Magazine article European English Messenger

John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo 2014. Textures

Magazine article European English Messenger

John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo 2014. Textures

Article excerpt

John Eppel and Togara Muzanenhamo 2014. Textures. Bulawayo: amabooks, 91 + viii pages, ISBN 9 780797 494985 (soft cover).

In material terms this small volume of poetry by two Zimbabwean poets, John Eppel (1) and Togara Muzanenhamo, appears modest in its scope. Its title is unpretentious: simply "Textures'", which both Eppel and Muzanenhamo explain in the Introduction in terms of its etymological and metaphorical links with weaving. There are a fair number of poems, 43 in all, numerically speaking a majority of them by the elder poet, Eppel, in contrast to the sixteen by Muzanenhamo, although they vary in length, and several of Muzanenhamo's are more expansive and perhaps more demanding than Eppel's.

Inevitably, a number of too easy contrasts can be drawn up between the poets themselves. Eppel is a Zimbabwean whose South African roots were transplanted in early childhood into Bulawayo soil, a city--and its gardens--a location that has grown and sustained him for many decades, a place where he continues to teach literature in English to a schoolboy clientele whose ethnicity is now 90 per cent black. As other commentators have noted, Eppel's rootedness in Bulawayo has given him access to a full range of references to the natural environment, in particular the abundant flowers and birds that frequently find their place in his poetry. Muzanenhamo, for his part, is a full generation younger, and grew into young adulthood along with the emergence after 1980 of the liberated Zimbabwe. To some degree, in contrast to Eppel, his subsequent education has been acquired in the First World, and unlike Eppel's, his writing has more readily achieved recognition both within Southern Africa and also further afield--although since the 1960s Eppel has undoubtedly produced a wider range of poetic and prose writing, much of the latter subtly satirical, that would deserve wider recognition from an international audience, including one that has sometimes resorted to over-simplistic categorizations.

The generational shift represented in this collaborative volume of poems through the voluntary yoking together of two such poets--one ostensibly bearing the memory of the world of white, colonial and post-colonial "privilege", the other perhaps a voice of contemporary Zimbabwe, with its all-too-familiar litany of implicit fractures--has been nicely subverted by the layering, or interweaving, of their poetry into eight alternating sections, although none of them is headed, and there is no clear progression or comparison to be inferred from the selections of poems, other than the final "Epilogue" of Muzanenhamo's fourth section.

The volume itself has been usefully introduced by a fellow Zimbabwean, Drew Shaw, who points out that both poets are "dedicated to excellence in form" and to a "meticulous attention to the craft of poetry" (ii); Shaw also points out the domestic, inward-looking quality of much of Eppel's writing, in contrast to "the more international Muzanenhamo" (iii).

It might also be of value to consider the ways in which such a volume of poetry by two poets can be read: my own approach was initially to read each poem and each alternating poet consecutively, noting small details of composition and thematic focus, and considering the similarities and differences predicted by Dash. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.