Zimbabwe has a rich creative tradition, with a wealth of poetic talent. However, opportunities and exposure are limited, particularly for contemporary Zimbabwean women poets. As editors we have sought to address this. From the outset our aims were clear: we wanted to provide a safe space in which Zimbabwean women could express themselves through poetry; to include a broad representation of voices, backgrounds, and experiences; and to make a statement about the cultural importance of poetry, its value in resisting oppressive forces, in acknowledging the power of history, memories and traditions, in sharing perspectives and seeking catharsis.
Tesserae is a unique celebration of Zimbabwean womanhood in all its diversity, its richness of voice and theme and narrative. The contributors include traditional page poets and underground poets, students and grandmothers, visual poets and spoken word artists, established writers and emerging talents, from within Zimbabwe and from the diaspora. In their poetry they explore wide-ranging themes, including challenging or traditionally taboo subjects. Domestic abuse, xenophobia, queerness, illicit relationships, sexual fantasy, menstruation, and suicidal ideation all feature within these pages. There are tender portrayals of family, friendships and parenthood; narratives of loss and despair; humorous poems; socio-political commentaries; transcendent allegories and lyrical descriptions, inter-woven with pulsing natural energy. Scents, sounds, tastes and visual images of Zimbabwe form an ever-present backdrop, at times overtly, at times indirectly. Voices resonate in vibrant harmony; poems engage each other in subliminal conversation.
In her essay Disobedient Poetics - Translating the Third Space, Tariro Ndoro reflects eloquently on how language and our sense of identity are intertwined. Language is the instrument of poetry. As such it is many-layered, its music weaving internalised rhythms and cadences of the culture, oral traditions, memories and experiences that have formed us. It is surely no coincidence that several poems in this anthology touch on the complex relationship between language, identity, and 'home'.
Compiling, editing, and preparing Tesserae for publication has been an immensely rewarding experience. We extend our thanks to all the contributors, who have trusted us with their beautiful poems and with whom it has been a joy and a privilege to work. We are grateful to Lin Barrie for her inspirational cover art; Tsitsi Ella Jaji for her insightful Introduction; and Tariro Ndoro for her cogent essay on poetics. Our wish is that you, the reader, will enjoy this intricately patterned mosaic of poetry, with its subtle complementarities and vivid contrasts. Each voice is powerful and distinctive. Each poet has her own unique story to tell.
Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure and Marian Christie