The never-ending debate on what constitutes poetry has resurfaced following the release of a list of best 20 poems from the last decade by Sapitwa Poetry.
Sapitwa Poetry is a movement dedicated to the promotion of local poetry in the country by providing a platform for local creatives can showcase their work.
In coming up with the list, Sapitwa Poetry said they considered factors such as downloads, frequency of play by media outlets, audience reactions during live performances and impact.
Sylvester Kalizang’oma’s masterpiece Umkalindanji Moyo tops the list, Benedicto Okomaatani Malunga comes second with Ndidzakutengera Kunyanja Ligineti, Udzafa Imfa Yowawa by Robert Chiwamba is on third spot with Chala Changa by Raphael Sitima on fourth position.
But critics and poetry lovers have punched holes in the list.
Some poems on the list such as Kudikira Mzungu by Felix Njonjonjo Katsoka, Andilimbira by Gospel Kazako and Ndidzakutengera Kunyanja Ligineti by Malunga were written before 2009.
Politician and social commentator Ken Ndanga wrote on his Facebook page after the list was released: “I have always contended that we find a proper name for theme recitals which are being mistaken for poetry. Honestly, it is not poetry and it should not be lumped together with real stuff. It is a literary offence.”
But one of the faces of Sapitwa Poetry, Chiwamba, said the list is not necessarily made up of pieces from the last decade but poems that have had a greater impact in the last decade.
“If you note, poetry peaked just before the start of the last decade around 2007. It was, therefore, easier for us to include poems produced then as part of this decade,” he said.
Chiwamba said people should appreciate that poetry has undergone some evolution of its own.
He said: “Art is made for people. As people evolve, so does art. The current wave of poets being criticised are shaping the future of poetry.”
Commenting on the debate, Asante Mtenje from the Department of English at Chancellor College said good poetry evokes imagination and emotions by using a language that is different from the everyday use.
She said: “There are things that make poetry different from prose like use of figurative language. Metaphors and similes are examples of figurative language which provokes the intellect to make the reader interpret multiple meanings.”