As poetry is enjoying a windfall of popularity in Malawi, Poetry Association of Malawi (PAM) fears over-organizing poetry shows in specific districts may dilute the taste and shorten the lifespan of poetry in the country.

So far, poetry shows have constantly been staged in Blantyre and partly in Lilongwe ignoring other parts of the country, a development PAM feels will soon bore poetry fans in Blantyre.

“This year we have witnessed a flood of shows in Blantyre. We are not yet halfway through the year but more than 10 shows have so far been organized in Blantyre alone. This is a concern to us because at this trend, the audience may get bored and the lifespan of poetry in Malawi may be shortened to just 2 years,” says Sylvester Kalizang’oma, PAM’s Publicity Secretary.

Citing an example of stage drama, which at one point enjoyed popularity but now is in the doldrums, Kalizang’oma who is also a poet of Unkalindanji Moyo fame bemoaned the tendency of some organizers of poetry shows who haphazardly organize shows every week with an aim of making money other than developing the art.

In view of this, Kalizang’oma said PAM banned all poetry shows in Blantyre with an aim of paving way to ‘Land of Poets Festival’, a festival it intends to host in July this year.

“We banned poetry shows from 1 May to July this year within Blantyre, but organizers of poetry shows are free to spread their wings to the rest of the country during this period. The aim is to starve the poetry lovers in Blantyre for a short period so that when the event comes on July 6, their hunger should be fully satisfied,” he said.

PAM said this is the reason why this year it has not hosted their regular Chitsinda cha Ndakatulo and therefore calls upon poetry organizers to respect the directive so that when the festival comes, it should receive the desired patronage.

“We [PAM] have not hosted Chitsinda cha Ndakatulo this year, a show which we could organize every month in previous years with an aim of paving way to organizers to host theirs. Therefore we are calling upon them to respect the order,” he said.

While admitting to respecting the order, Kenneth Khondiwa an organizer of Bwalo la Alakatulu who also works for Matindi FM said there is a need for organizers to communicate so as to give space to each other on how and when they intend to host their shows.

“Like for us [Matindi],” said Khondiwa, “We always communicate with our fellow organizers from Joy Radio and Ufulu FM on our calendar of events so that we should not collide with them. But others feel it’s their right to host any show anywhere.”

But Kalizang’oma said PAM has the mandate to discipline or even ban any organizer or poetry member who does not comply with the established rules.
Kalizang’oma therefore advised poets not to lower their standards by accepting to perform anywhere for the sake of money but set their standards high for the sustainability of poetry in Malawi.

“We know because in most cases, poets are underpaid, some of our poets want to earn more by accepting to recite anywhere regardless of the set rules. We want them to set their eyes on developing poetry in the country and not just the benefits.

While admitting to reciting poems in bars, poet Joseph Madzedze said he does that with a mission to entertain every spectrum of the society, but understands that poets indeed should not be carried away by “useless shows but always mind about the established conditions of poetry shows.”

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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