Contributor Spotlight on Batsirai E. Chigama

by Dan Froid

Filed under: Blog, Contributor Spotlight |

Slam poetry has exploded in popularity in the last few years. It seems to be almost everywhere, moving beyond local slams to, for example, the Nerd Poetry Slam of Vancouver—which featured poems referencing Star Trek: The Next Generation and potential future reptilian overlords—and to youth camps for students in New York City. This week, we’re highlighting a slam poet of our own, whose work we love even if it doesn’t discuss Jurassic Park.

Batsirai E. Chigama is a Zimbabwean slam poet. The author of both short stories and poetry, she also regularly performs at African poetry festivals. Her performances occasionally feature musical accompaniment—including the jazzy Bled Trio in “Sweet Addiction,” from the 2013 Shoko Festival. Watch it here. She also gives provocative solo performances, like “Paradox to a Child,” also from the Shoko Festival.

Chigama’s concise, cutting poem “Democracy” appears in the latest issue of Prairie Schooner, out later this month:

I see you like to wave him about
Like a magic wand
to make all evil disappear instantly

Remember son
He is a senile, ancient one
Who uses human bones
For a walking stick

Much of Chigama’s work is like this: it has a terse, crisp quality that nonetheless yields beauty and resonance. Check out her page at Badilisha Poetry X-change to read more of her work and listen to some of Chigama’s performances. And in this interview, Chigama describes her approach to poetry and her position as a Zimbabwean woman poet.