US: Tinashe Manguwa says ‘surreal’ to be selected poet laureate

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A celebration of humanity, language and emotion honored four of Oneida County’s brightest poets.

The NAACP Utica-Oneida County Chapter held a recognition for its poet laureate and youth poet laureate, selected by a panel of community judges, at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute on April 30.

Each participating poet submitted original works connected to the theme of struggle, hope and resilience.

Tinashe Dylan Manguwa was selected as the poet laureate, while Win Naing was selected as youth poet laureate. Roxanne Vasilopoulos and Jasper Sammon were honorable mentions for the poet laureate and youth poet laureate, respectively.

Now a student at Hamilton College, Manguwa traveled from Zimbabwe to South Africa before coming to the United States.

Being named the NAACP Utica-Oneida County Chapter’s poet laureate is surreal, Manguwa said, and something he will process along the way.

“I used to be a very selfish writer when I started on,” he said. “I would think what I wrote is perfect, it’s amazing and it’s the greatest thing. But the more I go out and I read more and I interact with other poets – amazing poets, by the way – I realize there’s always room to learn and room to grow for me.”

Manguwa said poetry is an avenue for dealing with the inter- and intrapersonal.

“I think the cool thing about poetry, for me, as I’ve realized over the years, is it’s putting language to everyday experiences,” he said. “And that’s very powerful, because once you can define something, once you can add the language to it and the terms to it, you can then tackle it head-on. You can then acknowledge that it exists and once you’ve acknowledged that it exists, you can do something about it.”

Recognition and ceremony

The poets laureate each will serve a one-year term. Those honored received an NAACP membership for the year, poetry-related books and will be able to perform at upcoming community events and engage with local high schools and colleges; the winners also received a financial award.

During the ceremony, the poets laureate each read or recited two poems, while the honorable mentions read one.

Manguwa recited his poem “3805” and read “syncopation,” while Naign read “The Wanderer” and “Sand.” Vasilopoulos read “If It Helps” and Sammon read “I Can’t Breathe.”