Title: Echoes of Blunt Voices
Author: Patrick Hwande
Publisher: Veriest Solutions International (2011)
DRIVEN by the desire to awaken the idle revolutionary spirit in citizens, Patrick Hwande compiled an 80-poem anthology, Voices Of Blunt Voices, at a time when Zimbabwe was at the height of its worst post-independent political and economic crisis.
REVIEWED BY BENIAH MUNENGWA
Being a teacher by profession, he touches on the plight of teachers — but this becomes a microcosm of the bigger problems afflicting the entire civil service epitomised by the teaching profession — focusing on their living conditions and poor remuneration.
And there’s no way a teacher can talk about himself and exclude students’ affairs for without a student, the teacher’s existence would be irrelevant.
In the poem, An Offender, Hwande laments the way authorities disregard the plight of students, who are sent away because they are of low means and, therefore, cannot pay for their fees and levies on time.
The persona’s voice is not explicit, but it carries such potency that you will not think twice. The collection thunders in its simplicity, even as the poet refrains from using oxymoron, settling for simple, every day words with no hidden meanings.
The poet comes across as a keen observer and chronicler of the evil that stalks society, dealing with the pitfalls that come with puberty, a time when maturing girls fall prey to sex predators. This theme is like a running thread that ties together the poems Mother’s Anxiety, Incest and It All Happened in the Teacher’s Room.
The pain that stalks the terminally ill, the barren, the poor and the silenced like shadows is well-captured in the anthology in which Hwande’s voice calls out, pokes, incites, provokes and arouses. One, however, feels that the shout is rather muffled and, therefore, not powerful enough to tower over contesting ideological wars.
This scenario is presented in Echoes from the Diaspora, among many other poems. It is a poem with an ordinary voice calling out for the right to vote. Just that and it’s so open that it can be heard better in a non-poetic way.
With the language simplistic and mundane, it makes the anthology more persuasive rather than militant as in the case of Thomas Bvuma’s Every Stone that Turns.
The bulk of the poems collected here are meant to be instruments for spreading political consciousness.
My feeling, however, is that Hwande’s poetry is not condensed enough to provide a big thud or multiple layers that would draw a reader back to them over and over again. Poems that are polysemic in nature, even in their simplicity, have always stood the test of time.
One is persuaded to believe that the collection’s title, Echoes of Blunt Voices, is apt, because the poems hit right on the plight that has become a common experience for Zimbabweans disillusioned by the political and economic failures of the country’s leadership.
Blunt voices do not cut in very deep. It is another voice that endorses the “they and us” narrative. And in any case, anyone can belong to either side. That is the beauty of literature. It rips through society’s fault lines.
I don’t see Echoes Of Blunt Voices “pinching a giant in the buttock” as Hwande says. The anthology, like many others, has not been engaged in movements for economic or political liberation the same way feminist literature has been exploited by gender activists.
The collection offers variety in terms of thematic approach, touching on diaspora, segregation and political injustices, among other concerns.
And because it was published six years ago in 2011, it is clear that Hwande’s first anthology, his entry ticket, missed out on literary awards. It is not an anthology for those that fall for deep poetry, but for those that would concentrate mostly on themes, but not form or complexity.
But Hwande has to be commended for coming, up with that piece of works whose thematic concerns continue to hold sway after six years. This is the beauty of relevant literature, that it can endure the test of time.
Hwande has made his contribution. Go and read Echoes Of Blunt Voices and discover for yourself the depth of his insights.