Poet Muse: Myesha Jenkins (1948-2020)

Quaz | September 8th, 2020 | poet muses | No Comments

(Poet, Jazz aficionado, mentor, friend)

Tomorrow begins with the end of today
every piece eaten and digested
moments lingering on my tongue.

It begins when I am satiated with now
ready to give up the tedium
that hides me from living.

It begins when I realize
that someone has been knocking at the door
and I rise to open it.

—When Tomorrow Comes by Myesha Jenkins

Poet, activist, jazz aficionado and dear friend of Poetry Potion Myesha Jenkins passed away on the 5th of September 2020.  Myesha was a well respected and loved figure in the South African poetry and jazz scene and became both a mentor and friend to a generation of younger poets.  She was fiercely committed to the idea of sisterhood and community, and continually used the platforms she created and curated as space for women and underrepresented voices.

Birthright by Myesha Jenkins

I am

        because of woman

I come

        from woman

 I know

       because of woman

I pray to the spirits

       of women

I stand

      with women

I am inspired

      by women

I fight

     for women

I am loved

     by women

I too

     love women


Myesha has called South Africa home since 1993 after relocating from the U.S.A.   She was a founding member of the poetry collectives Intimate dreads, and the legendary Johannesburg-based Feelah Sistah (Myesha Jenkins, Napo Maheane, Ntsiki Mazwai, Lebo Mashile). Along with Feela Sistah, she founded Jozi House of Poetry, in response to the male-dominated and competitive slam poetry scene at the time. Jozi House of Poetry became a safe environment for poets and women, in particular, to share new work and discuss the content and technicalities of the poetry they presented.  As the years progressed, Jozi House of Poetry was carried into the future by Myesha and a host of other women; Makhosazana Xaba, Donna Smith, Phillippa Yaa De Villiers, Tereska Muishond, and Natalia Molebatsi.

Myesha continued to advocate for the voices of others through her radio show Poetry in the Air, featuring both upcoming and established poets. Her love for jazz and poetry was on clear display with the Out There Sessions at the Orbit jazz club and her most recent podcast work Myesha’s Memoirs: Living with jazz and poetry, where she featured a host of poets and jazz musicians.

Myesha published two collections of poetry, Breaking the Surface (2005) and Dreams of Flight (2011). She was also anthologized in various other publications. In 2013 Myesha was awarded the Mbokodo Award for women in Arts/Poetry.  In 2017 she compiled and edited the groundbreaking To breathe into another voice: An anthology of South African Jazz poetry.

Myesha’s work as an activist, poet and jazz lover reached poets, musicians and activists around the world. Through her efforts and dedication she has consistently breathed life into the voices of others. Poetry Potion thanks you for the poetry, the jazz, the lessons and the laughter. Thank you for choosing us.

Rest well Friend.

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