Universal Soul Reflections by Peter Mutanda
‘Universal Soul Reflections’ is a collection of 5 previously published works: ‘A Nonentity With Identity’, ‘Epistles of Poetic Purity’, ‘Missives From Within’, ‘Silent Voice’ and ‘Verses For The Next Generation’ and also includes 6 previously unpublished poems. Challenging, thought-provoking and moving, these poems were inspired by the author’s day to day life experiences, from his humble beginnings in Zimbabwe to living in the USA and Europe. They raise awareness of maladies ravaging the lives of the poor and the corruption committed by elitist members of the ‘big society’, question racial bigotry and explore the current global political and social turbulence. (from Amazon)
I was asked by the writer to review this book and after some initial hesitation, I have now read all of the poems, over one hundred of them, and I am delighted and impressed with the quality of the writing and the diversity of the subject matter. I was reminded at times of the protest songs of the sixties, the poetry put to music of my young generation, but this book is far more sophisticated and compelling. I am pleased that I took the time to read them. The writing is very good and there are some real gems of use of language, for example, in ‘The Widow’ in which the emotion is heartbreaking he says;
‘now a sole traveller in bereavement journey’
This conjures up bleakness in a few well chosen words.
All the social injustices are included, and some poems speak of Prejudice, Racism, Religious freedom, Politics and more. One of my favourites is ‘Always Hoping’ which stayed with me for a while because of the imagery of homelessness was so real.
There is a very comprehensive glossary which I always appreciate, as not all writers take the time to do this properly.
All told, this is an amazing collection but I feel that one poem needs singled out for special mention, it is;
‘Issues of Today (Silence is not always Golden). The thoughts in this poem are things we have heard before and know to be true, but the ideas are put in different ways which make you more aware that to do or say nothing about injustice is always wrong. Hope this poet keeps on writing.
Interview with the Writer Peter Mutanda
Q. When did you start writing and what made you start?
A. As a child in Africa I grew up listening to folktales told by our elders, so as soon as I started learning to write in my early primary school days, I developed an interest in creative writing and performing in the school amateur drama club.
Q. Are there any writers that have influenced you?
A. I studied African and World literature at school, so I got to know African writers such as Ngugi waThiong’o, Chinua Achebe, Dambudzo Marechera, Bessie Head and so on. I also learned about Shakespeare’s writings so I can say many writers had an influence
Q. Has your work been rejected by any publishers?
A. I have never approached traditional publishers as I have always been interested in indie-publishing. Even before Amazon and other online publishers appeared, I self-published a poetry book in 2000 in South Africa called ‘Tears of Heart’.
Q. How do you discipline yourself to write and what support do you have?
A.I normally write in the early morning, and I only write when I’m in the right, creative, form of mind. I like the place I live to be like a gallery – I get inspired by looking at art, and dipping into other books. I am always collecting ‘seeds’ from the people around me – little mannerisms or reactions to things that I can develop in my writing.
Q. How do you write, paper and pen, pencil, straight to computer, tape recorder etc.?
A.I start with paper and pen, and am constantly scribbling and collecting notes. Then I sit at the computer and form the notes into a poem, script or manuscript.
Q. Are there issues in your private life that have an influence on your writing?
A. Yes. If I’m emotionally troubled or, conversely, very happy, I am often inspired to write and it is a form of therapy, although if it is extreme, the emotion can block my writing. It’s a bit of a see-saw really. My environment also influences both my emotional balance and my writing: new faces, places and experiences inspire me.
Q. How important do you rate punctuation?
A. It’s very important, and shows how professional you are as a writer. Obviously punctuation in a poem has a different role than in an academic text, for example, and has a large impact on how the reader experiences a poem: its flow, pace, meaning etc. It can be quite difficult at times, though, to differentiate between African, UK and US English!
Q. How do you feel having published, are you ready for more?
A. Absolutely. Having published Universal Soul Reflections, an anthology of five previously published poetry works, I have also published the first two books in the African Folktales for Children Series with my partner (‘Rabbit and Elephant’s Tug of War’ & ‘The Meerkats Come to Dinner’), and we are planning many more of them. I’m also working on academic texts about development in Africa and post-colonial Zimbabwean performing arts, as well as a number of plays and film scripts.
Q. Have you any tips for budding writers?
A. To like what you are writing about, and don’t rush to publication – get it right first. Also do not be embarrassed to ask others for feedback – and be sure to listen to it.
Q. How important are your marketing methods?
A. Extremely. Especially the social networks such as Twitter, and websites such as Goodreads. There are a lot of books and authors out there, how would anyone even find my books if I don’t tell them about them? But saying that, there is no better time for indie-publishers than now, with the rise in social networks. When I self-published in 2000, my only avenue for sales was alongside performances of the theatre group I ran (MUKA Project); now there are many ways and opportunities to get your work out there and in front of readers.
Q. Can you see any of your work being made into a film or television series?
A.I have written a film script about post-colonial Zimbabwe, which I want to turn into a film.
Q. What do you think of the big publishing houses who don’t give new writers a chance?
A.I think the publishing industry has been revolutionised recently, and will evolve further. I think the big publishing houses are missing out on the cream of raw material by not considering new writers, and now that most new writers realise they can also be publishers, this can only spell more change in the publishing industry.
Q. Do you think the day of the publishing business is coming to an end, and self publishing becoming more popular?
A. Yes. I can only see the self-publishing industry growing further. This is only the beginning.
Q. Tell us a little about your next work I should read.
A. The working title of my development book is ‘Africa Has a Future’. It has been written for university students, but in such a way that the average person in the villages can understand the problems Africa is facing. It’s about the challenges that are being faced by Africa in modern times, eg: breaking into global markets, land grabbing and the lack of democracy. I am hoping to publish it in 2013.