Interview: Ndaba Sibanda  


PPP Ezine: Who are your favorite poets, if possible, also tell us what makes them your favorite?


NS: Without a shred of doubt, Okot p’Bitek is one of my favorite poets. I think of his blend of poetry as epic, free and flowing. Through his pieces like Song of Lawino one encounters a lengthy structure of short, free verses which flow rapidly and easily. He employs striking metaphor, proverbs and orature to showcase and tackle the social, political and cultural alienation bedeviling the African people on the African continent.


I also admire Jack Mapanje because his works depict an amazing measure of courage, originality, imagery and stinging irony. His voice is uncompromisingly fearless in the face of dictatorship and incarceration. A poet, a linguist, a human rights activist, a teacher of the literature of incarceration— Mapanje is the voice of the voiceless and powerless. What more, his works are imbedded in African rich oral traditions.

I also like works of many contemporary poets.  Other writers whose works I find interesting or worth mentioning include Frank Chipasula, Ndongolera Mwangupili, Phathisa Nyathi, Bernard Ndlovu, Ken Saro-Wiwa,, Chenjerai Hove, Micere Githae Mugo , Mzwakhe Mbuli , Wole Soyinka, Christopher Okigbo , Ben Okri , Maya Angelou , Alice Walker and  Amiri Baraka.


PPP Ezine: This one is a direct descendent of Matthew Arnold’s Touchstone Method: ‘They say that there are lines in a poem that make its heart. You may call them the poetry of poetry. Do you remember some such lines of yours or from some of your favorite poets that will help us understand your vision of poetry? If yes, please do give us some of those lines.

NS: Yes. Perhaps the following lines constitute the heart of my poem 12 Days: 

 at nine o`clock  l was whizzed to a funny family doctor

who robotically administered eight jumping jabs

on me without as much as a wink for his antics

l actually saw seven stars of dizziness with my naked eyes … and slept

for six silent hours like a dull dumped puppy pumpkin



PPP Ezine: There has been a debate raging among the lovers of free verse and formal verse. Where do you stand in this debate? Why?

NS: Poetry forms are/were invented and developed by poets in their quest to enhance the aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language, and therefore I should not be a slave to them. If I can manage to express feelings and ideas with a certain measure of intensity in whatever form, then that is fine with me. I do not consider myself a formalist though I have written and published a couple of couplets or narrative poems or epic poems. At times I enjoy a diet of free verse because it does not follow any rules.  I believe that each piece has its own mood and theme, hence narration and style change from one poem to another.


PPP Ezine: You have been writing for a long time. If you could tell us something about what inspired you to write poems in the first place, and then, what kept you going, it’d be inspiring for the new poets.

NS: I was inspired by my classmates, the institutionally– chosen examinable books we read and the things I heard and saw. What kept me going on was my passion. I will repeat what I said in another interview a few years ago: Passion is that power that breaks down boundaries, and takes you to unknown places.


PPP Ezine: Give our new poets a few tips (3 or more) for composing well.

NS: My advice is tied to my mantra which based on creativity, originality, positivity and perseverance.  Do not despair. If you have the right drive and gift, then you are on the right course.


PPP Ezine: Rejection is a life-long friend or enemy of a poet. Please tell us how you responded/respond to your rejections in the past, and now?

NS: In the past I used to break down and feel inadequate or devastated after receiving a rejection slip.   However, now I know that rejections are the ointment for improvement or reflection, or part of the literary game, and that they do not always necessarily bare one`s inadequacy or idiocy.   Take lessons from rejections and be motivated to move on as a better artist.


PPP Ezine: A poet has a cultivated mind. Give us some pointers to cultivate the poetic faculties/genius.

NS: A poet, like a farmer has a cultivated mind because he/she has to plant, tend, harvest and improve his piece so that it is fit for public consumption.  In other words, good poets work to make their pieces of art better by writing and re-writing them and by reading experienced poets` works. They do not harvest or submit to publishers any pieces that are not ripe or ready!


PPP Ezine: You have been published and read widely. Please give some tips on submission that increases the chances for selection.

NS: My advice is tied to my mantra which is based on creativity, originality, positivity and perseverance.  Do not despair. If you have the right drive and gift, then you are on the right course.



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