I was recently interrogated by my conscious on my objective in this passion I developed of reviewing fellow writers’ books. As much as there’s a motive of promotion, there is equally a significant need for grooming and nurturing critique so to encourage quality. That is the only way we can unearth feet to fit perfectly in the shoes of Sol Plaatje, Ingoapele Madingoane, Alan Paton, O K Matsepe, Es’kia Mphahlele, Dennis Brutus and other great brains that showed this earth; their backs. Those are spectacles I wore when reviewing this book of New Brighton (P.E.) born Nosipho Kota.
Bare Soul is her debut compendium, and has been written over the past decade, published individually in several literary journals within the country. This method helps in getting remarks from different editors and at the same time, readers get to be familiar with your work before publishing individual collection. Though the disadvantage might be when one has already read most of the poems in the collection, meaning there should be at least thirty percent of unpublished poems to give a person who already read the published ones a reason to buy the book rather than just pure solidarity. Nosipho managed to mix the published and unpublished poems in her collection.
Like Maserame Madingoane wrote, “Nosipho Kota writes with unmatched honesty”, this can be mostly seen in her poems under ‘love & relationship poems’ where she unabashedly paints a scene of how she lost her virginity, a path that a majority of women hate to revisit. “My heart in the throat/ Tears threatening to soak…Walls tearing/ Blood seeping/ Into his bed/ Into his sheets/ Into his being” she wrote in the poem, Losing virginity. Furthermore, she expresses detailed feelings toward love making in several poems such as Your soft belly where she writes, “I like how it feels like/ underneath yours…I like my body more, When it joins with yours”. And in This Ambience, she plainly writes, “Lick my breast, Suck my dark brown nipples/ Kiss my chocolate brown tummy/ I am loving this semblance”. When she is a Jacuzzi of affection, she writes poems such as, Like music, which is quoted below:
Until there was you
I didn’t know that
Silence could be music
Without fear of being negatively judged, she discloses about the love she developed for an old man despite ‘lines that crinkle [his] face’ and ‘grey strands in [his] hair’. She also writes of times when she is in great agony of disloyalty, rejection and separation. In a poem entitled Young; she wrote, “Sometimes/ I envy the young/ Because my youth was lost/ Through toyi-toying and teargas/ One night stands,/ And meaningless fun”. Reading her work, one gets a sense that she’s unpretentious writer who strips her heart naked, as the title suggests. Simple vocabulary used, makes it even easy to suck marrow out of the collection. When things go bananas, she equally bleeds with words, “I am one woman but carry in my body/ all the sores by (the) men / who took from me:/ My pride…my dignity” she wrote in a poem entitled Behind this moment. When coming to concept, I put Nosipho in the same class with poets such as Myesha Jenkins yet her writing is not far from Mxolisi Nyezwa more especially on short poems such as When:
When he walked out,
My heart followed him
And stayed out
He was gone.
This poem elaborates one challenge that women mostly encounter because when they enter in love, they normally enter with both legs, which often makes it hard for them to move on after separation. She also wrote poems for her child, Khwezi and other poems on her surroundings.
Some of the outstanding poems are Hands, Simple Pleasures, Losing virginity, Our Love, Familiarity, Obituary, The young, Neighbours, In You and of course Township woman.
With a number of typos; extra spacing; capital letters errors, unnumbered pages and without barcode, one can conclude that the publisher didn’t fully and passionately do its job. Furthermore they failed to pick this up in her biography, “[she] is working on her poetry collection called Bare Soul which is due to be published later this year” which I guess it was not intended to be included. A publisher who cares about reputation and accreditation should be careful on mistakes such as these since they do not only affect the writers’ book but also the publisher’s name. At least in this case, those errors are not shading the essence of this book.
There are poems that could have been combined to make a single poem; though the poet might argue against it by saying their sources of inspiration are different and she prefers them separately. This is one other critical factor during the publishing process that a publisher should look at such as avoiding having many poems about one thing though told with different images while to the poet the memories attached to each poem might be the priority. One could also argue it further to say; it’s the poet we want to read not the publisher, so publisher should remain an adviser and forward all suggestion to the author; the author will decide. After all, a good writer always welcomes critique and takes time to evaluate them. Below is one of the outstanding poems that paint a clear picture with simple vocabulary and understandable metaphors, entitled Cracks.
I have fears
That one day
I may crack
Like walls that haven’t been plastered properly
I fear that I may lose it
And the crack will spread
And open like rivers
And (will) give in
And the floods will smother me
Because I cannot swim.
She, of course, excluded some of her powerful poems such as Leaving and the Nazim Hikmet inspired Autobiography. If you are looking for a collection where a poet does not hide her face behind thick layer of pounce, then put Bare Soul on the list.