Lovers of poetry have been spoiled for choice lately. So many brilliant and diverse Poets are actively contributing to the South African and African literary canon. Poets are bending and breaking language, reshaping it into stories that speak to and of us in the most unapologetic and gentle of ways. Poets are disrupting. Poking power in the eye and laughing at rules and borders. And they put it all in books for us to read.
In the last 2-3 years a great number of poetry collections were published. Here is a list of Poetry Collections that you should probably read before the world ends.
Gau-Trained is Flow Wellington’s second collection and is a personal account of and retrospective look at what Johannesburg has taught her about life. This collection is made up of poems and stories compiled over six years, since her relocation from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg in 2011. In this book, Flow candidly shares her experiences, drawing an eloquent picture of the people, places, livelihoods, traumas and victories that come with living in the ‘big city’.1)https://www.amazon.com/Gau-Trained-stories-Flow-Selome-Wellington/dp/0994695020
Serurubele means ‘butterfly’ in Sesotho. It is the art of metamorphosis, a mind in flight and the beat of poetic expression. Crafted with both the spoken and written word in mind, Serurubele invites you not only to read poetry but to voice it, to taste the language as it flows from your tongue, feel its rhythms and hear its rhyme.2)http://www.modjajibooks.co.za/titles/serurubele-poems/
“The name was inspired by both my profession and this passion. I’m sure many people are familiar with a clocking in system at work, i.e. registering your arrival at work by means of an automatic recording clock. I’ve had to do that at work. On the flip side I’m now doing the same by registering my arrival into the world of publishing through this book.”3)http://ayibamagazine.com/clocking-in-with-poetess-emmah-mabye/
Raphael d’Abdon introduces his second poetry collection, Salt Water. This collection gives you a sense of nostalgia when needed and the saucy, sultry Italian spice when needed. Raphael’s Salt Water is a tongue-in-cheek poetry book that will leave a delicious, salty aftertaste.4)https://www.amazon.com/Salt-Water-poems-Raphael-dAbdon-ebook/dp/B01M5CN5XS
Mahlangu’s debut collection, written between 2015 and 2018, is undoing a house of silence. Her writing is too lived in to be naïve and somehow manages to remain untainted by the cynicism of growing up. If it is true that the artist is the child who survives, then this is the book that journey spat out. Surviving Loss is a gentle-urgent fight for breath and voice.5)http://www.impephopress.co.za/catalogue/busisiwe-mahlangu/
Godsell’s Liquid Bones takes poems as needle and thread, weaving in small and big breaths, in magic and in memory, tracing in stitches, stitching inside stories, exploring the sky. Emotions are explored in soft black and white tones sometimes, in defiant blooming in other moments. All the poems are located in the world we live in, infused with the oppressions we are familiar with. Godsell explores her own part in these structures, above and below, sideways and inside out.
In this, her third collection of poetry, Phillippa Yaa De Villiers invokes images of past and present with hypnotic clarity, summoning the heart and heat of memory – painful and happy alike – with the distinct musicality and visceral punch she is known for.6)http://www.modjajibooks.co.za/titles/ice-cream-headache-in-my-bone/
In this debut collection of poetry Jolyn Philllips turns her back on her skin-tongue, her mother tongue, in an attempt to define a new medium in which she feels at home. During this journey she not only undermines, undoes and ‘breaks’ words, she gradually finds a new tongue.
A major new voice in Afrikaans.7)http://www.humanrousseau.com/Books/20016
red cotton is an exploration of what it means to be black, queer, and woman in modern-day South Africa. gantsho interrogates being non-conformist in both a traditional-cultural-religious upbringing and a more liberal yet equally-oppressive urban socialisation. This poetry novella questions what women are taught about their bodies and the feminine sexual space, while also addressing the mother-daughter relationship as the first and most constant reference of womanhood. 8)http://www.impephopress.co.za/catalogue/vangi-gantsho-red-cotton/
The collection gathers the various statuses and locations she moves across, as daughter, mother, teacher, scholar and writerThe collection carries a set of standpoints, or willfulness about pedagogy, politics and optimism. And while she carries an attachment to a non-reparative, or negative affect across the collection, she closes in describing the work, or all of her work as love poems. This collection is a long love letter to those who are willful.9)http://www.impephopress.co.za/catalogue/danai-mupotsa-feeling-and-ugly/
“The poems in my collection attempt to sincerely and openly express the joys and pains behind the smiles of the women in my life that have raised me, loved me, shared tears with me, and taught me, how and what it means to be a man…” 10)https://www.poetrypotion.com/mak-manakas-flowers-of-a-broken-smile-is-out/
This highly-anticipated debut collection from one of the country’s most acclaimed young voices marks a massive shift in South African poetry. Koleka Putuma’s exploration of blackness, womxnhood and history in Collective Amnesia is fearless and unwavering. Her incendiary poems demand justice, insist on visibility and offer healing. In them, Putuma explodes the idea of authority in various spaces – academia, religion, politics, relationships – to ask what has been learnt and what must be unlearnt. 11)http://uhlangapress.co.za/koleka-putuma-collective-amnesia/
Asof geen berge ooit hier gewoon het nie is an exciting and intricately woven debut from the pen of a young poet. With a contemporary and relevant approach, Odendaal writes about the politics of differences in a multicultural society, nature and our ecological footprints, impermanence, being human, love, and also the recent student politics. Finally, he asks: Re mang? Who are we? And who is them?12)http://www.tafelberg.com/Books/20479
“Given South Africa’s venerable jazz tradition, it’s perhaps surprising it’s taken so long for more fundis to be tapped for their responses to our kind of jazz. But it takes a special brew of ingredients for this kind of book to come together. You need an inspired guiding spirit, such as editor and jazzwoman-in-words Myesha Jenkins, and you need a vat in which the ingredients can mix and bubble. You’ll find everything here in To breathe into another voice: faithful and fantastical accounts of the jazz life and jazz people as well as reflections on the music as a metaphor for how we live – or, maybe more importantly, how we’d like to live. All you need to do now is open the covers, start reading, and dance joyously about the architecture.” —Gwen Ansel13)https://www.amazon.com/Breathe-into-Another-Voice-Anthology/dp/1928341314
In an extraordinary debut, Megan Ross writes the uneasy truths about unexpected motherhood and all its emotional detritus. In deftly and experimentally navigating the angst, joy and self-reckoning that comes with the choices and misadventures of young womanhood, this is a collection that brings together the evocative with the provocative, and the feminist with the personal, in a bold and startling poetic style. Hallucinatory, image-wet, and navigating the eternal tides of spirit and body, Milk Fever is a chimeric dreamscape in which a woman reconfigures, remembers and rebirths herself14)http://uhlangapress.co.za/blog/2018/4/16/announcing-milk-fever-by-megan-ross
200 TRUTHS ABOUT LOVE is Hakeem Anderson-Lesolang’s beautiful unravelling of a black man’s self to black women. The poems and essays are full of confrontations, reminders and motivations of the best we are, even when everything around us would convince us otherwise.15)https://xarrabooks.com/online/200-truths-about-love.html#custom_tab1
In March 2015 devastating fires swept across the Cape Peninsula, destroying thousands of hectares of mountainside and property. The fires roared down the mountain where Christine lives, destroying a large part of her property. She spent the rest of 2015 and 2016 restoring and rebuilding an indigenous and fynbos garden, only to have a drought of three years follow the fires. These poems of fire, drought, restoration, rain and water, chart the trials and lessons of an urban dweller relearning her relationship with nature.16)http://pensouthafrica.co.za/fire-drought-water-by-christine-coates/
Nectar is the second collection of poetry and prose by Malawian storyteller Upile Chisala. In this book, Upile guides through a beautiful process of blooming starting with some poems on self-love then words on our roots followed by acknowledging all the fruit of these experiences. The storyteller’s hope is that these poems on growth encourage the reader to sow and to make changes in the lives of others. Born in 1994 and raised in Zomba, Upile’s hope is to tell stories from the margins and through her work help others and herself come to terms with pasts, celebrate presents and confidently dream beautiful futures.17)https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nectar-Upile-Chisala/dp/1540391701/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487182796&sr=8-1&keywords=nectar+upile+chisala
The forty-six poems(Mainly in English but with some in Setswana and isiZulu) reveal a maturing 35-year-old Manaka and articulate his tormenting insecurities and confusions about disability and manhood:
“The poems in my collection mainly reflect the silence in my personal conflict, meaning writing what I cannot say…what it means to be a man when raised by a woman, secondly my relationship with myself as a man with a physical disability and lastly as a black man dealing with the reality of living in a dysfunctional/disabled society.”-Manaka
In Zikr’s beguilingly measured and covertly powerful poems, Saaleha Idrees Bamjee achieves these often difficult tasks. In doing so, Bamjee introduces new idioms and understandings of Muslim identity to South African poetry – yet not through manifesto, nor outright polemic. This is a collection of fine metaphors, concrete turns of phrase, and a refreshing specificity of image, place, and self.18)http://uhlangapress.co.za/blog/2018/8/1/announcing-zikr-by-saaleha-idrees-bamjee
Marikana. A Moment in Time (Geko, 2013) is a collection of essays, articles, poems and photos by South African and international writers, activists and artists. The book is edited by Dr Raphael d’Abdon (Postdoctoral Fellow at UNISA) and published by the young and independent publisher Geko Publishing. All the proceeds from this book will be donated to the school of Marikana.19)https://gekopublishing.co.za/shop/poetry/marikana-moment-time-ed-raphael-dabdaon/
Laughing in my fathers voice is Zabiso Vili’s debut collection of poetry, published by RYB publishers.Xabiso is an award-winning performance poet and social activist, whose writings explore how the inner world relates to the outer world. He has been published in many countries and produced recordings of his works. He strongly believes that art influences his community positively, and is constantly working towards creating alternative stages for art to be shared.
A lyrical collection about the poet’s mother, a Zulu domestic worker, and her step-father’s history as an English immigrant to South Africa, using dialogue, prose-poetry, and illustrations.20)https://www.amazon.com/Loud-Yellow-Laughter-Sindiswa-Busuku-Mathese-ebook/dp/B073P9PMZN
This seventh collection from one of South African poetry’s under-appreciated masters is possibly his best yet. Metatextual, meticulous and deeply steeped in sentiment, Liminal is an exquisite and at-times startling rumination on lives lived, loves loved and writings written. 21)http://uhlangapress.co.za/douglas-reid-skinner-liminal/
A collection of poems by Thabiso “Afurakan” Mohare. These poems address social issues such as gender-based violence and are meant to help men start conversations about social issues.
“The poems in this collection bear witness with the crisp attention of a Robert Capa photograph. These ecosystems, each with their own by-laws … hold together such a curious, nearly impossible balance in his new book.”
– David Keplinger, author of Another City (Milkweed Editions, 2018)22)http://dryadpress.co.za/product/trade-sheet-landscapes-of-light-and-loss/
Metaphysical Balm is a collection of poetry that utilises the lyrical subject, “Owl”, who is transmuted and transfigured through various guises, rituals, visions, histories, myths and physical and spiritual bodies, becoming a symbol for wisdom, inquisitiveness, religious longing, introspection, transfiguration and femininity. The collection is a journey of spiritual fulfillment and physical healing from birth to adulthood, from death to the spiritual unknown.23)http://dryadpress.co.za/product/metaphysical-balm/
The poet administers ‘the bitter herb’ and as the reader, you are healed by the stining aftertaste of a universal truth. You are nurtured by the resonance swiftly flowing through every poem and met by an energizing splendor of our daily lives. This collection is a textured body of work that reminds us of the magic in the mundane. It is our “god given language to survive in a heartless world”.-Sibongile fisher
The poems in this book seek to answer the question of survival in a burning world with another question: ‘How do we survive except to become water for each other?’
“Maluleke does not shy away from portraying loss and the pain and trauma that follow, often with a directness and candor that shifts effortlessly into lyricism. This collection suggests, however, that acknowledging and addressing them is a key step in the process of creating the conditions for change…This is art-for-life’s sake, a truly political poetry. In their representation of life’s multiple trials and challenges, they chart a new map for the poetic speaker’s and the readers’ self-awareness, liberation and resistance.”—John Keene, novelist, poet, professor
A compelling selection of poems from Keorapetse Kgositsile’s lifework, traversing the journey of humanity in three collections:
I. The taste of bronze drunk hot . . .
(dedicated to the struggle for liberation)
(tribute to women)24)https://xarrabooks.com/online/homesoil-in-my-blood.html
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