Reflections of Melville Poetry Festival II
12 – 14 October 2012

Now day two starts on a rather blast from the past note. The last time i saw the Botsotso Jesters as a trio was probably seven years ago at that spot they killed in Newtown to make way for ‘development’ [Kippies] named after Bra Kippie Moeletsi. Kippies was the first casualty since after we kept quiet at the rape they have raped quite a few other virgin pozzies and are about to prostitute Newtown to capitalists. We should have seen it when they came up with fancy programmes like Urban Renewal.

And now on Saturday here I am cruising down 7th and the first two people i meet is Bra Ike and Siphiwe. Long time no seeing; mehlomadala comrades! We chat like old times before i see Alan across the street and at getting to him i find Mphuhlane wa Bofelo, Mxolisi Nyezwa and other poets i still need to humble myself and ask for their names chilling over tea and coffee. I am such a good person that i end up scoring a Kotaz, a Botsotso and Kolski-Howirtz’s Meditations of a Non-White White. I felt like a kid in a candy shop. I also meet Gary Cummiskey for the first time in a long while. Thanks to Facebook, we would have been strangers. Here i reconnect with the 2011 South African Literary Awards Poetry winner Kobus Moolman.

A cup of coffee later the first session i attend is in Melon and it’s Lionel Murcott setting the house alight with his visual art-inspired deliveries. There are these two artists who are providing a background to his art; just as you’ll see the Jesters doing their thing during a performance. Poets have become multi-media artists by integrating other artforms to create a dish.

I am usually a purist but i must confess i found Lionel’s poitjiekos quite yummy. I listen and watch – quite like television. Interesting enough there is an imposing painting right behind Lionel that has been covered; maybe not to interfere with his artistry. I don’t take time to ask why or why?

Lionel also has an exhibition in one of the pozzies here which feeds very much into his poetic aesthetic.

Next to serenade is Dave Chislett. Now tattooed and broad-shouldered Dave pitches to deliver his piece wearing a dodgy black t-shirt loved by club bouncers and security guards usually imprinted with the swear-words ‘SECURITY’. Now, Dave’s tee is inscribed with INSECURITY which provides a moment of laughter. He confesses that he started writing at the age of 11 but only started really looking at his work as poetry later on in his life; actually when Facebook was invented; which is yesterday at Harvard.

Where i am sitting i am with my dear brother from my other mother Mphuhlane wa Bofelo who is telling me about the mentorship programmes they usually run in Ethekwini to unearth and nurture new talent. He tells me they have produced brilliant wordsmiths who are ready to take over the baton from their living ancestors and soldier on. So, we will outlive Zuma’s bollocks after all but he won’t outlive our spears, hahahaha!

So, i am excited when one of those takes to the mike to deliver her venom. Poet Tumelo Khoza has serious social issues to tackle in her works. She spits so much well-calculated venom i am left wondering how she will sound once the pot has been past simmering and is on the table for servings. Bitterness can be so sweet that sugar will make you puke; i think.

There’s a poem i like where she brings down her full feminist [read womanist] might against abortion [legal or illegal]. Though the poem sounds kinda moralising but I’m thinking ‘damnit it’s a blerry poem and she has her license to annoy’. Marie Stopes is on her scope.

Later on when i read Gary’s Facebook i notice he refers to her as the future. All i can say is; sublime.

Later on the day i find myself at Sophiatown where my old friends are doing their thing. Old poets don’t die but start distilling whisky poetry. Sis Makhosazana Xaba of these hands’ fame is composed in her aging she makes me wanna get old like her. Masoja Msiza is waxing lyrical in isiZulu and his good command of the township Zulu as well is astounding. Masoja is a performer so the stage is his oyster.

Then British poet Yrsa Daley-Ward takes to the stage and we have that crossover (not soutpiele) thing with her saucy lines. Yrsa is a humble soul who you notice immediately she takes to the stage that she has no illusions of being a messiah for African poets but she is here to take part and learn as well. The poem that leaves me impressed is one for her departed mother. Wow, beautiful.

That’s one thing i often find annoying about so-called South African celebrity poets who art in our backyard. You don’t get to see them in any festival if they are not participating. And they never participate unless they are paid lots of money. And they always want to use other people’s occasions to brand themselves for capital gains. Yrsa, who is also a model is just brilliant and non-antagonistic and i love her – truly.

My highlight for the afternoon is Afurakhan and his troupe (actually i want to say troop). Afura or Thabiso as his parents minted him has been a spoken word soul for the better part of his artistic life. I loved his passion then and today i’m impressed to taste the fruits of his labour. The protégé poets he has lined up are extra-ordinary and i can only take off my hat to them. Actually i let him know i appreciate his candle lighting others.

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