Maakomele ‘Mak’ Manaka is an award-winning South African poet and author. He has to date published four collections of poetry- If only (2003 Self-published. Edited by Don Mattera), In Time (Geko, 2009), Flowers of a broken smile (Inksword, 2016 ) and Oncoming Traffic (Botsotso, 2018). His work also appears in numerous local and international anthologies, journals and newspapers.
We posed three questions to the poet and this is what he had to say in response.
What does poetry mean to you personally?
M.M: What does poetry mean to me? I’ve always believed poetry to be the articulation of the human condition. I believe still that poetry is the articulation of all conditions, you know, without having to explain so much. But at the same time too poetry also is a reflection of a people’s language, you know, and how we can stretch that language and what other inventive ways of articulating certain conditions that we can’t speak about. You know, I mean, the beauty about poetry in all in all honesty for me is how do we say the unsaid, you know, how do we colour the world with a different paintbrush, as it were, you know? But in essence, poetry to me means the articulation of condition as a whole.
What purpose does poetry serve is 2021
M.M: What purpose does poetry serve in 2021? I mean, hey, man, you know what, the same question could be asked for? What did poet what did poetry serve in 1821 or 1921 or 1991, really? You know, it’s still exactly the same, um, purpose it serves because wherever there’s humanity, there’ll always be poetry. Wherever there are people there always be poetry. My father used to say that wherever there is trouble, there is literature. So does poetry still serve a purpose in 2021? Of course, it still serves a purpose because it reflects who we are as a people and reflects the time that we are living in. Can you imagine a world or a time without poetry? Really? I mean, if there’s no poetry, there’s no food, man. I mean, in some places of the world, they say you can take away… some places like in Colombia, for instance, I remember they had this sign on this big festival in Colombia. There was a sign that said no bread, just poetry, you know. Can you imagine people go starving just to hear the word man, you know? So, of course, the purpose of poetry in 2021 still remains as important as it was in 1821 and in 1921. And before all that time, I mean, the Chinese poets, especially the ones in all the sixth or the seventh or the 10th century, all these guys right there will tell you, the poet doesn’t go in search of a poem. The poem comes in search of the poet. So there are poems everywhere, wherever there is condition. Where there is humanity there will always be poetry.
Please suggest just one collection or anthology that our readers should get their hands on.
M.M: So one collection, one poetry collection or anthology you would recommend folks check out are. Well, you know what? It’s always Seitlamo really. Seitlamo Motsapi, ‘earth stepper -the ocean is very shallow’ You know, this is one collection that is so close to my heart, especially the first poem SOL/O. This guy does interesting things to the poetry language. But really, you know, he stretches so many, so many themes and so many topics, but so simple, so simple in his writing, you know. So of course I want people to check out Seitlamo Motsapi, the book is titled ‘earth stepper -the ocean is very shallow’ Sure. And they must check out the first poem- solo. The roads have become hostile. Hola.