Poet, child rights activist, award-winning journalist and National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) nominee Patience Chiyangwa (PC) teamed up with Romanian poet Carmen Voinescu (CV) on a bilingual poetry book titled Kirin (2021) that she said is “a journey of words lighting candles in the darkness of silence”.
Below are excerpts from an interview by Khumbulani Muleya (KM).
KM: How did the book come about, what triggered the collaboration?
CM: I met Patience by reading her poems on an Indian website. I loved the subject matter and her courage to present issues facing young Zimbabwean women in poems. I looked her up on Facebook and learned more about her humanitarian work. I was impressed. I suggested to her that we publish a volume of poems together. She agreed and thus, Kirin was born.
PC: Carmen was a pleasant online hook-up with me and her idea of translating my book into Romanian was fascinating much as I have had poems translated into Spanish, French and Hindi in anthologies. Her light radiated into my soul and I gladly accepted the bilingual book publishing offer
KM: How challenging was the experience?
CM: I admit it was not an easy job. Patience sent me a volume of poems that I read and from which I selected poems that seemed representative to me. I then translated them into Romanian. This is how the first part of Kirin was born. After that I selected my poems which I translated into English. Thus the volume took shape. I presented the draft of the volume to Patience and she agreed to have it printed. The story seems simple, but it included a lot of work and love for poetry and people.
PC: Poor Carmen! I simply dumped a whole manuscript into emails and much of the experience was in her shoes. I am ever so grateful to her amazing patience in coming up with Kirin/ Unicorn.
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KM: The book is a bilingual publication. Please share the thought you had of uniting cultures through poetry.
CM: I have always believed that people in this world are equal regardless of nation, country, wealth or other possible differences. We are all born naked and die naked. So equal. I have had the chance to travel to countries on almost every continent. And to know different cultures and different ways of life, but I understood that we are all people who wake up in the morning, eat, go to work, relax, get married, raise children and grow old, regardless of religion or wealth. I understood that loving our neighbours makes us better and more understanding. And I was very happy to virtually meet such a socially involved person as Patience. Through this book, Kirin, I wanted to unite and make accessible to the public two different cultures which, however, do not differ in the way of thinking and writing poetry.
PC: I love my country in all its many colours, sunbeams, sunshine and rain. It was a great opportunity to raise my flag in Romania and globally. My poetry has relevance globally as much as it plays the role of giving a voice to humanity in general.
KM: Carmen, what does Kirin mean? Does it have any significance to Romanian folklore?
CM: I worked for a while in Asia. One of the rarest, most awesome, and most powerful creatures ever known in East Asia is the unicorn-like Kirin. It is a regal animal, holy and highly revered and often considered a god in its own right. The unicorn is a mythical animal that has a horn in the middle of its forehead. He is the embodiment of power, of purity, his horn representing the arrow of justice. To tell you the truth, I consider Patience having same qualities as Kirin: power, purity, looking for justice. This is why I suggested the name for our book.
KM: How would you describe the literary scene in Bucharest?
CM: A Romanian poet who died in 1890, said that “every Romanian is a poet”. Indeed, there are many who write poetry, but they prefer to publish on Facebook. This is because people, especially during the pandemic, have lost the habit of buying books. It's cheaper and more convenient to read on your phone or laptop. So the poets who publish poetry are grouped in literary cenacles where they make their creations known in a small circle.
KM: Are you both involved in any literature activities?
CM: I belong to 15 poetry sites and I’m glad to see that the poems are read and appreciated. I manage a poetry site where around 80 poems are posted daily and we have almost 1 300 members.
PC: Writing is some way of life for me, not planned, or rehearsed just lived realities making the world a better place. I was published at 16-years-old, thanks to my dad. May he continue to rest easy in his heavenly peace. He told me writing is good for the soul and humanity and so even in a country with a dead book industry, the fire in my soul keeps burning for the cause. Who knows what continuous steps by all writers and poems will do to the literary scene once again.? Keeping the faith!
KM: In Kirin, you touch on a range of themes such as love, bliss, romance, grief and the appreciation of the female voice. Additionally, there is a piece by Mother Theresa. How intentional were you in considering these themes?
CM: I am a romantic by nature. Patience is strong and vigilant. I liked this combination. I think we complement each other. I found this poem by Mother Teresa at the beginning of the volume that Patience sent me. It overwhelmed me because I too admired this very special woman.
PC: Carmen is a beautiful soul and it feels like I have known her all my life; evident of the unifying and power of poetry and art in general. Need I say Carmen blessed the cause in our Kirin/Unicorn collaboration?