Round 1: Botswana-Tunisia


In the inspirational words of the great Colombian writer Shakira, “When you fall get up, oh oh/ If you fall get up, eh eh/ Tsamina mina zangalewa/ Cuz this is Africa.” And today is all about Africa. The fourth match of our Poetry World Cup brings together poems from the north and south of the continent, with the winners facing Bermuda in round two. Without further ado, it’s time to meet today’s poets.

In the blue corner, representing Botswana, is TJ Dema. Already a veteran performer, TJ Dema is a spoken word poet whose work remains strong on the page. In addition to her own writing, she’s heavily involved in various community projects: she runs Sauti Arts and Performance Management and is chair of the Writers Association of Botswana. “Writing is often a solitary act,” she told SJ Fowler in her 2012 Poetry Parnassus interview, “but like all other human beings the poets I know crave community, whether it is with fellow poets or an audience, with pioneers of their favourite forms or with poets from far off countries.”

Wearing Tunisian red in the other corner is Ali Znaidi, an English teacher from Redeyef who claims that smoking and green tea are crucial to his ‘moments of revelation’. Ali Znaidi’s poems have been widely-published in recent years (he is reputedly the first Tunisian poet ever to have published a collection of haiku in English), and his work has been translated into German, Greek, Turkish and Italian. He has also translated work by the New Mexican poet Catfish McDaris into Arabic.


Jaggery Roof

It’s midnight in Delhi.
I am tongue kissing a bowl of Bengali pudding
on Sudeep’s rooftop,
listening to the heartbeats of a million books
huddling against the wind.

He is high up on the bookshelf,
hands at back, smile at ready,
kurta flapping at the knees
for a moment he is Anna’s king.
Slipping quietly between the shadows of silence
that rarely falls between the welcome noise.

Poets: they have no sense of white space
against a midnight sky…

~ TJ Dema

Read the full poem

Talk to Me, Apple

Talk to me apple
before a hungry
mouth devours you.
Talk to me apple
before the sun
dries your skin.
Talk to me apple
before a knife
peels you from
extreme to extreme.
Talk to me apple
before homeless
worms creep into
your veins…

~ Ali Znaidi

Read the full poem


RESULT: Tie. Tunisia won on ‘golden vote’ rule.

Botswana flag




TJ Dema’s blog.

TJ Dema interviewed by SJ Fowler for Poetry Parnassus 2012.

TJ Dema interviewed for ‘On the Map 2012’ in Iowa City.

TJ Dema’s ‘Poetry Postcard’ for BBC Radio Scotland.

‘Poetry is always spoken’: an interview with TJ Dema for Sampsonia Way.
Tunisia flag




Ali Znaidi’s blog.

A selection of interviews with Ali Znaidi.

Ali Znaidi on ‘the Arab Spring through the eyes of Arab novelists’.

‘Bye, Donna Summer!’, the first published collection of Tunisian haiku in English (from Fowlpox Press).

‘Poetry, and Tunisia’s future’ (via ArabLit).