All photo credits: Upile Chisala

All photo credits: Upile Chisala


A MAKER PODCAST exclusive interview with Malawian storyteller,

Upile Chisala

“I hope you never stop talking about your dreams and what

you want out of this rough beautiful life.”


Soft Magic

Some people are wise beyond their years; Upile Chisala is one such person. I came across the poetry of Ms. Chisala in 2018 and was moved by the simplicity and depth of her use of language. Personally, I love poetry and I use it to excavate my soul and make sense of the known, as well as the unknown, universe. In 1855, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote a letter to Walt Whitman upon reading a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. In the letter, Emerson wrote, “I find incomparable things said incomparably well […] I greet you at the beginning of a great career, […] It [the book] has the best merits, namely, of fortifying and encouraging.”  164 years later, I feel the same way about the literary gifts Ms. Chisala has offered the world..

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Ms. Chisala is the embodiment of a youthful, generous spirit which is being used to channel some ancient yet basic wisdom back into the world. I read her freshman effort, Soft Magic, multiple times, and I was struck by how un-self-conscious her work was. Ms.Chisala says, “the themes of Soft Magic are the self, joy, blackness, gender, matters of the heart, the experience of diaspora, spirituality and, most of all, how we survive.” The “we” is unapologetically in reference to black women. 


Soft Magic feels like the work of a young person writing intimately in her journal, which the world has accidentally gotten hold of. We should all be grateful for this happy accident. We can feel the youth, the searching, the longing to understand her place in the world as a female and as a feminine presence. I love everything about this fire-filled chapbook: the numberless pages, the untitled poems, the raw emotion, the extensive and devotional use of the word, ‘darling’. This book should be read by young people everywhere, especially young black women. This book is love.

What we give the Gods in prayer we get back in people
— Soft Magic




(the perfomance) of words that are believed to have a magical effect when spoken or sung.

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In her second book, Nectar, Ms. Chisala says the themes are, “self-love, roots, and acknowledging the fruits of these experiences.” Nectar is a series of life lessons which are so fresh their wings have not yet dried. These are the musings of a young adult who is navigating her way through love, relationships and life in general. These poems are a balm to the mind body and soul. 

You’re lovely. You’re lovely. You’re lovely. You’re lovely. 
You’re lovely. You’re lovely. You’re lovely. You’re lovely.  You’re lovely. You’re lovely and you belong here.
— Nectar

We offer a heartfelt thank you to Ms. Chisala for spending time with us on the MAKER podcast.  

Learn more  about Ms. Chisala’s work here.