It’s always an honour to find yourself in the audience of such a show, the CSP Slam. The audience is made up of poetry experts, youth who are here to support their friends or simply to just enjoy poetry and be part of a movement bigger than themselves, because I assure you, this is a big thing. Years from now, I will be proud to have witnessed the MALANGABS.
Once our MC, the beddable Lil’ Hussle has opened the show with some shade and humour, it’s all systems go. Most of the poets say the title of their poem once they get to the mic, some say their poems are without titles and they make this known to us before they begin and most say thank you at the end, but not Kano. She gets to the mic, brings the MALANGABS, takes a pause and goes to sit down. She has a look that says “I might win this, but I’m not going to get too confident” and it is after I realise this that I let my neighbour know that I put my money on her, because she stands a good chance of winning and because she is also humble about it. But honestly, she had me at “Sesotho saka will not be written in Italics”.
After her final bow and her brief moment on the winner’s chair I ask her for a moment but I forget to tell her my name. She listens to me going on and on and once I stop for breath she asks ‘Who am I talking to?’ and I realise, she doesn’t take nonsense either. My kind of girl.
But because she is kind, she made time to answer some questions.
Here we go,
- What informs your poetry? Liquorice…all sorts. Most times, it is comes from experiences – mine or others. Through poetry I try to make sense of various experiences, I have conversations with them and I note them. In so doing, I find ways to emphasise with others, to come to terms with myself or simply imagine and research past what little information I have from those experiences. With regards to noting experiences, like in my poem, Funeral Sounds, I engage in a slight anthropological exercise: observing, analysing, documenting then creating an output that could have conversations with other people’s funeral experiences.
My poems are also informed by momentary sparks. Sometimes I’m in the shower talking to myself loudly and boom! Somewhere between soap, wet toes and the argument I’m having with the character in my head, a poem forms. I love taxi conversations and hearing dope one-liners from people too! These kick-start poems. Other poems also inspire poems. And I’m finding that entering poetry competitions urges me to excavate poems. Thus, these poems are informed by things I know I know, things other people have known and they get twisted and bent into poems.
- In Jefferson Tshabalala’s Poet.O.Type, the Guru says: The languages are dying as it is, so let them do so in peace. These noble attempts at resurrection must die with native tongues.’ What do you say?
Eish, this language question is a long-standing, unresolved one on this continent of ours. To simply dismiss the use of our languages – those which we suckled from our mothers’ breasts – is something with which I completely disagree. I have a few reasons.
ONE: I believe, Ngugi-style, in the idea that culture and thus our identities are embedded and breathing within our languages. They are living right now in there…it isn’t some archaic notion. Eintlik, we are living inside and through our own languages so why deny ourselves the imagery, the ways of knowing, the idioms, the nuances, the tsotsitaal and the ability to communicate with those who are not fluent in English?! TWO: Our poetry scene, is saturated with English. That’s fine for those who just want English in their lives. But what’s sad is that many poets feel pressured to sound like a regte Englishman and conform to a certain way of doing poetry. We should come to a point where English is seen as yet another language, not a means to validate a poet’s intellect and ability to articulate his/herself. THREE: for every couple of poets who use our African languages as a gimmick, there a few excavating and conversing with their truths, experiences and worlds in a way they know best. Give them space to.
I use Sesotho in my poetry. In fact, to be more accurate I continue to learn to read and write Sesotho through using it. Simultaneously, I am finding ways to use the Sesotho I know poetically. She must feature, she is a part of me. This is only the beginning! I hope to one day write full Sesotho poems – not English poems translated into Sesotho empa DITHOKO!
- What does a movement such as The Current State of Poetry mean to you?
Oh, Current State of Poetry (CSP) is visionary…it is necessary! CSP captains, Vus’umuzi Phakathi and Lehlohonolo Masina, keep repeating #PoetryIndustry and “Building An Industry”. I am witnessing a collective building and professionalising of the poetry industry through CSP and its beautiful!
Poets who didn’t emerge from a theatre or English-major background are now being equipped with the same performance and writing tools, skills, and secrets. Other poets are mentoring less-experienced poets by sharing what they know ever so graciously. These workshops are building confidence, allowing poetic experiments, demanding professionalism and calling for a collective consciousness in this process. I am a fan!
- Does winning the slam validate anything?
It is a confirmation that vele I am a poet and a good one at that. I must keep on. After having a 4-year break from poetry, I needed confirmation and fuel. Beyond that, winning the slam confirms that I have loads to do: fulfilment, poetic experiments, collaborations, international performances, publishing and doing the twalatsa with this gift will not do itself (Okay, maybe the twalatsa is not the most appealing dance but the point is I want to dance with it…my way)
- Did you think you’ll be the one to sit on the winner’s chair? If not, who did you think was going to win?
Hahaha this question is not awks at all.
So…I won the very first CSP Open Slam last year (November) so of course I wanted to do it again. However, the incredible, Busisiwe, won the last time in January and there were some performances on that stage that had me shelling out ovations so ja…I knew it was a competition nyan nyan’. But to be honest – and none of that faux modesty stuff – wanting to win comes secondary to wanting to perform the hell out of those poems. I ached to perform my 4-minute piece, Blasphemy.
- Which subject matter makes it into your content?
Liquorice…all sorts. There are too many interesting things in this world to want to close myself off to particular subject matters. I can’t. I like things. So inter alia, living libraries, death, butterflies, exploring aspects of what it means to be African, religion, sexuality, the self, family, all sorts of love…feature. Empa what I try to do is acknowledge what a straight approach to these would be then I attempt to find backdoors, windows, roofs, and someone else’s backroom from which to enter the subjects.
- In one word; What are the challenges in poetry and what do you love about poetry?
You can catch Katleho Kano Shoro at
28 February 2016
SABC Studios, Auckland Park
And you can follow her at,
f: Katleho Shoro