Writing is a solitary act that produces something that must be shared. While the act of writing may and often does, serve a personal purpose that act of sharing is about inspiring the collective. Ultimately, creativity is a communal experience. It is for collective good. This communal experience is important – for the greater good.
This August, six creative women came together to engage in a poetic conversation about sex. These women, Vangi Gantsho, Thandokuhle Mngqibisa, Myesha Jenkins, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers and Sarah Godsell often create on their own. But this time they joined forces to create something amazing.
Of the five poets, Sarah Godsell is the only whose work was new to me however I knew to expect a powerful collaboration having seen and read the work of the other poets.
I had the pleasure of watching their collaboration titled Secret with the Moon, named after a line in one of Vangi’s poems. It was directed by Megan Godsell and staged at Wits Theatre as part of the Drama For Life: Sex Actually festival.
This year, Drama For Life, was themed “Speaking actively and transparently about sex, relationships, masculinities and gender-based violence this national festival focuses on dynamic dialogue as a primary precursor for community engagement.” An this collaboration fit perfectly with that theme.
Walking into the theatre, we found the poets sitting around, drinking, tea or coffee, knitting and chatting… At first, we didn’t realise that the show had started but slowly as we hear what they are talking about, sex. Some of us start to think “maybe the show has started” as they start to talk about “the first time”. Vangi looks up at someone in the audience and asks them about their first time. Amidst the unsure and nervous giggles in the audience, a cautious answer is given. Myesha says about her first time not being nice, someone else reveals there was a lot of blood… by the time a young guy in the audience tells us about his romantic first time (candles and snows and a fire!) the laughter is genuine. And just like that the poets have disarmed us, done what many don’t know how to do to get an audience to participate, talk about sex in an open and honest way – without feeling the spotlight.
The poets then started to recite pieces that were conversational, confessional and told stories if over shade of women an or girl you can think of. From the girl who first falls for a boy to the soft, curious touches between two lovers. To longing for fantastical love, searching for the happily ever after…
“…dreaming of an artist to sweep her into his arms / she wrote and prayed and eventually he did appear / her handsome prince with lyrics toxically sincere…” ~Vangi Gantsho
From loving in all body shapes and sizes and ages… sugar-daddies and young cubs. To putting on a tough demeanour to protect your heart. From the lessons young girls are taught by older women.
“I have knelt at mother’s knee /imbibing certainty like milk /and now the milky way has gone sour because of universal…” ~Phillippa de Villiers
Gently the poets led us from the laughter to spaces darker and less happy and giddy. The realities of love gone wrong of sex unhappy…
“…this woman knows that the truth has gone to hell in a handbag/ matching lipstick/ matching dustbin / matching silence / lips painted shut” ~Phillippa de Villiers
“I will never sleep again / the memory of my kind tossed in the veld“ ~ Myesha Jenkins
“…this love turned hate turned death is a bone old tale / but we must unpick if we can ever love safely” ~Sarah Godsell
In a production well put together it is difficult to say so and so stood our so and so not so much… and I’m glad I don’t have to do that with this production. These poets are outstanding writers and great on stage too. The composition of five strong voices meant that we had five kinds of love, five kinds of laughter and even five kinds of anger… the journey form the giddy, nervous laughter about our first times, to the contented sighs of that a real love to the soft sighs over the heartbreak to the burning anger over violations… these are all the shades of sex actually.
I think the best part about this show was their decision to start with conversation, light comfortable conversation about topics that aren’t easy to talk about. Then the stories, wrapped in poetry, led us deeper into the taboo subject of sex with all its beautiful ugly accessories.
The poetry selected told the story of many young girls, and women. The selection worked very well, especially how it was put together. Interestingly, there was not false hope set up at the end with flowery words of “you will triumph”. Instead the journey started in lightness and laughter and ended up in a dark space. At first it felt like they stopped too soon. In the wrong place. But in hindsight, isn’t that where many people end up.
It was a great experience. I hope that this collective can take their poems to other stages. Only one change I think may be good for the conversation – as the show starts with conversation, I think it should also end with conversation.
Other than that, I recommend that readers, look for the poetry collections published by these poets. And also start that uncomfortable conversation about sex with friends and family…
Information! This the third print quarterly from Poetry Potion. Inspired by Audre Lorde’s essay, this edition is themed “Poetry Is Not A Luxury”
features: poet profile – Tereska Muishond who talks about how writing had affected her life positively and about her award winning chorepoem Te Veel Vir ‘n Coloured Girl.
poetry: Fasaha Mshairi, Mandy Mitchell, Ayabulela Tutuse, Saurell Boyers, Morula wa Kutukgolo, Monique Barnard
This edition is available in print and digital formats at Book Lover’s Market, Scribd, from our sales man in Durban – Menzi Maseko, at The Love House in Sunnyside Pretoria, or you can order by clicking here – click here for more info on our stockists