During my teenage years, I used to write what I thought was poetry. And I didn’t write because I didn’t have friends or because the world was not a friendly place, I wrote because I was fascinated by words and how they sounded next to each other.
With confidence, I used to subject open mic audiences to my ‘poetry’, which I now know, wasn’t poetry but more of a diary entry.
It was only after I learned that you can love somethings from a distance that I learned that I’m not a poet. And I was very welcome to love poetry from a distance. Not from the stage, but from the auditorium.
Now what the problem with me was, was that I didn’t have the necessary skill to fully articulate the poet in me, who I later learned that she is a storyteller who is obsessed with props.
To avoid having the kind of material I put on stage when I was still under the illusion of being a poet, the CSP offers workshops ranging from writing to arts administration, to encourage good quality and well-rounded poets, because you know what? The Current State of Poetry is dedicated to building an industry.
March the 5th was the Third Chapter of the #CSPSlam – MALANGABS. The chapter that moved Rethabile Zilila from workshop to the winners’ chair. The chapter that also crowned Sibulelo Manamatela, the audience’s choice.
We celebrate with them, but we’d also like to know a few things, won’t we? Here we go;
1.What informs your work?
Rethabile: Everything about who I am instructs my work. The times and inner turbulence, the dreams and visions, the state of my people and current affairs, life and experiences inform my work.
Sibulelo: Mostly people and experiences, both good and bad.
2.What is the thing you will never write about? Why?
Rethabile: Nothing. I write about everything. Not everything will make to the public eye or ear, but there isn’t a thing I will not write about.
Sibulelo: Nothing. Most times people shy away from writing about things that make them uncomfortable, issues that are sensitive but these are the things one should address to find a resolve so I have dared myself to engage all things tender.
3.We have Apartheid Poetry, what do you call the poetry of this generation?
Rethabile: Poetry is influenced by time, takes shape in the voice of that time. I do not have a name for the poetry of this generation, all I know is that the time speaks through the poets. And if the poets aren’t speaking accordingly, then they are not listening. And if there’s/ was “apartheid poetry” time called for it and the voices broke forth. The current time is that of the awakening of the black man/being and his claim, calling out the wrong, taking charge of himself and calling forth his own; standing, defending and protecting, hence these struggles we see and experience, hence the current revolution; especially that of the students, which isn’t isolated to all black struggle but the indifference of our people would argue otherwise.
Sibulelo: Transition Era Poetry.
4.Essentially, what do you aim to achieve with your poetry?
Rethabile: To empty myself.
Sibulelo: The answer to this question is fluid; it takes the shape of every poem. However, the two constants are the need to rub oil on soft spots, my own and the audiences, and to evoke the human sentimentally we all possess.
5.In Jefferson Tshabalala’s Poet.O.Type*, the Grasshoper says: ‘The people are the people… maybe what we are calling bad poetry resonates more truthfully with them’… What is bad poetry?
Rethabile: Bad poetry? I don’t know. If it’s poetry, how can it be bad? Who defines bad poetry? Who decides?
Here’s what I believe, poetry is a voice of time, it is multilingual and speaks to all who will listen, how it chooses to whisper to me may not be in the tongue that you understand, so; who am I to say that that tongue is bad, when it is not speaking to me? And who are you to say that the tongue I understand clearly is bad?
Perhaps bad is relative.
Sibulelo: A very long time ago Plato stated that ‘beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’ and I firmly believe that the beauty of poetry, and art in general, can only be wholly appreciated by those whom it was created for. Regardless of ‘rules’ and ‘requirements’ that make a poem each human receives it with a different palette; so who is to say what bad poetry really is.
6.In one word, what are the challenges in poetry and what do you love about poetry?
(The journey of) growth.
The openness of it.