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Blind moon - Collection of poems by Chenjerai Hove
Reviewed by Patrick Burnett, Fahamu
December 16, 2004

Published by Weaver Press LTD. Exclusively distributed by African Books Collective Ltd, The Jam Factory, 27 Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1HU United Kingdom


Chenjerai Hove used to dream of flying so much that his father even considered sending him to a traditional healer so that he could be cured of the ailment. He refused, telling his father: "Why should I not dream like that? It is so beautiful to fly."

Hove writes in the introduction to the extraordinary collection of poems contained in Blind Moon: "the borders of human geography are broken only when poetry speaks. and poetry speaks not only about landscapes, but about peoplescapes, the human body and its aspirations to be someone else. the human soul and its dreams be all the souls of animals and birds and the winds and the skies. life is like that. and life is poetry"

Blind Moon is extraordinary because it seeks to fulfil the ambition of life as poetry; poetry as life. Given Hove’s dreams of flight it is no surprise that much of the poetry contains allusions to flying, although the immediate temptation to associate this with escape would be wrong. Perhaps it is just beautiful to fly, to give expression to the soul that is deep within each of us and yearns to be released into the space that is the sky, to take off and soar not as a way to leave our daily lives but as a way to fulfil our own individual potentials. It is sometimes helpful when reading the poetry to imagine yourself "flying with outstretched wings" along with Hove through a universe of human experience.

This is not to say that the poetry is always uplifting or lost in a Wordsworthian consciousness of babbling brooks and fields of daffodils. There is a sadness and contained fury in much of the poetry, born out of the situation in Hove’s birthplace and nation, Zimbabwe. It is clear that to fly does not mean separating the individual from the land, from the politics of daily life, although politics of a tyrannical nature is seen more as a restriction to human potential – a restriction to flight - than something which helps to lift the human spirit.

Hove feels the anguish of Zimbabwe acutely and gives voice to it throughout this collection, sometimes in haunting and evocative style, as in "…there is a painful piece of land inside me…a pain without a name, inside me." Nor is Hove afraid to direct his anger. He writes: "…on your way to the house of power…you refused to listen…to the tunes of the birds…the birds of your conscience." Sometimes poetry that dabbles with the political risks being reduced to diatribe. But the strength of Hove’s poetry is that it does not fall into this trap: it is firmly located in the broader context of human suffering and experience and because it touches emotions on this level it is all the more stronger, all the more representative of the general human condition.

Apart from the mastery Hove demonstrates over his lines and the skilful and innovative way in which he makes the language work for him, the wonderful experience about this volume is that it is a mere 60 pages long. Yet read as a whole it is rich in touching a range of human experiences and emotions, seeming to move effortlessly between earth and sky, love and death. It is angry and sad, but it is not bitter. In Hove’s world there is still hope, there is still love, there is still emotion. There is potential for a better world where the human soul can be released to fly like a bird.

Hove was born in Mazvihwa communals land, southern Zimbabwe, near the mining town of Zvishavane. He is best known for Bones, which won the Zimbabwe literary prize in 1998, and the 1989 Noma Award for publishing in Africa. Other published works include Masimba Avanhu? (1986), Shadows (1991), and Ancestors (1994). He has travelled extensively throughout Africa, Europe and the United States on lecture tours and his books have been translated into several languages, including French, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Swedish, Dutch and Danish.

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