Book Review: Rumblings of A Tree by Mulumba Ivan Matthias

When you put the book “Rumblings of a Tree”, look at the title again, then the section titles, you understand that Mulumba Ivan Matthias has personified life in the form of a tree. In essence, we are individually trees in a great forest and are located in relationship with these other trees, something Mulumba terms “A Fellowship of Trees”.

In this section he speaks of personalities, and what he feels for them. Personalities not limited to those like royalty he mentions in “King of Kings” but personalities like cities and those who fill city streets. In “King of Kings” you would love that he talks of actual royalty rather than assumed royalty but it turns out to be the latter. The latter whose end we can all identify.

“But like a beggar
stripped of clothes
he lies dead
in a trench
with only flies to sing him praise.”

“Froth” is a clever title for a poem that hints at a city’s unwanted. A people who leave all behind to come to a place whose preference in citizens changes often. It speaks of a rejected type, froth. And it seems this poem speaks more of the leaders of the city than the city itself.

“But this city and its desires!
today it prefers unkempt hair and long nails.
tomorrow, everything neat and manicured.”

However, I think the most unexpected poem comes in the form of “Strangers at my window” where in my opinion he talks about rain. However rain that is seen as a refugee trying to enter in. Rain that is beset by coldness needing warmth. Rain that begs for salvation from a certain death when it hits the ground. I loved the personification in this poem. Gives you different views about rain.

“But this city and its desires!
today it prefers unkempt hair and long nails.
tomorrow, everything neat and manicured.”

In the section “Rage of Seasons”, we are introduced to personal turmoil. Those things that shake up a tree.

Like the poem “I want” where the author desires some relief from adulthood, what the millennial would call adulting, and seeks some return to the safety of infancy but on introspection asks himself

“But what man will that make me?” Whether he refers to man as the universal term or man the gender is not clear. However I am rooting for the latter and the different expectations that come with it.

He speaks of perpetual unemployment in the poem “Enough” where one line grabs my attention “a baggage of qualifications.” Four words racked with plenty of meaning in a world today that balances between job seeking and job creating.

There are two poems that are striking in the third section “Through the storm.” “Shamim” and “The judgement”.

“Shamim” presents a style that Mulumba is good at. Brevity packed with a punch of sorrow and meaning. As I start to read the poem, I fear I might be arrested by the porn committee as I begin to anticipate things the author hasn’t actively suggested. As I continue to read, I am introduced to the idea that there might be more and as the poem ends I am brought to shame as I begin to pity her – Shamim.

When “The judgement” starts I am reminded of painful memories. I envision how a friend met an untimely end at the hands of a group of judges.

“He lies in the dust
eyes pleading
searching for humanity
in the glares.”

For me that was enough.

“Dancing with the sun” is more of a cheeky, light hearted at times, sarcastic but also painful telling of experiences with love. Some are pleas, some are regrets, some are downright sad words.

“The skeletons in our backyard
dance to the tune of our tears.”

However, the really brilliant stuff, I think is in the final section “Falling Leaves”. Mulumba is one of those poems who speak the language of tragedy beautifully. One of the best I must say is “At twenty two”. I am not sharing the words here so you can get the book and see it for yourself. It’s tragedy in 8 lines.

“I want to live with my father” might be the second most tragic poem in the collection and this one is just five lines. Like I said, Mulumba does a good job with brevity. Come to think of it’s not brevity as such but rather saying the most with the least words.

He questions the grandeur of modern day burials in the poem “The celebration”. He is confused by presence of tears in an environment that is set up to be celebratory.

Having read his first collection – Poetry in Motion, this is several ladders up.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Rumblings of A Tree by Mulumba Ivan Matthias

  1. Thanks for the review Joel, but for me I am waiting for Nevender poetry classes, especially for those of us who can't be trusted to read poetry alone... we need a group discussion to appreciate.

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