A Poet On the Rise: Upile Chisala

By Meagan Bess

Malawian Storyteller Upile Chisala has made a name for herself as a poet but has put experience elsewhere to get her where she is today. Although poetry seems to be Chisala’s first love, education doesn’t fall that far behind it. She obtained a bachelor’s degree from New Mexico State University, followed with a master’s degree from Oxford University. Her education shows that her intelligence carries over in multiple topics.

Chisala’s fascination with poetry is prevalent throughout her works. Aside from her latest collection, “A Fire Like You,” she has published “Soft Magic,” “Nectar,” and “As Soft as Fire: Collected Poems.” Each collection reflects rawness and shows her ability to be real and easy to connect with.

Since her latest work showcases her growth with writing poetry, I will focus on breaking down several of her poems from her recently released book “A Fire Like You.”

Immediately in the opening of the book, the table of contents is labeled with the following sections: “Wound,” “Hunger,” “Swoon” and “Sister.” For some reason, I found her use of these specific words to label each section of the book with enchanting.

Multiple poems stand out in each section but the following poems seemed to present a unique meaning to this exhilarating story.

A Mercy

This poem appears to make the reader reflect beyond its words and see how this impacts our lives. Speaking before thinking about what to say can sometimes be harmful. It can lead to setbacks most people do not want.


This poem seems to reflect loving in a variety of ways that can be unique to each person and a mother’s love which can lead to worry.

All That Grew

This poem is from the section titled “Hunger.” Going through the milestones of life can lead to good and bad moments. When a person finally sees his or herself for who they are it can be eye opening.

The Sixth Day of December

This poem is in the section titled “Swoon.” It focuses on the topic of love again.

Some Wars Are Fought Under the Skin

Immediately the title is captivating. It seems to reflect on her struggles while love comes along again to help ease the tension. It is the time when love can really bring a person back to who they want to be in life.


Located in the section titled “Sister,” this could be a good poem to compare to Chisala’s collection “Nectar.” It screams gradual self-love. It might have taken some time but eventually self-love can be proclaimed unashamedly.

Anaiah’s Poem

Having a child enter the world can bring hope when it has been lost. Knowing the child has a voice and the character proclaiming that it matters is soothing. At first, the child is unable to form words until about two years later he/she can speak their mind more clearly. Their babbles matter as much as their sentences.

Let Black Girls Be

The title of this poem speaks for itself. The girls could be replaced with boys, men and women. It is a statement letting out a lot of frustration. Black girls should empower each other. They should never “fall into doubt” because they have so much to offer. Their potential is just as great as anyone else’s. Being “a mother to one” makes instilling self-empowerment in oneself essential.  It’s best to teach what you practice.


Blood or not, two strong women can go through the ups and downs of life and keep moving forward. The line that reads “Sisterhood has made this terror of a life light and breathable,” speaks volumes letting readers know it is okay to depend on each other. Depend on that sister, brother, friend or spouse and live life with them and grow in the process.

Take the time to place Chisala’s latest collection on your tablet or by the paperback edition. It is worth your time to read and don’t forget to share it with your family and friends.

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