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Why David Mungoshi began to write

Live Like an Artist

5 september 2018
Soon after my retirement from the University of Zimbabwe at the end of 2014 I fell so ill that I felt compelled to begin to put my affairs in order. Everything looked bleak and menacing. My appetite was gone, I tired easily and saw myself wasting away by the day. I was sure people were beginning to draw the worst conclusions about my health. I had a dry incessant cough that was more of an irritation than anything else. Luckily for me the cough always seemed to originate in my throat. Had the cough emanated from my chest I would have had to endure great discomfort and pain. The sleepless nights were the worst. There is something about evenings and ill health – the affliction seems to intensify once the sun fades back and darkness descends.
My doctors ordered an assortment of tests, scans and x-rays to no apparent avail. When it became clear that I was not responding to any of the antibiotics prescribed it was decided that it was in my best interest to discontinue the antibiotics until there was a clear diagnosis. Thereafter, it was back to blood tests, c-t scans, x-rays, and so on. It wasn’t until later in the year that a specialist physician finally nailed it. He confirmed that I had hypertension as well as pulmonary fibrosis. My pulmonary fibrosis was a result of having been a victim of passive smoking. Treatment then began in earnest, and with time I began to pick up and became less brittle.

Owing to my fragility at the time, I felt that the only thing I could write and be reasonably sure of completing was poetry. Consequently, I began to write every day. To push me on, I joined Hello Poetry, an online site which makes it difficult to let a day go past without adding something to your growing body of poems. During my active time on the site, some writers uploaded as many as a dozen or more poems a day. I did everything I could to fit in; between February 2015 and October 2016 I wrote well over 700 poems. On a day that I didn’t upload anything, the guilt just wouldn’t go away.

By the end of October in 2016 I managed to select just over three hundred poems from the 700 I had written. My editor,  Memory Chirere, worked on the poems with precision and diligence. He selected the 101 poems that make up the collection Live like an Artist. My second book, with the working title Sparkling Dew is already complete and awaiting its turn to see the light of day.

Many of the poems I wrote during this period of ill-health are narratives and descriptions of the incidents, thoughts and experiences that were an integral part of my life over many decades.  Typically, the poems linger at the end because of poetic epigrams. Live Like an Artist is a personal, but honest appraisal of the lives of artists. It is about how artists flourish on hope and generally never give up. Though the image I evoke in this sentence is probably anachronistic, in a metaphorical sense it is always as if the artist waits for the ship carrying his bounty of riches, to sail in.  For me, living one day at a time meant nursing very carefully the flickers of hope in my heart. It also meant enjoying the thrill of the chase as it were, the result, whatever it turned out to be, notwithstanding.

When Bhabhu Books finally announced that the book was ready, my happiness resembled that of someone in love for the first time. The difference was that I was in love with life itself, and with poetry. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I shall, at some point, publish all 700 plus poems.
© David Mungoshi
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