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  Eghosa Imasuen
  Mpalive Msiska
  Roi Kwabena

  Nnedi Okoroafor-

  George E. Clarke
  Kimyia Varzi
  Uche Nduka
  Amatoritsero Ede
  Obododimma Oha
  Leila Aboulela
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Msiska-Hangson Mpalive

Mpalive Msiska

Dr. Msiska is a Senior Lecturer in English and Humanities at the Birkbeck University of London. He is a Judge for The Caine Prize for African Writing. He has previously studied in Malawi, Canada, Germany and Scotland and has taught at the Universities of Malawi, Stirling and Bath Spa. He has published conference papers, Journal articles and books, including: Wole Soyinka, (1998); Writing and Africa (Longman, 1997) Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart: A Critical Guide (Routledge, 2006) and The Quiet Chameleon: A Study of Poetry from Central Africa (Hans Zell, 1992). Forthcoming publications include, Post-Colonial Identity in Wole Soyinka, (Rodopi); He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Southern African Studies and of the Editorial Advisory Board of The Journal of African Cultural Studies. He is also an Examiner for the Commonwealth Essay Competition.

 Six Poems


Banana Leaf

When winter is gone
I shall write you a poem
Simple like the shape of the universe
Peaceful like the green of a banana leaf.

No more ancestral shrines on our plateaus,
Perhaps a bit about dancing women -
Talismans of an ageing chief

While time is still
Do not share the petals of my heart.
The hills, bare and desolate, have refused to pray for rain.
We must go before the night sleeps
There they do not beat drums on Sundays.

Please take me to the river
I want to plant love in the mouth
of a crocodile

                                   So human the scorpion’s smile.

                                                  (Stirling, 1988)


Between Edinburgh and Stirling

(For My Father)

Trees running past the window,
Two women waiting for a bus,
In the sacerdotal dance of mediation,
Transparent membranes to heaven.

Tickets please!
Thank you.

Can I ask the question,
Beyond tickets and train times,
Where the sheep in the meadow,
Can inscribe a question mark
on the hands that feed and shear?

The day ends as it started,
Between barriers of space and time,
To the colours of a homeless rainbow,
An evening of concrete words
in the edifice of an iron jungle
A solid empire of coins with faces from the sky,

I ask about the Star of Africa,
About the gems of the Limpompo and Zambezi,
The tea fields of Mulanje and Tchyolo,
The grey ore of Chitipa,
Shimmering Emeralds in the hands of unsparing soldiers.

They no longer fight there,
The rains refused to come,
The earth is no more edible,
Too much blood has corroded goodness.
Under the blue African sky,
Gold nuggets disgorge flying rags,
Red locusts writing names in letters of smoke,
Men in hats with Ostrich feathers reminisce about Switzerland and
New York
as in the entrails of a fecund bareness
Death became our kinsman.

(Stirling, 1988)


Green Marsh
(For My Mother, Dairess NyaWuhango-NyaWukandawire)

Walk through the green marsh into the yellowy light of sunset,
And when you have reached the hill,
when you have turned and looked back at your footprints,
Close your eyes,
And listen to the anguished cry in the breeze.

Should you feel lonesome,
Think of the evenings outside the kraal,
Just before the cows come home,
The herd boys whistling Sunday school songs,

Of the mountain women gracefully shaking their giraffe necks,
Of their wistful eyes begging to know if it is true
Her voice confides our story in the empty night.

Remember the silent song of a brook by grandfather's house,
Christmas after university results
and the journey between the school parade and the mighty roar of
the snake.

If the shouts of barefoot village boys in the rain,
If the memory of crossing the rainbow on a calf,
Do not remind you of the smell of burning grass,
The foreboding carnival of swallows,

Trees will grow in your heart.

(Bath, 1991)



(For Emily)

You shall arise child,
Not when the promised trumpet sounds,
No, not when the dead and the quick gather,
No, not when the flowers in the valley bloom again,
Not when the echoes of the waterfall stampede down to the

You shall arise, my daughter,
Not when I am gone to fetch the Golden Fleece,
Not when the dust settles on a long distance bus,
Not when I take you to the Compound of the sleeping,
No, not when it’s all said and done.

You shall rise again, my warrior,
Not when the memory of Shire turns into the
thunder of gods with epithets.

Yes, You shall rise again,
When the clouds of vipers gather below
the martyr who lies by the river I took you to see,
The day you said you preferred oranges to guavas.

You shall rise again
When I bring you a basket of fireflies
From grandma's moonlit garden.

Arise my warrioress,
So the fire of flowers and grapes of Zomba market,
May stretch into God’s white clouds.

Arise and go.
Arise and speak.
Arise and Thunder.

(Bath, 1992)





To the Poet

(For Derek Walcott)

Old Crooner, teach me the song of your youth and the solemnity of
old age,
Without you, I would not have known the beauty of the sun-drenched
villages of your heart’s archipelago,
The sea-salted grapes of the bay,
The mangled words of shackled Africa,
Rich with the coral splendour of cruel history.

God created Islands, but you gave them back to us a gift in syllables
of mango and rum,
The fire of the heart,
The hunger of the soul,
As desire for the secrets of Sargasso Sea,
As vision of a new earth and heaven.

You named bird and tree in the tongue of the despised,
You quickened dead nouns and verbs,
You gave us back our words,
Our worlds.

No more songs of exile,
The land breeds its own metaphors of survival.
We shall mould all the remnants into a statue of infinite vaporous
A balm on the voyager’s yet untrodden paths.

(London, 2005)


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