Monday, 26 September 2016

New poetry anthology celebrates the city of Leicester

Taking inspiration from the city of Leicester, the poetry anthology, Welcome to Leicester brings together poems which celebrate the city.

Like a much-loved family member, Leicester’s faults are acknowledged but tempered with a huge deal of affection. The anthology explores the story of the city, as it is seen through the eyes of the people who know it best.

The anthology is published by Leicester-based Dahlia Publishing and was edited by Emma Lee and Ambrose Musiyiwa.

Ambrose Musiyiwa says:

Leicester is the site of one of the oldest known urban settlements in Britain and has made significant contributions to the development of the English language. It was at the centre of movements such as those that led to the development of parliamentary democracy in Britain, votes for women and the abolishment of the Atlantic Slave Trade. It is also one of the most plural and diverse cities anywhere in the world. There is someone from everywhere who calls the city home. We wanted to capture some of those diverse stories in a poetry anthology to show there's more to Leicester than a Premiership win and Richard III.

Emma Lee says:

National Poetry Day's theme this year was messages so we asked for poems that contained a message or story about Leicester city. We asked via mainstream and social media and 182 poems were submitted from Leicester and beyond. From these we chose 90 to go in the anthology.

Dahlia Publishing is a small press based in Leicester, founded in 2010 by Farhana Shaikh. Dahlia Publishing manages both The Asian Writer and Leicester Writes.

Farhana Shaikh says:

Our diversity policy is at the heart of everything we do: we’re passionate about publishing regional and diverse writing and have signed up the Equip Publishing Equalities Charter. Welcome to Leicester is a sister anthology to Lost and Found: Stories from Home, an anthology featuring short stories from Leicestershire writers.

Welcome to Leicester will be launched at the African Caribbean Centre, Maidstone Road, Leicester LE1 0ND from 7pm on Friday 7 October 2016 during the Everybody's Reading Festival.

Entry is free.

The launch will feature readings from the poets involved. Each poem in the anthology contains a story or message about the city of Leicester.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

World Peace Day: Leicester asks Britain to stop military intervention in Syria

Today, September 21, is International Peace Day.

Since November 2015, Leicester Against War / Leicester For Peace has been staging a weekly protest asking Britain to stop military intervention in Syria.

The protest takes place from 5.30pm to 6.30pm at the Clock Tower every Friday and is the longest running current protest of it type in Britain.

This week's protest will feature a performance from Leicester's leading street choir, the Red Leicester Choir which is also calling for an end to British military intervention in Syria.

In this video, United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon explains what International Peace Day is about and how everyone everywhere can be a messenger for peace:

*See also:
[1] A selection of photos from one Leicester Against War/ Leicester For Peace protest, and
[2] A playlist of videos from the protests.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Translating Tavengwa Kaponda

Tavengwa Kaponda is possibly one of the best Shona poets alive and writing today.

Kaponda is bi-lingual and is as comfortable with English as he is with Shona. He might also be conversant in a number of other languages that are used in southern Africa but he writes poems in Shona. His poems have been featured in a few bi-lingual magazines like Tsotso that publish poems and short fiction in English and Shona.

I first got a taste of his poems close to two decades ago when he used to write and give readings to a very small set of people. Then, as now, I was impressed by the depth of his knowledge of Shona poetry and how he came across as a distinct voice within the canon of Shona poetry.

Some of his poems are now starting to appear on his Facebook page. One of the first poems I came across there was "Gwenyambira":

Gwenyambira angakande mbira
mudziva otya kusara nechitima chechimanjemanje.
Mutinhimira nhemamsasa mutasvi wenguva
anowana wakamumirira
pachiteshi paanodzikira.

I loved the poem for how it could be read as a commentary on the relationship between the artist and his/her art.

In a Facebook conversation about the poem, a friend asked if I could translate the poem into English and, although I'd never tried translating anything from Shona into English or vice versa before, I had a go, and this is what I came up with:

The mbira player might throw his mbira
in the river, afraid he is going to miss the train [of what's new].
The mbira beat, rhythm and tempo, the rider of time
will be waiting for him
at the train station when he gets off.
The exercise was fascinating and revealing.

In my translation, I use 'he' and 'his' but the poem itself doesn't mention gender. The mbira player could be a man or a woman.

There were also references in Kaponda's poems that I couldn't translate into English. For example, I translated "Mutinhimira nhemamsasa" as "The mbira beat, rhythm and tempo" but that that doesn't fully convey what the phrase means. This is because nhemamsasa or nhemamusasa is a particular type of mbira music. It has particular significance in the Shona musical-social-spiritual-cultural tradition and is particularly associated with events where families or spirit mediums commune with the ancestors. Here is one example of it:

The music tends to be unwritten and it tends to be passed on from one mbira player or one group of mbira players to another. In that respect, it is very much like Kaponda's poems which, although they are written, they are mainly unpublished and can only be accessed when Kaponda gives readings or when he posts them on Facebook. And even when he does that, there might also still be need for them to be translated into other languages.

And like the mbira player who has received the beat, I took "Gwenyambira" to a South Leicestershire Poetry Stanza meeting recently and read both Kaponda's poem and my translation. The discussion that followed also looked at the mbira, the mbira player and the context within which nhemamusasa is played and the challenge inherent in trying to convey these references and contexts in translation.