What inspired the title of the collection Every Stone That Turns?
I needed a title that covered the general theme (s) of the majority of the poems. I thought the poem Every Stone was most-representative. There is cause for joy and celebration when the war ends. Consequently, every stone that turns should reveal sparkling diamonds. Yet that is not the case. The reality is that under every stone that turns are scorpions waiting to sting. I believe the majority of the poems in this volume exhibit this dichotomy between celebration and lament.
Some poems are about the war but the poem entitled Every Stone That Turns seems to be a love poem. How do the themes merge?
Yes, it’s a love poem but the personna is a freedom fighter who has returned home. He has many reasons to celebrate his return. He survived the war. He got a job with government, He is well-dressed in tie and suit and sleeps on a comfortable double bed. He’s booked in a room at the Meikles, the best hotel in Zimbabwe. Every stone that turns should be yielding sparkling diamonds. But no, every stone that turns reveals scorpions that sting. These trappings of success and comfort turn into items that torment and torture the freedom fighter. He is lonely. The girl he left behind in Rhodesia has married another man.
The poems are in sections. How were they divided? Does each section have particular issues?
When I put the poems into those sections, I thought there was a logical reason. The first is about poems I thought were directly related to the liberation war. The second section for poems related to general themes. The third, Africa. The fourth, family. The fifth, Yeukai.
What are the major issues in Every Stone That Turns?
Major Themes: Demystification and de-romanticisation of the liberation war and post-independence era. The dichotomy between celebration and lament. The liberation war was not a romantic experience. The post-independence era was not physical and spiritual milk and honey for some of the survivors. The poem Every Stone That Turns, I think, encapsulates these themes. The themes are carried over and expanded, in prose form, in my first novel, The Chosen Generation, which is a military historical fiction.
Bvuma makes reference to Yeukai in His poems. Is she just a creation in his literary work or in reality Yeukai existed in Bvuma’s life?
Yeukai? Many people ask me about her. The most memorable such experience was when, one day, I was walking in the CBD, I heard a shout from a car, “Cde Carlos, who is Yeukai?” I turned and recognised a comrade I knew. She was reading Every Stone at varsity.
Yeukai is a personna, an overarching image I created for my poems. I made her the reason for going to war, the reason for the suffering, the reason for surviving and the reason for the post-war disappointment. But, as the old adage goes, fiction, including science fiction, derives from real-life experience.
Tell us your background and what inspired this book.
Thomas Sukutai Bvuma was born in 1954 and he grew up in Southern Rhodesia. Bvuma did his high-school studies at St. Augustine’s Mission. In 1976, during the second year, he abandoned his studies at the University of Rhodesia and went to Mozambique where he joined the war for the liberation of Zimbabwe. He later studied for a Bachelor degree in Modern Languages at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique.
Sukutai Bvuma has a Masters degree in Media Studies from the University of Oslo, Norway (1998-99). He worked as a diplomat in Mozambique (1982-83), United Kingdom (1984-85) and the United States of America (1986-93). He served as a deputy director in the Ministry of Information (1995-1998) then the deputy editor of The Herald (1999-2001). He opened Zimbabwe’s first Embassy in Brazil, becoming the country’s
first ambassador to that country and the rest of South America (2004-2018). Thomas Sukutai Bvuma started writing poems when he was a high-school student at St. Augustines Mission in Penhalonga. His poem, The Two Sisters was published in Two Tone magazine in 1972.
Immediately after Zimbabwe
s independence, two of Bvumas poems, The Real Poetry and Smile Mother, were published in Musaemura Zimunya and Mudereri Kadhani`s compilation of Zimbabwean revolutionary poems, And Now the Poets Speak (1981). The Real Poetry was used as the theme poem of the compilation. The two poems were published under the nome de plume (Bvuma’s nome de guerre) Carlos Chombo.
Thomas Sukutai Bvuma had his own volume of poems, Every Stone That Turns, published by College Press in 1999. The volume, rejected by the publisher in 1985, was a hit and became a high school and university textbook for 15 years.
Bvuma published, inter alia, his first novel, The Chosen Generation, in May 2021.
Constant reference is made to Tafirenyika or Takafirenyikas it somebody close to you or it’s just a pseudonym for all those fighters who died during the struggle?
Tafirenyika/Takafirenyika represents all the unsung freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of Zimbabwe. I can identify some of them who were close to me. My little brother Edgar Tanyaradzwa Bvuma who was killed during the Chimoio attack on 23 November 1977. Mafaiti (Innocent Mutsago) – we did our military training together at Chimoio and he died at the front. There is a poem in Every Stone That Turns about Mafaiti and, elsewhere, a short story on him. The street-wise Vik Moro (William Tobani) – we trained together and went through trying times in the camps. He died in a lorry accident on the highway from Maputo.