Chengeto Mayowe, full name Rufaro Chengeto Mayowe, Chengeto being the name my father gave me which I use for my poetry. To loved ones, I am the ‘keeper of happiness’ and to everyone else I am a Zimbabwean poet/storyteller and I also work in the digital marketing field.
Where does your love for poetry come from?
It comes from my late father. My father and I used to write and draw together quite a bit. From a young age I liked plays, musicals, literature and history. I was a bit shy, so I usually kept my work to myself as I didn’t want people to be cruel about my poems which are in essence my feelings.
What was the first poem you ever wrote?
It was a poem on suicide when I was 14 (yes, I’ve been writing for a while just never used to show people). My take on what happens after one commits suicide. I know it was a dark time for me so when my dad saw that he was freaked out lol and then he started drawing and writing with me a lot.
Which poets/writers inspire you the most and why them?
Thomas Mapfumo, Chiwoniso and Oliver Mtukudzi because they don’t/didn’t just sing they told a story which is what I think I do with some of my poetry. I write about whatever moves me so I would like my words to also inspire someone out there. Jhene Aiko, I know she’s a singer but she’s also a poet and I have always been inspired by how she can evoke emotion through her words as well as Erykah Badu and the poet Atticus. Atticus has short poems, but they have such an impact.
Who is responsible for nurturing your poetic voice?
Goes without saying my dad and my friends, special mention to Tendai G, Rutendo, Vimbai, Liz, Alma, Kagendo, Zanele Pam and Nqobzitha. They kept telling me my poetry was good enough to be sold and needed to be enjoyed by everyone. They also are immensely supportive of all of my endeavours in the best ways they know how. Their actions and words pushed me out my box and into a world of possibilities.
What is your process when writing a new poem?
I don’t have a process per say, when I write it’s usually because I’m feeling some type of way emotionally or someone says something, and the words just come. So, if I’m feeling sad, angry, happy, depressed, at peace whatever I am feeling if it’s intense I tend to write what I’m feeling which is the poems you see. I also write if a friend is going through something good or bad. Then phrases can make me write as well. When the words come, I usually ask whoever I’m talking to or with to give me 5 minutes so I can get the words from my brain to paper. If I leave a poem halfway, I never finish it which is why I would rather go quiet and finish it, which is usually 10 minutes.
What inspired to write your book, Déjà Vu?
My friends who pushed me to get out my bubble, they mentioned how certain poems helped them heal, feel better, laugh or fall in love and said it’s something that needed to be shared with others. As well as having something tangible with my name on it you know, like ‘I did that’.
How was the process of getting the book together, what were the highlights of the process?
The process was interesting, I self-published via Amazon (shout out to them for providing all information I needed). I compiled my poems and chose which I wanted in the book then broke it down into 5 chapters, after which I asked my friend Pam to check it over and proofread it. That was the easy part, the hard part was my cover. I needed to have something I liked but also represented the book. After like 10 covers and numerous voting I ended up with a cover no one saw until I released the book. Highlights was reading through it in its entirety the day before I launched it.
How has your book been received so far and where can people get a copy?
So far so good in terms of reception, I mean I promised myself not to look at digital sales until one full year. When I last checked which was in January, I was on 50 copies sold. That to me was a pretty big deal as I never thought I’d sell 30 which just means I need to be softer with myself. Then I have copies here in Zimbabwe in Harare and I had 100 books and I am left with 40 copies. People can get the copy from Amazon if they are in the Diaspora, the book is available in both paperback and eBook format. They’ll find the link at the end of the interview as well as my social media sites. If you are in Harare, then you can buy directly for me (this comes with a personalized little message).
What would you like people to get from reading your poetry?
I would like people to either heal (my dad passed in 2013 and a few poems are very much within grief). To love themselves, love others, feel at peace and give themselves a break really. I cover self-love, death of a loved one or friend, love of others, heartbreak and a lot more. So, if I put into words what you may have felt or are feeling then I’ve done my job even better if I help in any way for you to heal or laugh.
How have you been keeping busy during the lockdown?
I have been working on a project that I am not going to talk about yet lol, I also began doing lives on my Instagram @chengetomay. Those are now 2 months old and doing well considering I started with 3 people and im now on 20 and we keep growing.
If you had to put together a playlist of 5 songs that mean the most to you what would they be?
Bob Marley – Could you be loved; this reminds me of my dad and childhood.
Oliver Mutukudzi – Ndakuvara, I’ve always liked this song it’s my fave of his not sure why.
Erykah Badu – Love of my life, I love the way she tells the story of hip hop in a poetic way.
Jhene Aiko – Wading, it got me through a lot of stuff, a lot of her music did but this is a masterpiece.
Alicia Keys – Unthinkable, this is one of the best love songs period, I am not in love yet, but this song has inspired some pieces from me and to me it is timeless.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
“You are destined for great things my dear it’s you and I just remember that.”
That was my dad during a particular dark time.
Then my friend Rutendo also told me “You are light, shine my dear shine. This God made you so special my Rufaro”.
These two statements help pull me out when I fall in dark spaces.
How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as someone who brought light with her wherever she went and left people feeling better than when I met them. Even if I no longer talk to people or if I met you once and that’s it, I’d like to be known as a soul that felt like peace.
Amazon: Déjà Vu