Revisiting Hove’s poetry collections

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By Gracious madondo

Chenjerai Hove’s poetry attacks all forces that degrades the lives of ordinary people.

Presented with utmost simplicity, wit and accuracy, Chenjerai Hove’s poems are laconic and pregnant with meaning. 

Chenjerai Hove has four published poetry anthologies namely “Up in Arms” (1985), “Red Hills of Home” (1985), “Rainbows in the Dust” (1998) and “Blind Moon” (2003).

The major concerns that run through these anthologies include colonialism, gender issues, peace, war and conflict and most dominantly the impact of corrupt political leaders on the lives of ordinary people.

As Maurice Taonezvi Vambe rightly points out, Hove "reflect the progression of his idea and experiences from the hot anger and challenge to colonial repression, through the scrupulous observation of the effects of liberation war rural communities, to disillusion and bitterness over the failure of the new government’s promises.”

Hove is a Zimbabwean novelist, poetry, and essayist. He was born in 1956 in Zvishavane, in the then Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe and passed on in July 2013.

Hove is well known for his NAMA Award winning novel “Bones” (1988), were he captures the pain and suffering faced by Zimbabweans during colonialism, paying close attention to farm workers of the 1930s and 1940s who were synonymous with the brutal exploitation of the time.

Hove also published in both English and Shona such as “Shadows” (1991), “Ancestors” (1996) and “Masimba avanhu?” (1986; “Is This the People’s Power”).

The issues Hove tackles in his novels are very much similar to those in his poems.

In the anthology “Up in Arms” Hove ponders on all forms colonial of colonial injustices.

His sentiments over the people living under the British colonial rule is the same as that in his novel “Bones”.

 The poem “Boy”, in particular depicts the humiliation of an old African man working as a gardener for a white family.

 

Your pension thirty-year job-

You have faithfully groomed,

While Bosses go and come, renewing that boyishness

Inheriting in your and garden, but ever “boy”, never “men”

Maybe a bigger garden will make you a field men.  

 

In the poem, Hove also exposes how African men were emasculated, as they were accustomed to work in white people’s compounds, owning no land or property without proper payment and working conditions.

The dignity of African men was completely distorted as black men were not entitled to equal respect as equal beings.

 

Booted on ancient buttocks

By weak boned madams

Who rob your humanity

Implanting slavery and hate

Even yoking you…

 

Hove also takes a closer look at the impact of war on both black and white women.

In “A War torn-Wife” and “A War Time Wife. Hove addresses how both black and white women suffer when their husbands and families are torn are part by war.

Considering the time these poems are set, which is during the liberation – a time which was characterized by racism, many believes that Hove showed his humanist side when he protested against violence against both black n white women.

Some however stand to question his allegiances as a black Zimbabwean as he seem to sympathize and even take sides with the oppressive race.

The poetry collection titled “Red Hills of Home” largely laments the effects of colonialism including colonial education, erosion of African culture and physical displacement.

In the poem “Bulldozer”, alludes to colonialism to the mechanical bulldozer, which tramples over the African burial sites destabilizing African societies, their sense of belonging and ownership of land.

In the poem ‘Independence Song” Hove depicts how independence shortchanged the people’s hopes of true freedom and equality due to corrupt political leaders

Independence came

But we still had the noose

Around our necks.

 

For Hove freedom became a dream deferred as politicians replaced the white colonial masters and enjoyed the national cake amongst themselves.

“Blind Moon” is Hove’s latest and sadly his last poetry anthology having been published in 2003 ten years before his death in 2013.

Issues raised in “Blind Moon” are in perfect coherence with themes from his previous poetry collections.

Hove artistically expresses his love for telling stories through poetry as he writes in the preface of the anthology.

“The world is the leaf that is floating in the wind next to me. The task of the poet is to tell the story of how the leaf is floating in the sky with his or her heart also,” Hove writes.

As thus Hove tells the story of how the country’s independence is “like a baby that came too early” as Thomas Sukutai Bvuma (2011) says.

 

In his poem titled “Search”, Hove expresses how the country’s independence come characterized with suffering and death.

 

After the search

 

There is nothing

 

Except the coffin and the dying homestead.

 

As the title of the anthology “Blind Moon” alludes to how the light from the sacred moon has been tempered with and in this case by politicians.

 

The ‘blind moon’ becomes an illusion to betrayal. Leading to a society characterized with injustice, inequality and exploitation.

 

Hove writes to awaken the spirit to fight against political exploitation in the poem “A Poem for Zimbabwe”, were he says,

 

If I fall silent

 

You will be silent too

 

Your wounds will be named silent.

 

The simple language that Hove employs in his poems is very appealing to the senses as Tanaka Chidora (2018) puts it.

 

“Hove’s simple poems specks to the soul. You sense, in those lines and verses, the poet’s desire to communicate with you, to open up to you, to confide in you, to confide in you his joys and fears…”

 

 Hove’s poetry coherently tells the history of Zimbabwe from all the three stages of the country’s political phases, a testimony that poetry can be an effective way of capturing and retelling history.

 

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