cover image The Rinehart Frames

The Rinehart Frames

Cheswayo Mphanza. Univ. of Nebraska, $19.95 trade paper (138p) ISBN 978-1-4962-2576-4

In his electrifying debut, Mphanza presents a sustained project of ekphrasis and pastiche inspired by the work of African artists, Iranian film director Abbas Kiaro- stami, and the life and death of Congolese prime minister Patrice Lumumba. Drawing from the grief and anger of transgenerational trauma, Mphanza expresses visceral outrage toward colonialism in poems such as “At David Livingstone’s Statue,” in which the speaker stands before a monument to the Scottish missionary in Zimbabwe, contemplating the fissure between one identity and another: “Half of my tongue saying Mosi-oa-Tunya—/ ‘the smoke that thunders.’ The other saying Victoria Falls.// And here is my complex. To shred the palettes/ of English lodged on my tongue. Its sheer civility.” In the prose poem “Open Casket Body Double for Patrice Lumumba’s Funeral,” the poet imagines himself as Lumumba’s corpse, capturing the gruesome circumstances of his death (“hacksaw marks like a collar around my neck// and faux bullet holes I imagined deepened by the same sulfuric acid that left//ant tunnels cutting through Lumumba’s bones”) as well as the tenderness of his relationship with his wife Pauline, quoting from a letter he wrote her while imprisoned. This debut marks the arrival of a brilliant and intrepid voice. (Mar.)