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Interview with poet ERS: Keep knocking on that door and it will open!
Zanele Manhenga,
July 16, 2009

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Read Inside/Out with poet ERS

Poet ERSWhen did you get interested in poetry?
I started poetry in terms of writing when I was in high school at the age of 14. I started performing poetry professionally four years ago.

How did your parents react to this?
They didn't take it kindly, especially my father because for him the idea was for me to do something that would have an ensured an income for me. And so he was hoping that I'll do something other than poetry, something that entails an office job with a fixed salary at the end of the month.

Are you saying then that you are content with being a poet financially?
Relatively because for me and for anyone else I think it's not about the income but what you want. If you're working at something that you enjoy, something you love doing even if the income is not as much as you want it to be, as long as you're enjoying that something then it can take precedence over anything that would pay more.

Did this convince your father?
Well he said to me it was my decision, he would allow me to do what I wanted. But he made it clear that he was not very enthusiastic about me taking up professional performance.

Who inspires your poetry?
Different people Dambudzo Marichera, Chirikure Chirikure and D.H Lawrence, most people are inspiring in their own way. They have something that I as individual can see and also realize that I can do things in a different way. If you look hard enough, you can always find the good in everyone. But I would most like to be like those artists who are sincere to their art, to themselves and to reality. Listen

What is the theme of your poems?
Of late I've been talking of social things that are affecting people in terms of politics, economics, and family relations and customs and all that.

What challenges have you faced as a Zimbabwean?
The challenges that almost every other Zimbabwean has been facing in terms of the dollarization of the economy, and the lack of freedom of expression and the food shortages. You find that as long as people are facing these challenges it will be difficult for them to come for your shows and pay.

As a female poet how have you experienced life in Zimbabwe?
It's an interesting experience I must say because of the gender equality thing people will always want to balance the performance line up. I'll find myself performing and I'll wonder whether I am performing because I'm good or what? I suppose it's a good thing coz my predecessors they had problems performing as female artists. Because of this new political dispensation in terms of gender equality is has made it possible for us female artists to perform.

Given the chance what would you change in the entertainment industry?
I would help artists guard against exploitation and also make sure the government realizes the importance of artists to the economy.

Is it worth it to be in the show business?
There are days I wonder what I am doing here, why I am entertaining, but even if the money is not good I realize that what am doing is changing someone's life. There is joy in giving someone something that changes their lives.

What advice would you give people listening to you?
No one is promised tomorrow and today has already passed. Many people have said this statement before but I have realized time can fly past, and you're saying you will do something tomorrow or you say you are depressed; who knows maybe tomorrow you won't be there but at least if you enjoy the moment and try to leave it as it is.

What advice can you give upcoming artists who want to be part of the industry?
They should try to be themselves. No matter how unpopular you may seem to other people out there strive to be yourself. Keep knocking on that door; one day it shall open. Listen

What's the tip of the week?
Persevere in what you are doing even if it seems there is no hope for tomorrow.

Would you encourage any one to be in the entertainment industry?
Yes but I want to tell them that its not an easy industry to be in. You have to keep working at it. While you have the talent, that talent needs to be polished. Try to listen and hear what other people are saying and doing.

Which relationships should a person in the arts develop?
Relationships which are true, relating to people who will always tell you the truth, who will not always say yes to whatever you say and people who know what they are doing. You must always network with other people. Even if they are not in the same field as you. You will be surprised to find that you could also work with those other people.

Should artists actively pursue producers and promoters?
I don't think they should go running after producers. It might be a good idea but you have to realize that those people are there to do a certain job. If you go after them they will just produce a CD and probably it might not be the right time for you to do that CD. You need to know yourself as an artist before you make a decision to have that CD; you need to be ready before you do an album.

What qualities does one need to have to make in the show business?
Talent, passion to do it and the drive because the drive is what will push you to put the talent and passion together and make it work.

Describe your stage performance
My stage performance is always about connecting with people.

How often do you perform?
It used to every 2nd Saturday of the month at the Book Café in Harare. But I want to perform as often as possible.

Are audiences enjoying your performance?
Yes they do love my performances, people always come up to me and say they enjoy my performances and I meet people who ask me where and when I'm performing. But if people don't come up to say they enjoy your performance it can be difficult to see if people like your music.

Does poetry have genres?
With poetry there are styles, there is dub poetry, there is spoken word and performance poetry. Dub poetry is when you do poetry and you make it sing song and you put music to it. Spoken word is a bit difficult to explain but it is fashioned after American poets. Performance poetry is just poetry whether doing a recital of a poem or presenting a poem in a theatrical form. Lately I've been trying different styles.

What is the catch factor about you?
So far I would like to believe that I'm the only poet who performs her poetry with mbira and plays the mbira herself.

When are you releasing your album?
I'm not ready yet. You need to ready for certain things; you just don't go to producers and say you want to release an album. I'm working on new material and when I have finished working on it, I will probably work towards releasing a CD.

Do you write your own poems?
I write my own material and also compose the instrumentals myself.

Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10
10. I am very ambitious.

Audio File

  • Be true to reality
    Language: English
    Duration: 28sec
    Date: July 08, 2009
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 437KB

  • Gender equality
    Language: English
    Duration: 55sec
    Date: July 08, 2009
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 869KB

  • There's a joy in giving someone something
    Language: English
    Duration: 34sec
    Date: July 08, 2009
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 539KB

  • Keep knocking
    Language: English
    Duration: 11sec
    Date: July 08, 2009
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 181KB

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