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Poetry is all about love! An interview with Batsirai Chigama
Zanele Manhenga,
September 03, 2009

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Batsirai ChigamaWhen did realize that you liked poetry?
In 1993 when I was at Msengezi High there was a call for material to be published in the school magazine and I wrote two poems and they were accepted.

How old were you?
I was sixteen.

How did your parents react to your love of poetry?
They didn't really know until I started my actual performances. That's when they knew I was into poetry otherwise I was writing and keeping my stuff to myself.

What were you doing from 1993 to 2007?
I was just writing. I was not exposed to platforms of performance during that time. I was still in school and there was nothing else going on.

Why did you waste time?
I can't say I wasted time because that experience I went through of going to college and doing all that I did has helped me in what I am doing right now. I went through a number of writing workshops; writing for film, drama and theatre. I think that has shaped the poet that I am today.

What inspires you?
It could be a smile, a word I hear in the kombi, some broken glass. It could be anything.

What themes are in your poetry?
When I started, you know how it is; I used to do love poetry all the time. Then I kind of grew up. Now I do thematic things like HIV/AIDS and the situation in this country. I used to be a person who was scared to write about things that were affecting us or things that were going on in our country. Now I'm not.

What challenges have you faced as a female poet?
For me, because I started this when I was all grown up there haven't been as many challenges as I am sure there would be for those who start at a young age. I haven't had any challenges. But platforms for poetry here are still limited.

How has the poetry industry been affected the last couple of years?
I think we were affected just like everybody else; we would get instances where we were told they don't have money to pay us, except for bus fare for you to come perform and go home. Listen

Given the chance what would you change in the entertainment industry?
I would create more platforms for poetry especially in schools. I think poetry is taken for granted some how. I would like to see poetry performed on a larger scale than it is right now. Listen

Is poetry a male dominated genre?
Yes it is. Even up to now if you ask me how many female poets there are, there are so few of them I can name them.

Describe your stage performance.
I am passionate and well organized when it comes to performances - that I can tell you!

Would you advise a young girl to become a poet?
Yes if its something you love doing, then why not. Everything is about the love, do you have the love, are you passionate about it? Listen

Who qualifies to be a poet?
I think it's your love for it - nothing else.

Where do you perform?
Normally I perform at the Book Café. I have performed at HIFA three times and at functions like on international AIDS day, and sixteen days of activism.

Who you perform with on stage?
I perform on my own most of the time but I think it's good to do collaborations and work with other musicians and artists. So sometimes I collaborate with other poets or with instrumentalists.

Which poets have collaborated with?
ERS, Upmost and Linda Gabriel.

Where do you see yourself in the next two, or three years?
I see myself with at least two books out, and a CD or DVD.

Do you groom up coming poets?
Yes I do. If I am called and somebody says can you edit for me, I am not saying I am good but I will do that. If they want to ask me questions I am available. But what I would like to see are workshops for poets only. Normally the workshops that are going on combine musicians and poets. I would rather have a workshop for poets only.

Why did you leave your other profession for poetry?
I think it's all about love. Poetry is what I love doing. I think some times you get to a point when what you are doing even if its giving you a lot of money and you not enjoying it you say it's about time to quit. Listen

Is poetry worth it now?
Not really. I can't say it's worth it now but I am sure it will be soon.

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