily for the page or to be performed aloud? Do you think a poem can succeed at both equally?
I believe poetry I write can be performed and read successfully, for I believe the impact on written work can affect readers the same way it does to listeners in a spoken word session.
2. If you write your poems to be performed, how do you feel about your poems being displayed in print, with no audio component? Do you think something is lost when your poems aren't heard as spoken from your voice?
I used to think this, when I was still young in this art/craft. Now because I have grown strongly in this industry, I am understanding the dynamics of the voice we get both in readership and listenership.
3. When you perform your poems, do you have them memorized, or do you read them from the page?
Most of my performances are memorized works 'cause the audience reads, so when you read in front of them, they think that you aren't be a performer, but a writer or a reader. Sometimes in commissioned events I will read, but I must say the greatest performer must perform his poetry by head.
4. You are one of our "poets on the ground" in Zimbabwe. What do you have to report on the current state of the country? Of the country's arts community?
The leadership must stop take chances with people. The unity goverment must bring proficiency and efficiency in the state of affairs. We need a leadership that respects nurses and teachers. One thing that I don't understand up to now is having seventy-six ministers and their deputies: for what?
While the country fails to raise money for power and water as well infrastructural needs, I have my own pan-Africanist views. But pan-Africanism mustn't be the support of the ideologies of those who bring countries from struggle. It must have a name tag of respecting people who are ruled and those who advocate for change. The local government has become corrupt with residential stands and hefty salaries while cities are bathing in sewer. I wonder where is change?
5. How have Zimbabwean artists been responding to the country's struggles?
A lot of things have been happening: discussions, poetry sessions like Poets for Human Rights, and book cafes have offered platforms for voices of freedom. Visual exhibitions are being curated that try to articulate the state of the nations. But some artists don't participate because they feel the impact, they do it 'cause somebody is sponsoring them, or they become voices of those who have agendas for resources and other political reasons.
While I agree that corruption brought us down, other political forces also played part in the fall of the country. Politicians must remember to leave pure legacies and those from outside who say they beliveve in human rights must not do things with double standards, but instead with a focused vision to build Zimbabwe. We as Zimbabweans will also help find the solution if we put hands together here in the first stage of the unity government. I trust it will work for the good for the people of this nation.