Interview with Julius Chingono

http://osher.in/rotterdam/chingono.jpg1. How did you get into writing poetry? Did any one thing push you over the edge?

no
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2. Do you work on just one poem at a time, or do you work on several at the same time?

several
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3. Poets spend a lot of time perfecting their craft, and then perfecting each piece. How do you balance this with family life and with little income (compared with the input)?

I work daily. I do not know how long it takes me to complete a poem.
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4. These are difficult times, and they say laughter is the best medicine. What makes you laugh?

Because I am part of the society I write about.
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5. Is there a particular goal you seek when you write? Awake others? Entertain them? Tell the truth? What?

Tell the truth
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6. How do you know when a poem is ‘finished’, and do you stop work on it then and there?

It is difficult to convince myself that a poem is complete.
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7. You are to encourage poetry students to write a poem. Please come up with a “writing prompt” out of your own experience, or out of something else, using anything that invades your mind right now. Very short and simple.

Put pen to paper and write whatever comes to your mind.
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8. What writers, living or not, have influenced you the most?

Pablo Neruda, Charles Mungoshi, Oswald Mtshali
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9. How do you write? Drink coffee, wine? Listen to music? Type, scribble? What atmosphere do you feel out of place not writing in?

There is no place I feel I cannot write
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10. Here’s an on-going poem. Please add to it.

They stood before me that night
With clenched fists and blown pupils,
Shadowed by leafless branches of a cotton tree,
The moon as bright as the moon and no metaphor

For which image can serve? What simile
Makes sense enough? The ghosts that guard
The tree nod yes, though I’ve not said a thing.
One shade uncurls and crooks a bony finger, calling me.

The voices rise up like be-headed trees
I stumble forward fear at my heels
How did this night arrive and where is wisdom’s heed
“Gone my child is your clothes — face now this thing.”

So strip off your nudity, and learn to be naked.
Release your fears as branches drop leaves
And let yourself see.
The man with an axe stands by
About to chop your ego,
Stand well away.

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Zimbabwean poet, Julius Chingono, has been published in magazines and anthologies in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. Recently, he was detained briefly for reading one of his poems to a public. You can read some of his work at Poetry International.