‘The third eye is of value’

A note of gratitude & farewell from PI Zimbabwe editor Irene Staunton

Irene Staunton, Zimbabwe, poetry
© Pieter van der Meer / Tineke de Lange.

After 12 years of working closely with Poetry International, Irene Staunton – the legendary editor of Weaver Press in Harare, Zimbabwe; of the anthology Women Writing Zimbabwe; and of various oral histories, such as Mothers of the Revolution: The War Experiences of Thirty Zimbabwean Women – passes the helm of our Zimbabwe pages to 2015 festival poet Togara Muzanenhamo.

Staunton has played an essential role in supporting and shaping the Poetry International website since its inception. In a 2011 interview with Women’s Worldwide Web, Staunton states: ‘Editors are a bit like stage-hands: the play can’t go on without them, and yet their role is necessarily in the shadows. It is, however, interesting to see how many writers acknowledge their editors – the third eye is of value’. For us here at PI, Staunton’s third eye hasn’t just been of value; it’s at our core. – Poetry International

Last September’s Zimbabwe now! feature – including new poetry and audio recordings from Barbra Breeze Anderson, Batsirai E. Chigama, Joyce Chigiya, Tsitsi Jaji, Freedom Nyamubaya and Togara Muzanenhamo – is my last issue as Poetry International’s Zimbabwe editor.

Before I leave, however, I would like to thank Chirikure Chirikure, the poet who suggested that I be editor at the inception of Poetry International’s online features in 2003 and who has always been supportive. I would also like to offer my gratitude to all the editors at Poetry International with whom I have liaised over the years, and always with pleasure: Arnolda Jagersma, Marloes van Luijk, Corine Vloet, Madea le Noble, Sarah Ream, Megen Molé and, recently, Mia You. The Zimbabwe pages have consistently benefitted from their support, insights and encouragement.

Zimbabwe must also thank the director of Poetry International, Bas Kwakman, alongside Bas Belleman. Without their tireless fundraising Poetry International would not be the richly diverse site that it has now become, reflecting today the work of several hundreds of poets from approximately 80 countries in 90 different languages. Last but not least, I would like to thank Jan-Willem van Hemert, the technician behind the scenes, who has ensured that our work is seamlessly uploaded onto the web.

Looking back, I am quietly gratified that we have been able to introduce Zimbabwean poetry – in some of its wide variety – to the world. Poetry International’s Zimbabwe pages now reflect over 50 poets and 555 poems. Increasingly, we have included audio recordings, and, prompted by requests from teachers, we have also included critical reviews and analysis by many of Zimbabwe’s most respected academics. Our occasional ‘Poet's diaries’ have been marked by attention as surprising as the International Society of Explosives Engineers in the United States, who were intrigued by the life and the poetry of Julius Chingono, himself a miner and blaster.

Working with Zimbabwean poets and poetry has been a long and enriching experience, affording many positive memories and interactions, and I thank each and every one of the poets whose work we have been able to publish over the years.

I am delighted to be able to yield the position of Zimbabwe editor for Poetry International to Togara Muzanenhamo and wish him every success in continuing to feature Zimbabwean poetry and its poets.

Read about Staunton’s career as an editor, advocate and activist in her interview at Women’s Worldwide Web, as well as at Pambazuka News. And learn more about Weaver Press via its website.

© Irene Staunton  
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