Noma Award winning poet Lebogang Mashile's book Ribbon of Rythm falls short of the lyrical prowess for which she is known.
SABC1's L'Attitude presenter, actress and Noma Award winning poet Lebogang Mashile is undoubtedly a genius. She comes across as someone who has been soaked in greasy-words for the better part of her life and who is unable to shake the influence of free speech that has encapsulated her to almost being the she-god of South African poetry.
Knowing her as an intelligent, often emotional soul, is what was used as a base for the review of her first collection of poetry, In a Ribbon of Rythm.
This is a book and not a Compact Disc or DVD, and that is its weakness. Mashile is one of the few poets who can set the whole house on fire with her stage performances and audible deliveries that leave even old people gasping in disbelief, if in doubt, just ask Professor Es'kia Mphahlele.
Once again, Mashile is a genius word-knitter. However, her book seems to have lots of weak links to the point that if often disintegrates and integrates again.
Notably, what she intended to be a theme poem of the book, is, from where we stand, Kedi's Song, a piece she likes to perform with a vocalist and a guitarist. On paper, the sex scandal story from a small town in Free State named Excelsior, does not really come through in Mashile's written word - only that she says it. "When profanity clamoured unto seduction's breast/ when power devoured and nightfall offered no rest/ these women sweep the whispers beneath their children's skins," she starts her touching poem.
"For what I can remember but my body won't let me forget/ I sing for the embers of legacy/ I sing because I have nothing left", she finishes it, and nothing is clear about what she was trying to say relating to the scandal.
One of her famous poems in the book is the equally controversial I like It Deep Sometimes. Again what is 'it' that she likes deep is not clear in the poem and remains open to speculation.
Just when you thought you were on her wavelength she writes, "kept thinking being black and angry meant I was strong/ I've been a genius and a ho/ fat light-skinned bitch with fly Afro/ first world grigamba/ pseudo black mamba without voice". Today her crest is a poem titled I smoked a Spliff. Critics say the poem is blasphemy, sacriledge and heresy all rolled into one. This is one of a few intense poems that stick to one theme throughout. The moment the our Noma Award winner claims to have shared zol with Jesus, with 'J' later sparking another cone. Naughty!!
Intelligent word-use gives the cross-over rhetoric some element of soul.
Ribbon of Rythm is Mashile's ultimate hallucination. Brilliant editing by Bra Don Mattera tied most of the otherwise would-be obvious loose ends together and resulted in 64 pages worth your money. But overall, in the absense of the poet, her 39 babies/poems look like lost orphans between these beautiful pages.
While the book is brilliant, it is for people who've never seen Mashile recite live or on some visual medium because unfortunately, Ribbon of Rythm does gross injustice to her lyrical and vocal prowess.
It is available at all good book stores, especially Exclusive Books. This is an award winning book people, so go buy it!

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