Poetry Anthology Review

Breath-taking Poetry Collection (Pun Intended): Poetry Anthology Review

Beautiful art is a pure gift. It has the power to seep into the most intimate parts of human beings and leave indelible marks in our souls. “For women trying to breath and failing (It’s not your fault)” is one such gift. This is a poetry anthology offered to us by Batsirai Chigama.

Batsirai Chigama is an acclaimed Zimbabwean spoken word artist, poetess, writer and literary activist who has been at the helm of Zimbabwe’s literary industry for decades. Her first poetry anthology “Gather the children” won a National Arts Merit Award (NAMA) (the most acclaimed arts awards in Zimbabwe) in 2019. With her second offering “For women trying to breath” she delivers beyond expectation. If the title of the book itself did not hook you I don’t know what will!

The book is broken down into six powerful parts. The first part being ‘Citizen woman in a land of the undead’ Chigama does not hold back in a symphony of poems that deal with the socio-political climate in modern day Zimbabwe. She is able to find humour in her poems though the overall mood of this section is grim. There is a complete shift in tone as we enter the second part which is ‘How love should be’. This section is light-hearted and romantic. Poems such as “if you were a book”, “our conversations” and “a thousand glorious summers” are effortlessly entrancing and made you wish you were in love the way these poems describe. For a creative famed for her uncommon ability to express grief, her love poems are gloriously romantic and at times cheeky.

Chigama takes another grim turn in the following part ‘For women who forgot to breath while alive’. This part deals mostly with women’s place in society, loss, pain and other subjects. This section is probably the most poignant and heartfelt section. “#fibroidsociety” (which deals with female infertility), “bullets of perseverance” (dealing with the toxic side of perseverance) and “for forgetting to breath while alive” (dealing with oppressed desires) were the stand out from my lens. Readers will come out of this section with a new perspective on life. The fourth section ‘For women failing to survive’, is where she demonstrates that she is a master, weaver bird of pain and anguish. The poems in this section deal with subjects such as prostitution, desperation and suppression. Chigama highlights some of the difficulties women in the Zimbabwean context have to endure on a daily basis. Top poems from this section were “hunger knows no shame” and “for mothers learning to breath and failing (it’s not your fault)”.

The fifth part of the anthology is titled, ‘For women finding their feet’ as these poems infuse a sense of healing, empowerment and positive change within the reader. This section takes up a bulk of the book probably as a representation of how healing often takes times and laborious effort. The final section ‘Random thoughts of a woman sojourner’ is a selection of fun poems, almost each one being inspired by a place/event or dedicated to someone.

Zimbabwe for the larger part still lives under a patriarchal society with women still disproportionately marginalised and eclipsed by a society that muffles their voices. The title of the book is a clear reflection of what these women have to face. Perhaps these poems not only for the Zimbabwean woman but for women worldwide. Chigama’s ability to portray deep, impactful feelings even in only a few short words are testament to her rare gift.

The book itself is a treat to just flip through with delightful illustrations generously spread out throughout the pages. Chigama’s language choice is simple and easy to read. The poems are in English with a few of her pieces infused with slang and Shona (a native language in Zimbabwe) phrases. The phrases are explained at the bottom of each poem. The book though skewed towards women is also relatable to men. The collection offers ‘breathing space’ for people to feel less alone and allow the human condition to be interrogated.

In “For women trying to breath” the poetess proves she is an artist in full command of her craft. The book is an excellent collection for both poetry lovers and the general populous who may not find interest in poetry. Chigama makes poetry as accessible as possible in these gems she has penned. The book is available on Amazon.

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