Togara Muzanenhamo was born in the Zambian city of Lusaka and spent his childhood on a farm in Zimbabwe. He studied business administration in Paris and The Hague. He returned to Zimbabwe after graduation and worked first as a journalist before joining an organization that produces African film scripts. In 2001, he moved to Manchester to specialize in creative writing at the university. His poems have appeared in many magazines. His first collection, Spirit Brides, was published in 2006 by Carcanet Press and reached the shortlist of the Jerwood Anderson First Collection Prize. His second collection, Gumiguru, was published in 2014. At the end of 2014 came Muzanenhamo’s third: Textures, which, alongside his own writing, also featured verses by John Eppel.
Muzanenhamo’s poetry is characterized by a driving, lyrical tone and a subtle plasticity. Using these delicate instruments, he manages to evoke entire worlds in an atmospheric and suggestive manner. Muzanenhamo is an empathetic poet, a poet who doesn’t just show the reader the contours of his own personality but also gets into the minds of other people. In the poem, ‘In the Music of Labour’ for example, which comes from the collection Gumiguru, he portrays a man cutting grass with a scythe. Action and psychology seem to merge and reinforce one another. The poet gradually moves from the outside to the inside, until we become witnesses to a tragic life in the third couplet: ‘why his jaundiced wife believes God will save them all, / is just as unclear as why his newborn’s unfinished death/ hangs heavy on every dawn,’ before zooming out again to ‘the mastered art/ of his arm fluent with the song the hours constantly sing.’
In ‘Portrait off a water through’ again from Gumiguru, we are led in a comparable manner into the world of an old man searching for a runaway calf. In both poems, the vital forces of the portrayed character seem to be marveled at. In ‘Portrait off a water through’ we come across: ‘yet youth still whispers some reprise/ his hunched shadow won’t easily surrender or forget.’
In the cycle ‘Bluegrass country’, from Textures, Muzanenhamo reveals his political side. Here, two black jockeys, who were all the rage at the end of the 19th century in America, are celebrated. There are constant indications to the tragic history of the black American in these poems, from the ‘whip’s black hymn’ to ‘the blood of pinioned fruit’. The poet makes very clear that he identifies strongly with this history, but it never becomes lachrymose. The tragedy is deeply felt by the poet, but he holds himself in check with an intelligent and measured craftsmanship.
Spirit Brides, Carcanet Press, Manchester, 2006
Gumiguru, Carcanet Press, Manchester, 2014
Textures (with John Eppel), amaBooks, Bulawayo, 2014