One of the oldest literary magazines in this country got to be New Coin. So many years and undergoing editorial and content transformation later it still commands respect amongst literature fundis as a true reflection of the state of South Afrikan arts at any given time. Adding to its advantage, it has never put on a revolutionary mantle that would have been heavier in times of peace. One of the few politicians I know has a habit of saying there's no reason for anyone to be reactionary because it only comes after the initial action and that once the action is addressed the poor reactionary dies.
I always say to him it depends on whether there will be love and happiness and no issues to champion. I always say that Ernesto Che Guevara would find a revolution to champion in Switzerland. My politician friend, who always preaches the NDR (National Democratic Revolution) is adamant that reactionary politics are a waste of time. New Coin has never been a revolutionary and maybe that's the reason why it is still going strong because it chose to cham
pion evolution. Yeah, I've seen magazines searching for trouble in paradise, finding none and excusing themselves from tranquil waters, middle finger raised and an 'f' word echoeing from their dying breath.
But then in a racially polarised country like the Mzansi, New Coin (pictured left)has its critics, of which I will nibble on some of them. The first one is that it's as inaccessible as a Kruger Rand (pictured above). That it's a laager and has its regular suspects who know that whatever they write will find comfort in the hallowed pages of the Coin. Names are being thrown around as 'proof' that it remains a bastion for alternative 'white' thinking instead of being mainstream and gettting along with the country's reality. Some say it has its traditional conservative readers who post-'94 editors always try not to offend when they select writers (not material) for any new issue while at the same time trying to attract new black talent.
Well, me you know I'm not the spokesperson for the company that minted New Coin but as an observer I can vouch that it has always tried to be reflective of the country's diverse arts populace. I can use two old issues as an example. New Coin number 39 (December 2004) in which I contributed. Crisply edited by Alan Finlay and featuring much talent and critical poetry the issue did not disappoint. Truth be told, the journal always strives to attract the best talent there is inorder to uphold literary standards. It does not look like a training ground for writers or to be championing a development agenda. I mean let's be honest, we can't have quotas in literature as well because otherwise they will fuck up our literature the same way they do our sports and employment competence. If you can't write you can't write, and if you can write indulge us.
Okay, for those interested in why I use quotas, number 39 had poetry from Ike Mboneni Muila (Gova), Vonani Bila (In the name of Amandla, Magicstan Fires), David wa Maahlamela (Moswarataukamariri) and myself (Journey With Me) and none of them will leave you alive for insinuating that they are quota contributors. I did not have a feeling of being patronised since I met the editor for the first time in Newtown during a book launch when I recited and he liked my poetry and invited me to contribute. At that time I did not have a book out but I mad
e it into the pages of the Coin. And everybody knows there are these darkies who always walk around in groups reciting only in Gauteng and celebrating each other without going out there to have their stuff put through acid and when there are talk shows questioning parity in the arts they are the ones to form the panel and complain that whites are keeping laagers while they are keeping conquered kingdoms and are scared of coming out of closets because out here it's hard and we don't get invited to recite at government events because we don't write by commission but what comes from the heart. Very few real poets get invited to television or radio programmes since poetry is an art of expression and not a ticket to celebritica and very few poets become celebrities in a country as ignorant as South Afrika. If they love what you are saying, lucky you.
Now you see why I protest that it is a laager? US poet Sarah Jones might not associate with it, but it's okay, there are plastic poets who will associate with her because they are dying for validation while they don't contribute to local New Coin. Bila is a known revolutionary, Muila writes in isiCamtho and Maahlamela often that not an indigenous poet (imbongi). Okay, in issue number 39 there was former editor Joan Metelerkamp, Christine Lucia, Colleen Higgs, Kelwyn Sole, Alistair Simmonds, Pravasan Pillay, Richard Fox, Toast Coetzer, Chris Mann, Arja Salafranca, Nadine Botha, Liesl Jobson, Joe Nhlapo, Paulette Coetzee, Christina Coates, Charl-Pierrie Naude, Lesego Rampolokeng,
Gary Cummiskey and Linda Ndlovu. Maybe one will say there is a scarity of black women in the book, but where are they? At Newtown heaping praises on each other and booing anyone they don't know no matter how good they are. It's the same thing said about Litnet.
I'm using the names of contributors to indicate the level of representativity that went into this issue of New Coin. To add to that, controversial poet Mbongeni Khumalo (pictured right) (Apocrypha) is the former winner of the bi-annual prize that the magazine gives to an outstanding entry. Khumalo, for those who know him can shoot from the hip and walk away without taking headcounts. He's intelligent too, the type of writer that attracts New Coin and vise versa.
And once again maybe what should matter is the themes that writers explore. If love is a universal theme, then no race holds monopoly or copyright to it. Maybe if I can have an anthology wholly contributed to by Japanese poets who write about love it should appeal equally to every human without flirting with race and colour. Maybe this race thing is so heavy a cross for us South Africans to carry, WE NEED OUR OWN SIMON.
Don't be bored, I'm emphasizing race because I know many folks will attack me for saying New Coin is repre
sentative since they have been coming to me complaining as if I was the Empowerdex of literature.
"Some of the things I remember about your father (for Graeme), I remember the neat way he carved chicken into thin slices, each piece of breasts with a sliver of roasted skin still on it/ I remember him telling me how he lived in Hillbrow as a medical student after the war, it must have been quite different then to how it is now, or even to when he told me, which was nearly 20 years ago now!" Is this a black or a white poem? It was penned by Colleen Higgs (pictured left) and its theme is universal. Now you see what I mean.
One thing I like about New Coin is that it does not try too hard to be all things to all people but sticks to its own programme. Nadine Botha's poem is titled The next level of pornography is taking the photo so you're looking at your own body. "But it's twilight and the candle lubricated for a fuck,/ she didn't fuck", she writes. Sounds like a line from some gangsta rapper named Obie Tryce.
New Coin is bigger than just poetry. It features revealing interviews, book launch news, reviews of literature and a platform for you to contribute. And if you have a short story you can send it to them as well.
In New Coin number 40 you will find good stuff from Fidelities editor Kobus Moolman (pictured above with a baldhead) and Adam Haupt who is such a critical thinker you'll be damned if you thought he was in a laager. Haupt has written extensively on youth culture, hip-hop, urban realities in the century of dreaming and chasing invisible chariots. He's the most in-touch academic of this century since that non-academic son of the Black Panther.
The journal is sponsored by Dramatic, Artistic and Literary Rights Organisation (Pty) Limited (DALRO), is published twice a year, in June and December by the Institute for the Study of English in Africa at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.
Contributions can be sent to New Coin, ISEA, Rhodes University P.O.Box 94 Grahamstown 6140 South Africa.
For subscription and more info New Coin can be found at
Start sending and good luck.

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