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Are you looking for a refreshing voice in Zimbabwean (and probably African poetry)? Tariro Ndoro’s debut collection Agringada: Like a Gringa, Like a Foreigner is a poetry anthology to grab. I should say in this collection of great poems Ndoro played with poetic form and style to traverse the wonderful motifs of Afrikan literature. She tamed language, perfectly blending it with her experiment with structure to come up with great pieces that help one to view the human condition as seen, heard and lived in the day to day activities of her personas.

In this collection one cannot meet the usual poems written in the usual formats characterized by rythm, stanzas and probably punctuation as we know it. No! There is a sweet playfulness and experimentation which made this anthology different from what I have met before.

I saw poems that read like conversations. For instance the poem ‘Francistown’ captures one of the spirit of the anthology, that is depicting the predicament of being a Zimbabwean in a foreign country. The conversation ends with a very important question on how the foreigner manages to sleep in a ‘car’ ‘trailer’ ‘back of the truck’ and “under the tarp” which receive an equally important and loaded answer “We think of the Hunger// The bread queue// empty shop shelves” p41. Faced with such an existential threat, like the leprosy chaps in the book of Kings, the traveller realizes if we remain here we die, if we go we die so let’s die on the move.

Each time I read ‘Fragments: Weekend Mythos’, I find myself traversing familiar scapes of frightening and fascinating myths of mermaids and the Rozvi adventures to the moon, warm meetings with grand mothers reminding me I’m flesh of their flesh. It took me to a time and place when we rushed in the dust of our herds heading to the diptank before enjoying the smell of dipping chemicals. The poem speaks of the familiar tattered pages of books ‘eaten’ by ‘zvipfukuto’ leaving holed ‘plots’. The poem wonderfully takes me down memory lane when we danced to the songs we didn’t know the lyrics, Christopher Columbus the great man, before making it “into supper by firelight” with “orange flames” while being entertained by melodious “cricket songs”.
The most interesting bit of this poem is the one on the insignificance but necessary Christian religious rituals of attending church of England every Sunday before ‘a surprise baptism: glacial water on the girl’s forehead’ which propels an adoption of a new name which doesn’t stick anyway. The baptismal certificate gathers dust sitting alongside the last image of ‘a long-dead grandfather last seen in the summer of seventy six’ .

The ending of Fragments: Weekend Mythos introduces the themes of the following two poems ‘in seventy-six’ and ‘Mbare City Heights’ which weaves the interconnectedness of history and the individual as depicted in grandfather and the persona’s struggles for survival in a colonial set-up. Mbare City Heights is divided into two parts with the first one titled Sekuru (grandfather) whom the persona never met though the persona is aware she inherited grandfather’s scowl and scrawniness. The irony of the family name which means luck versus the poverty of grandfather under the stewardship of white man makes this biographical poem great. The only place for such a single and poor man is Mbare City Heights.

Part 2 of the poem is titled Harari, a place where extreme survival skills are learnt and executed with finesse. One has to bath ‘with (and panty) soap in mouth’ and “buy a black and white TV// Even if you afford colour” to outwit and evade the thieves. This place again was too small for a family to live in, so “pa the factory worker” had to stay there. Regardless of a warm farewell when Pa left for Salisbury by the Kukura kurerwa bus he didn’t afford to send money when Hunger years struck home. The persona understood PA’s dilemma when he too went to Harari the man eater. The defining habits of Harari are complaining, drinking, violence, bhabharas.

If language is a career of culture and if culture informs the quality of works I can conclude there are many voices and cultures in Agringada: Like a Gringa, Like a Foreigner as shown in the poet’s experiment which hints her multilingual prowess.That is a well-written collection I should say that enlarges the boundaries of poetic form and structure without loosing the wait of poetic content and meaning

Published by advocateofunpopularopinions

I am a preacher confused in the constant happenings of life. I have been secretive about inner thoughts. Now I want to flow with them. I want to vomit. The pen is my link to the paper. The keyboard becomes the first step towards you. The internet will sort everything else considering I am not broke.

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