Entertainment Theatre

Cheela Chilala in Poetry Post card

WHILE Zambian athletes were struggling for medals at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, award winning poet Cheela Chilala’s poem Rear View Mirror was being featured in Poetry Postcards, a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) project.
To celebrate the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, BBC Radio Scotland embarked on an ambitious project to collect a poem from each of the 71 competing nations and territories, capturing the essence of who the people of the Commonwealth are today.
Chilala, who is also a playwright and won the Patu Simoko Award for Best Poet at the 2000 National Arts Council organised Ngoma Awards, also did an interview with BBC’s Nick Balneaves.
Producer Liza Greig wrote for BBC Arts about some of the challenges she faced sourcing poetry from some of the world’s furthest-flung corners.
“Finding poets, poems and ways of recording them has been a real challenge on this project, with plenty of surprises along the way. Sometimes it has been frustrating, as I knew there were lots of good poets in a country, but couldn’t get hold of one.
“For the Seychelles, I tried emailing and befriending half a dozen poets with no reply. I wrote to the Ministry of Culture. I wrote to the Tourist Board. I wrote to the National Arts Council. No reply. Then I found out one of the poets was a police woman. So, after a wee bit of worrying about wasting police time, I emailed Seychelles Crimestoppers, and hurrah, they got back to me!
“The final poem in the collection came from possibly the most inaccessible country in the Commonwealth: Kiribati. A group of islands dispersed over 4,000 km in the central Pacific, Kiribati has very limited internet access, and the phones aren’t much cop either. Despite this, I found a poet and, miraculously, we managed to connect online.
“After three months of intermittent emails, my poet Teweiariki Teaero known as Tevi, somehow managed to send me his poem as an attachment: Kaleidoscope of Hope, a celebration of Commonwealth values and a fitting final poem for the collection.
“And my favourite poem? They are all my favourites! But if push came to shove, how could I not choose the home nation, Scotland? One of those few poems recorded face to face, with the delightful Kathleen Jamie,” she writes.

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