Interview on Wealth of Ideas

Batsirai E. Chigama is a Zimbabwean performance poet and short story writer. She has traveled extensively in Southern Africa performing at festivals, and her poetry has appeared in 5 poetry anthologies to date. In the following interview with fellow poet Tinashe Muchuri, Chigama talks about her art.

Tinashe Muchuri: Do you have a work ethic as a poet?

Batsirai Chigama: Read extensively, find time to critique myself before others do, keep writing.

TM: Besides poetry writing and performing, what other special talent do you possess?

BC: Give me an apron and good working oven any day: I love baking.

TM: What is your source of inspiration?

BC: Conversations with people, reading something or just silence—it has a way of speaking loudly to me.

TM: In how many poetry anthologies does your poetry appear?

BC: Five so far:

State of the Nation, Conversation Paperpress, UK, 2009

Whispers in the Whirlwind, Mensa Press, USA, 2010

Defiled Sacredness, Mensa Press, USA, 2010

Visions of Motherland, Mensa Press, USA, 2010

War against War, Mensa Press, USA, 2010

TM: What do you say makes your poetry unique?

BC: That would be for the audience to judge.

TM: Besides poetry, what other literary genres do you write?

BC: I write short stories and all the short stories I’ve written have found their way into different publications.

TM: How do you build your poetry performance confidence?

BC: Confidence? I am always shaking like a reed every time before I go on stage because almost every time I am performing for a different audience and I am so scared if I will be able to reach them. I don’t how it happens but many people tell me I’ve this power to command an audience to pay attention, don’t ask me where that comes from because I honestly don’t know and because now I’m conscious of that I have to make sure I’ve rehearsed well and just go out there and do my thing.

TM: Describe Batsie in a few words?

BC: Calm, collected: I have a very guarded temperament.

TM: What issues does your writing tackle?

BC: Eclectic I should say. I am not afraid to speak on love, good, bad; because everything else in existence evolves on the presence (or lack thereof) of these.

TM: Can you exchange poetry writing and performance with any other thing?

BC: Mmmm, let’s see. I would love to sing and write song lyrics as well, maybe.

TM: What can you say writing has done to you as a person living among a people in the community?

BC: Writing opens my inner eye, it teaches me to question, to challenge and try and find a solution to the day to day struggle that any other person goes through.

TM: How do you relate with poets of the opposite sex and how do they relate to you?

BC: It doesn’t matter what sex a person is. I treat everyone with respect knowing we are all gifted beings trying to make a difference and inspire others.

TM: Batsie, what can you say are the challenges you have encountered so far as a performing poet and as a published poet?

BC: Having a full-time job and trying to hustle as a poet has its limitations. It would be foolhardy to try and do without the 9-5 job because, honestly, one can’t live off poetry alone…or may be I should say I haven’t reached that level yet. I have to keep the job to finance the poet because there is a level of professionalism and image that I have to maintain. On publishing, I would say all the anthologies I am published in are not local, it’s difficult in that my work, although it has a wider audience, is not available locally.

TM: You have travelled to perform outside the country, any advice you may want to pass on to the next generation of poets who may also want to perform at festivals outside the country?

BC: When you go out there expecting to find the comfort you have at home, you will likely be disappointed and it’s unfortunate that the best of lessons for me have come not under the best of situations but I cherish the experiences. Go with an open mind and try and absorb just the positive things you find.