The Rinehart Frames
Author: Cheswayo Mphanza
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (2021)
The poems in The Rinehart Frames seek to exhaust the labyrinths of ekphrasis. By juxtaposing the character of Rinehart from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man with the film 24 Frames by Abbas Kiarostami, the poems leap into secondary histories, spaces, and languages that encompass a collective yet varied consciousness of being.
Cheswayo Mphanza’s collection questions the boundaries of diaspora and narrative through a tethering of voices and forms that infringe on monolithic categorizations of Blackness and what can be intersected with it. The poems continue the conversations of the infinite possibilities of the imagination to dabble in, with, and out of history.
“The Rinehart Frames is a brilliant and formally accomplished reworking of the cento in a collection that conjures the elegance of geometric theorems, while simultaneously revealing a capacious knowledge of, and deep engagement with, art, politics, Afrosporic issues, and the difficult condition of being human. A shamanistic archaeologist of the soul and its workings, Mphanza reassembles his collected fragments to offer us insights into our collective wisdoms, eschewing much that separates us. More than ever now, we need work such as this and, with ‘a craft wielded and willed,’ Mphanza is more than up to this difficult task.”
–M. NourbeSe Philip
“The inventiveness and elegance with which The Rinehart Frames weaves the imaginations of visual art, film, and literature in order to observe and absorb the experience of Blackness in the troubled past and unsettling present is nothing short of extraordinary. Cheswayo Mphanza has shaped a language attuned to race, violence, and the artist’s relentless search among the ruins for wisdom, truth, and beauty.”
“The Rinehart Frames is one of the finest poetry debuts to appear in years. Virtuosic in voices and allusions; profound in its exploration of past and contemporary Black experience; expansive, from Zambia to the United States to those invisible spaces below and behind the world’s surfaces, in its range and concerns, The Rinehart Frames gathers poetry we badly need now, and will return to, as a touchstone, in the future.”
“Cheswayo Mphanza’s ability to make sense of disparate subjects can only be compared to a musician working through chord changes, and he’s a skilled soloist. Whether guiding us through frames of film, sharpening the focus on paintings framed on display, illuminating the framing of political pain, or framing the beauty of silence, there’s music throughout.”
–A. Van Jordan