Thursday, 1 March 2018

Stray by Bernard Farai Matambo

Stray by Bernard Farai Matambo
Published in America by University of Nebraska Press today, the 1st March 2018.

One of my WorldReads from Zimbabwe

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £13.99 (PB)
Wordery : from £10.74 (PB)
Waterstones : from £13.99 (PB)
Amazon : from £8.33 (used PB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Zimbabwean writer Bernard Farai Matambo’s poems in Stray favor a prose-shaped line as they uncover the contradictory impulses in search of emotional and intellectual truth. Stray not only captures the essence of identity but also eloquently articulates the pain of displacement and speaks to the vulnerability of Africans who have left their native continent. This collection delicately examines the theme of migration—migration in a literal, geographic sense; migration of language from one lexicon to another; migration of a poem toward prose—and the instability of the creative experience in the broader sense.

Bernard Farai Matambo writes prose poetry so each of his poems and chapters in this collection are vignettes of life in Zimbabwe and of life for a Zimbabwean man in Nebraska. As someone completely removed from both those cultures, I edged my way slowly into these poems over several readings. Poems from Preamble To Fever to The City I found immediately accessible because I was already aware of the terrible events in Zimbabwe that had led to mass starvation. Matambo shows the people's desperation and the many bloated corpses in horrific detail, all while a young beggar girl sits quietly by and watches.

For other poems however, I was grateful to the insightful introduction by Kwame Dawes for my understanding and for giving me starting points to research Matambo's references. Readers familiar with Zimbabwe will no doubt get a lot more from Stray than I could, but I feel I have certainly learned from reading these poems. I enjoyed the prose style which is very different from other poetry to recently come my way. Revisiting each work after taking time out to study allowed me to appreciate layers and references that might well have passed me by otherwise and made reading Stray a richer experience.  This is one of a number of collections in its African Poetry Book Series and I am encouraged to seek out more as a result of reading Stray.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Bernard Farai Matambo / Poetry / Books from Zimbabwe


  1. It sounds very accessible to all readers - like if you know a lot about the country you will still be able to learn something, and likewise those who know the country and nation well will garner something too. I love poetry, and stories/books which include that always pique my interest!

    My recent review:

    1. Exactly! There are poems too about being African in America which are insightful and surprising