Stray Truths is a stirring introduction to the poetry of Euphrase Kezilahabi, one of Africa’s major living authors, published here for the first time in English. Born in 1944 on Ukerewe Island in Tanzania (then the Territory of Tanganyika), Kezilahabi came of age in the newly independent nation. His poetry confronts the task of postcolonial nation building and its conundrums, and explores personal loss in parallel with nationwide disappointments. Kezilahabi sparked controversy when he published his first poetry collection in 1974, introducing free verse into Swahili. His next two volumes of poetry (published in 1988 and 2008) confirmed his status as a pioneering and modernizing literary force. Stray Truths draws on each of those landmark collections, allowing readers to encounter the myriad forms and themes significant to this poet over a span of more than three decades. Even as these poems jettison the constraints of traditional Swahili forms, their use of metaphor connects them to traditional Swahili poetics, and their representational strategies link them to indigenous African arts more broadly. To date, translations of Swahili poetry have been focused on scholarly interpretations. This literary translation, in contrast, invites a wide audience of readers to appreciate the verbal art of this seminal modernist writer.
“Drury’s translations are as elegant as they are accurate. Her selections include Kezilahabi’s most well-known works as well as poems that illustrate trends in his work and that appealed to both the poet and the translator. Drury’s perceptive introduction should be read by all translators and all students of African literatures.”
—Ann Biersteker, Assistant Director, African Studies Center, Michigan State University