Firstly, I am honoured to now be part of an organization that has consistently provided young creative minds with a platform to express themselves. In an age where access to space and outlets depends on association or the weight of your name, it is important for me to take a moment and commend Za for giving every poem worth publishing an outlet and a moment in the spotlight. For silently doing the hard work of maintaining and providing opportunities for young upcoming and established poets. Big up yourself
I spent most of last week, wading through hundreds of poems submitted to poetrypotion.com
The myriad of realities and ideas and cries for agency is everything that I have come to expect from poets (or those finding their feet as poets). There are so many young voices reaching out for open ears, hoping to leave a footprint somewhere on a willing heart. Maybe a little naïve and ambitious.
But is that not the fuel that keeps artist going?
Some poems were like a sledgehammer to the chest. Silently whispering me awake, reminding me of the magic of words. Some were fierce and hungry. Others gently encouraging. I remember reading ”Identity” By Rachel Swart and wondering if she knows how much life her simple poem gave me in that moment. Which got me thinking…
Who knows the true value of the ideas woven into our poetry? Who knows of the disasters our poems have silently averted? How many lives has poetry truly saved? Doing the hard work of coaxing a depleted spirit from the ledge. Has it ever really sang hope into weary bones? How many times have our poems jumped from the page to hold a broken person? What revolutions did our words birth? What solace did it offer to mourning hands? We will never truly know. All we can do is set the poem free and hope that it resonates somewhere in the corner of a passing heart. I guess that’s the curse of trying to save the world.
As journalist and humorist Don Marquis’s quipped : ”Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose-petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo”
We have stellar hopes for the work we create. But in a world billowing with noise , where the concept of micro celebrity and online stardom has turned the world on its head , and poetry has been relegated to the back benches of global pop culture ,how much agency does the poet still possess? How much louder must the poet speak to be heard?
In his essay ”Still in the making” ,Mak Manaka delves into the recurring question of voice and its author ,and explains to us that it must be as loud as needs be and as brazen or as timid as required all the while trying to find itself.
Emerging voices like Keitumetse ‘Abi’ Tlhako are speaking truth to power. Re-imagining society and using poetry to spark conversation. Abi explains why she writes, what she writes, and the importance of dealing with the toxic socializing of boys through poems like ”Black man body-For black boys”. Young voices like Abi’s are re-imagining society through poetry. The Book Club Society hosts talks with young boys and uses books to re-imagine their roles in the communities they are part of. Words and books, used as tools to build functioning humans!
Yes poets may not be as revered as the ancient Griots, and being a poet ,here today in the future, is a thankless job. We publish and read our poems and walk away from the seeds we plant in people’s hearts, unaware of the avalanches we triggered. We write poems to hold up a mirror to romanticize and coddle, to warn and praise and chastise and and and…
…and the world needs every poem. Poems that immortalize a fleeting moment. Poems that want to be held, poems that pick at scabs, poems that dance across a long hot day. Poems that remind us of our failures. Poems leaking regret. Poems that teach us how to breathe again. Poems that bleed and celebrate. Poems that chant down and rebel. Poems that are wings, poems that are sky, poems that are rain and sunlight. Poems that hold your hand, poems that run ahead. Poems that jive and poems that sing. Poems made of memory and tears. Lost poems. Poems for the lost. Loud obnoxious poems. Abrasive crass Poems. Naked poems. Barefoot poems. The world needs Every single one.
I’m not sure why , but the world needs you to keep writing because like Peter Handke so simply stated ‘“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”