Inside the week, I learnt one regrettable fact: Malawi doesn’t have an exclusively poetry festival.
My first reaction was, this is not true. But alas! That’s the sad reality on the ground. Despite the plethora of art festivals that we have in Malawi, there is none that is strictly poetry.
We have ever made efforts in that area though. We had the Land of Poets Festival organised by the Poetry Association of Malawi with help from the Norwegian Embassy under their Cultural Support Scheme.
There was also the Warm Heart Poetry Festival championed by poet Sylvester Kalizang’oma and friends. Unfortunately, both events were wiped off the calendar of art events for various reasons.
Now, the only platform the poets have to showcase their trade is through support roles within little spaces of other established art and music festivals. Not that the arrangement is utterly bad, but I feel the poetry discipline deserves much better.
But who should lead the charge to have such an event if not the poets themselves? Like their colleagues have done it in the music sector, they too can do it. They don’t need to have something as big for starters.
They can start with something small and manageable. Using that platform they can start convincing partners and sponsors, who are understandably hard to come by in our economy, to come on board and support their cause.
The cake of resources is not that big such that corporates need some good convincing if at all some causes are worth investing in. All the poets need to do is give a good account of themselves. Provide a pitch that will leave their potential partners with no doubt about the credibility and purpose of such an event.
Sometimes you also need to sweat blood for you to realise the ultimate goal. Many great stories are riddled with ridiculous sacrifices along the way. I would love to appreciate how Kalizang’oma and company gave up on the journey they had embarked on.
Sometimes you should learn when your passion surpasses everything and make yourself a martyr for thousands others behind you. Posterity judges you fairly in the end. No matter the adversity, you just have to sail on.
What has ignited this talk is news about the introduction of the Deft Poetry Festival. The curators have touted it as a poetry event. But as illustrated by their promotional poster, the inaugural event, slated for this Saturday at Amaryllis Hotel in Blantyre, is not strictly poetry.
Seven music acts will take to the stage in between the recitals. That takes us back to the usual set-ups where poetry is almost featured as a ‘by-the-way’. I look at this festival as an opportunity for the organisers to make a full endorsement of poetry as a stand-alone discipline.
They were supposed to place firm belief in what poetry can bring on the table. They were supposed to trust the patronage it can woo. Sometimes it should not always be about the numbers, but what you want to deliver to your audience.
By bringing in a long list of musicians on their roaster they have sort of diluted the essence of the event. Let music be and let poetry be as well. Despite both being art forms, but experience has shown that they don’t usually attract an identical audience.
All the same, Deft Media Limited, organisers of the event, receive my admiration for your attempt to revive the dream of a poetry festival in Malawi. As per your word, the event will be an annual event. We hope you will be back and better next year and the years after