If writer Lesego Rampolokeng was given to overt off-stage narcissism, he would probably compare himself to a Johnny Dyani bassline. In a country in which populist guitarist Jimmy Dludlu just took a South African Music Award for best jazz album, Rampolokeng’s increasing obscurity is nothing if not symbolic.
In 2007 the journal Chimurenga put out its 11th issue, Conversations with Poets Who Refuse to Speak. Had that volume been released this year, Rampolokeng would have featured in its pages, reiterating his “difficulty” with being thought of as a “performance poet” while throwing in some caustic humour about bards who sell petrol and body lotion.
'it's the age of the automatic storyteller machine
& the rent-a-poet enterprise you can talk conscience / mission station
but every walk has a price every talk its lies
like talking head-bopping toe-tapping
walking decapitation amputation
that's not rapping that's diarrhoeared crapping
that parley in parliament
NOW poet is pose with a rose
backyard bard becomes long-distance poet
pontius pilates the WORD in the poetorium
i'm talking prose
between assimilation & alienation they don't ban
they throw the switch on communication
& from selling-out to buying in is a grey-matter line
the monstrosity is regent
now poetry is beauty pageant
jump the class fence & land in affluence
but what lies beyond the prettiness of the performance
when gangrene sets in after the applause?'
- Lesego Rampolokeng 'Talking Prose' (excerpt)
fr. 'Head on Fire'
in other words, Kwanele....
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