“Who I was is not who I am
And who I am is not who I will be.”
As poets are prone to do, Myesha Jenkins beautifully describes the process of transformation in her poem, ‘Transformation’. Change is inevitable (okay, now we’ve got that cliché out of the way) and the process of personal transformation comes disguised as many things: aging, pain, death, parenthood, trauma, a glorious victory, a broken heart, a failed test, a health scare and, well, basically anything that life throws at us, forcing us to go beyond our current selves. It is the natural progression towards our next selves. Not perfect future selves, but better or more equipped versions of ourselves. As Shannon L. Alder said:
“There is no perfection, only beautiful versions of brokenness.”
The technology we use is transforming. It has snatched us up from the ground and is transporting us, at light speed, towards an uncertain future. A future cluttered with charging cables, cloud storage and the wreckage of social media. With greater accessibility and instant fame at the edge of each tweet, the social scene has moved onto fancy touch screens. We bow our heads and pray to our smartphones, living our lives through a screen, willfully allowing the stream to carry us further into a mysterious tomorrow. Social media is transforming the way we interact with others and ourselves. It has also given birth to Insta-Poets, poets whose work is primarily “made public” and read via social media sites like Instagram. These poets have found new ears and new readers in a corner of the internet. New poetry audiences across the globe are congregating around the waterhole, as the Insta-Poet’s timeline have become to online readers, to drink and be inspired. Insta-Poets are selling books by the forest, injecting fresh, new energy into poetry. Some may argue that they are causing more damage than good and that their success is destroying poetry, but that is a story for another critic. Dean Jackson put it best:
“When she transformed into a butterfly, the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but of her weirdness. They wanted her to change back into what she always had been. But she had wings.”
Hate them or love them, Insta-Poets have transformed the way poetry is consumed and have completely shattered the notion of poetry not selling.
The natural course of action is advancement towards a transformed new version of the old. Whether one refers to the transformation of poetry and its audiences, or political and social transformation, or transformation theory in music or quantum mechanics, or maybe you’re just a lonely caterpillar spinning a silky cocoon, the process always leads to a new, more suitably adapted version of the old (unless, of course, your name is Gregor Samsa and you’re woven into the pages of a Kafka story).
Transformation is a slow-cooking process; personal transformation even more so. It’s not like one morning I woke up and suddenly knew the price of nappies and wet wipes, or how to fish phones out of the toilet, or how to dig earphones out of my son’s mouth and be patient as he tears up my 1st edition print of Azanian Love Song. I became this person with time. I am still becoming. I think I might end up a grumpy old man, with an impressive, albeit worn-out, library in my basement. I’m not sure though, my process of transformation is still underway.
In this edition of Poetry Potion, we have 29 poems informed by the theme ‘Transformation’ and its many disguises. 25 Poets unpack the processes and outcomes of their own transformation. Among them is Athol Williams, who puts on his futurist’s hat and describes healthcare in the future with his poem HealthCare 2100.
Our Poet Muse for this edition is the late Poet Laureate Keorapetse ‘Bra Willie’ Kgositsile, who inspired generations of writers and readers around the world.
Charl Landsberg’s essay, “How can we become better poets” looks into how we can transform ourselves into better scribes. As Charl puts it:
“I think in order to become better poets we need to become aware of different kinds of poetry and different ways we use language to shape our ideas…”
Siphokazi Jonas is at the forefront of a wave of poets that are disrupting and transforming the way poetry occupies space in the literary landscape. Our Q&A with her casts light on the amazing work she is doing. Also in this edition, poet and historian Sarah Godsell reviews of Deluge in Swarga by Wazi Kunene.
We hope this edition serves as an inspiration and catalyst for your own transformation, especially as a reminder that we are constantly becoming and that we should be open to and embrace change. So be prepared to cocoon yourself in the process and endure your own transformation.