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Launch: The History of Intimacy by Gabeba Baderoon (11 September)

The History of Intimacy is the fourth collection by award-winning poet Gabeba Baderoon. Breathtaking intimacies and private hurts are crafted into lyrical form – in poems on desiring what is furthest from you, memories of a midnight swim, how children work out the laws of existence, the stakes of speaking a forbid­den word, elegies to a jazz prodigy and a beloved poet, and how not to be alone.

Event Details

Jozi Book Fair launch of Keorapetse Kgositsile's Homesoil in my Blood (2 September)

Via Jozi Book Fair

Xarra Books in collaboration with Jozi Book Fair will be hosting a fitting tribute to the late Keorapetse Kgositsile, a poet, author and political activist, affectionately known as Bra Willie. His latest book, Homesoil In My Blood, proudly published by Xarra Books, is a trilogy of poems. This book showcases a selection of poems from his remarkable cutting-edge poetry collection and features a foreword by Mandla Langa.

The launch will take place on the 02nd of September 2018 at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown Johannesburg from 16:00 to 16:50pm.

Kgositsile was born in 1938, and spent 29 years in exile, primarily in the United States. He made his return to South Africa in 1990 and was named South Africa’s Poet Laureate in 2006. In 2008, he was awarded the national Order of Ikhamanga Silver for ‘excellent achievements in the field of literature and using these exceptional talents to expose the evils of the system of apartheid to the world’.

Kgositsile’s poetry includes “Spirits Unchained” (1969), “For Melba” (1970), “My Name Is Afrika” (1971), “The Present Is a Dangerous Place to Live” (1974), “Places and Bloodstains” (1975), “When the Clouds Clear” (1990), “If I Could Sing” (2002) and “This Way I Salute You” (2004).

Kgositsile was one of the first to bridge the gap between African poetry and Black poetry in the United States and he was an influential member of the African National Congress.

Bekendstelling: Asof geen berge ooit hier gewoon het nie deur Pieter Odendaal (22 Augustus)

Asof geen berge ooit hier gewoon het nie is ’n opwindende en verweefde debuut uit ’n jong digter se pen.

Met ’n eietydse en aktuele aanslag skryf Odendaal oor die politiek van verskil in ’n multikulturele samelewing, die natuur en ons ekologiese voetspoor, verganklikheid, menswees, die liefde, asook die onlangse studentepolitiek.

Ten einde vra hy: Re mang? Wie is ons? En wie is hulle?

Details

"One would be remiss to sleep on this collection" - Russell Grant reviews Megan Ross's Milk Fever

It would be easy to write about Megan Ross’s Milk Fever as strictly a collection of poems about young motherhood, and while yes, this is the case, and a very good collection about young motherhood it is, I feel there is much more to this collection than its subject matter.

Not more in the sense that its subject matter is somehow trivial or incidental, but more in the sense that, technically, Ross is a very good poet, and just what makes her poems good should not be something that we ignore.

Milk Fever is published by uHlanga Press, a name which has been doing remarkable things in the South African poetry scene of late. They are responsible for bringing to the world Koleka Putuma’s Collective Amnesia, a book which is breaking records in the South African poetry publishing game. Alongside Putuma, uHlanga have an impressive roster of poets including Genna Gardini, Douglas Reid Skinner, Francine Simone and Nick Mulgrew. Amongst these bright lights of the South African poetry scene, Megan Ross’s flame does not dim. Her work is mature and confident, despite this being her debut collection, and her growth as a poet is something we should look on with optimism.

It is almost a backhanded compliment in some ways to write of a woman poet that her work is Plathian. Whilst Sylvia Plath was a brilliant writer of verse, it can be a cliched and reductive comparison.

I do think Ross is Plathian, not because she is a woman writing about the deeply personal with a great degree of angst (which she is), but rather because the two both have a similar gift for effective, hard hitting imagery, and a knack for making the personal universal; for connecting the things that happen to us as individuals with the great big cogs of history, science, culture and language.

Ross’s opening poem, “Object” sets the scene:

“At night when it is the city’s turn to light the sky,
She dreams of creation splitting open under teacher’s pen,
Ink-spliced parts dictated by biology, geography, mathematics, cosmology.
(as if time really is an endpoint a corporeal destination as if seas really do part)”

It is a testament to the immense confidence that Ross has as a young writer to open with a poem that is so confrontational.

In it Ross lays down a challenge both to society in general (“even without sons we still are…”), and to language and poetry in particular: “punctuate us if you dare”. It reads like the voice of a woman claiming space for herself in a space which is yet to fully understand or accept her. In it the poem itself becomes a metaphor for an inadequate world in which, despite its inadequacies, one still wants to live.

Ross is trying to write herself both into and out of language and history. This ironic tension gives the poem its power, and lays down the themes of futility intermingled with hope that dominates this collection.

The groundwork for the collection’s focal imagery and symbolism is laid in the first few pages. Imagery and symbolism which is, arguably, exploded as it progresses. The middle part of this book is kaleidoscopic, as Ross fiddles with (nay, ratchets) form and meaning, diction and syntax, until the very fabric of the universe starts to come apart at the seams. For instance:

“Your milk comes apart   so it can   be held
Like soft frangipanis   inking   your skin”

Ross’s allusions and associations are strange, yet they are held together by an imagistic vocabulary that develops as the book proceeds. Images of dryness, wetness, bodily fluids, flowers, blades and a host more are developed and re-used and re-contextualised as the book goes on. The effect is surrealist stream of consciousness that somehow retains a sense of central logic.

These images and themes are used as vehicles to confront a range of topics, of which young motherhood is but one. Old relationships, platonic and otherwise, familial bonds, love, death, self-harm… these are all dealt with in this book, and it would be a crime to ignore all of these things in favour of the book’s supposed selling point, that is, a book about young motherhood.

There is a great deal to love about the middle portion of this book but also a great deal to miss if one is not careful.

Ross’s diction can be deceptively simple, and to truly do it justice would require several readings. Here, in the belly, Ross masterfully weaves a web of interconnected images and allusions which connect like strings on a conspiracy theorist’s pin board. It would take far too much time to break it all down here.

One simply has to dive in and trust that one will emerge unscathed on the other side. Or not. I don’t think unscathed is what you want to be when you emerge at the end of this collection, and I doubt that anyone actually would.

Ross manages to take us a fair distance from the shore in this collection, and the effect can be disconcerting. However, she does a good job of reeling us back in whilst doing minimal damage to the integrity of our psyches.

Whilst the middle of the book has a quality of formic dissonance to it, the end resolves like a melody settling on the first note of the scale. There are some truly memorable lines here, like, “In the drying there is life”, and “I know genesis has its place”, both from subsections of “Love in the Year of Bleeding”.

Both go a long way to heal the wounds inflicted by the beginning and middle. Dryness is synonymous with death in most of the book; the dryness of ageing, of the vast salt plains of youth we mistook for flavour but which ultimately drain us of our vitality; but here she offers us hope.

The same goes for “I know genesis has its place”, a deceptively simple, almost tautological line that alludes to the genesis of the bible, but also to genesis as a kind of change; change which can be violent but ultimately necessary and productive.

Admittedly, sometimes, Ross’s lines can get caught up in themselves, and some may find in this collection the kind of baffling deliberate opaqueness that makes much modernist and post-modernist poetry inaccessible. There are certainly instances of lines falling flat, or syntactic structures that repeat themselves just once too often, breaking the spell (“refrigerator eggs stained to teeth and bone” is one such syntactic device).

Overall, however, I think one would be remiss to sleep on this collection. Dive in, get lost, find yourself, and don’t for a second try to punctuate any of it.

Book details

"Storytelling is a powerful communication tool for social cohesion, recording history and development" - a Q&A with Zimbabwean protest poet and playwright, Bhekumusa Moyo

By Carla Lever

Bhekumusa Moyo, Zimbabwean protest poet and playwright

 

What role do you think storytelling – in communities, families or even individually – can have in creating social change?

Storytelling is a powerful communication tool for social cohesion, recording history and development. It can inspire change or incite a people to act on a social issue. Our personal stories are also a source of energy. Each story told has the potential for inspiring the next person. The experiences we go through can be used as a learning tool by those who haven’t experienced those things. I derive my own personal mojo from stories of key pioneers of pan-Africanism.

Tell us a little about your own experience with writing and performing in Zimbabwe.

Writing and performing in Zimbabwe is a life-changing experience. It certainly has its ugly phases – the darkest corners being draconian laws inherited from colonial Rhodesia. The laws that make the lives of critical and protest artists like me hell are the Public Order Security Act and the censorship board. These have curtailed any work which challenges those in power. Minus these challenges of arrest, persecution and banning, though, Zimbabwean audiences are supportive of art that speaks truth to power.

Which of your works are you most proud of having written?

I am proud of 1983-The Dark Years. This is a politically charged play on the Gukurahundi genocide which swept Matabeleland from 1980 through to 1987, leaving a trail of sorrow and deaths numbering around 20 000. The play was banned in 2010 but, with support from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, we managed to stage it in various places. This year, after Mugabe, the play had a week of full houses at Theatre in the Park in Harare. I’m also proud of one of my poems called They Shall All Fall. This poem speaks of how people will dethrone dictators no matter how strong they are. Here’s an extract – “All that flies lands sometime / one by one in no particular order / they shall all fall.”

What language(s) do you use to write and perform in? Do you think choice of language is a political act for artists?

I write in Ndebele and English. Ndebele is my mother language. I will not stray far from it, as it carries rich idioms, proverbs and expressions of my people. Even when I perform, I juggle English and Ndebele. Language is a political act. My English must have deep roots to the imagery of my community so that I don’t struggle. Language, like culture, carries the essence of the peoples’ struggles. Language is the heartbeat of a community and yes, it’s a political tool too for engagement or disengagement.

There are many ways of protesting. Using literature – both written and oral – has a long and powerful tradition in Africa. Who are some of the protest writers who have inspired you?

I am greatly inspired by Athol Fugard, Professor Chinua Achebe, Christopher Mlalazi and the general struggles of my people, especially the women and mothers of my village who always show resilience even in the face of travesty.

Have you ever found it difficult to be a politically active writer in Zimbabwe?

Yes, Zimbabwe has very draconian laws, as I alluded to earlier. The censorship board is the biggest culprit – a club of old men who make it difficult to be politically active as a writer.

Of course, the elections are coming up very soon in Zimbabwe. What role do you think writers – whether they are poets, singers or journalists – play in this important time?

Chinua Achebe says that ‘writers give headaches.’ I feel it is important for artists at this time to inspire debate on the elections and comment strongly on institutions and individuals who can make or break the election. Artists must motivate citizens to vote, inspire peace as well as play the watchdog role and whistleblowers in cases of human rights abuses.

What kinds of opportunities would you like to see for African writers and storytellers in the future?

I am hoping that universities will embrace storytelling as a medium of passing on information. This can be done in formal learning spaces or creating festivals within academic years for African writers to bring their wisdom. I’d also love to see more writing residencies and literature festivals for different language activists. Storytellers must be brought to the table as much as other professionals to educate and speak openly on issues of social change.

Reading and telling stories with your children is a powerful gift to them. It builds knowledge, language, imagination and school success! For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of South African languages, visit: www.nalibali.org.

 

 

Cape Town Poetry Slam returns to the Mother City in 2018

This year in another collaboration between InZync Poetry, the Stellenbosch University Museum, the Bellville Public Library, Cape Town Central Library, the Fugard Theatre and Open Book Festival, the Cape Town Poetry Slam returns to Cape Town, with three prelim slams and a final slam at the Fugard Theatre on 8 September.

In 2018 we are looking for the second Cape Town Poetry Slam Champion! There will be three prelim slams, one in Stellenbosch, the second in Bellville and the third in Cape Town.

The top three poets from each of the prelims will move onto the second round, which is the final, at the Fugard Theatre in collaboration with the Open Book Festival, and the poets will battle it out for the title of Cape Town’s Poetry Slam Champion!

All of the prelims and the final will be hosted by amazing local poets such as Allison-Claire Hoskins, Roché Kester, Samora Magwa, Quaz Roodt and there will be live beats by DJ Deco.

The judges for this year’s slam are Cape Town rapper Jitsvinger, poetry slam champion, writer and performer Siphokazi Jonas and Lingua Franca spoken word movement director Mbongeni Nomkonwana. The final will also include a short performance by each of the judges.

MCs and judges at Cape Town Poetry Slam 2017

 
There are lots of prizes up for grabs for the winners of the prelims and the final, all to the value of R14 200. Cape Town’s Poetry Slam Champion will walk away with R2 500 in cash, a R500 Book Lounge voucher and a video poem to be produced by InZync!

The winners of each prelim will also participate in a workshop to prepare them to battle it out for the title of Cape Town’s Poetry Slam Champion. Budding poets can sign up on the day of each prelim, it is first come first serve, with a maximum of 25 sign ups per prelim.

The details of the three prelim slams are as follows:

Prelim 1: 11 August – Stellenbosch University Museum, 13:00
Prelim 2: 18 August – Bellville Public Library, 13:00
Prelim 3: 25 August – Cape Town Central Library, 13:00

The final is on 8 September at the Fugard Theatre at 20:00.

Tickets will be on sale for R50. Bookings will be open from early August and can be made at Webtickets.

For more details check out the InZync Poetry Sessions social media platforms:
Facebook – InZync Poetry Sessions, Instagram – @inzync_poetry, Twitter – @InZyncPoetry

About InZync Poetry

InZync Poetry is a Non-Profit Organization based in the Western Cape dedicated to the expansion of multilingual and multimodal poetry platforms in the Cape.

Our founders are Adrian ‘Diff’ van Wyk and Pieter Odendaal and together our team run poetry workshops with emerging poets called the INKredibles, and host poetry shows. In 2016 InZync collaborated with Koleka Putuma to create a video for her poem ‘Water’ and released an EP of poems called InterVerse. In 2017 InZync Poetry hosted the Cape Town Poetry Slam, and in 2018, we published the multilingual poetry anthology ConVerse in collaboration with Woordfees.

InZync has collaborated with many local and international poets to bring multilingual poetry to Cape audiences.