Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

No Serenity Here

Enlarge poem

An omelette cannot be unscrambled. Not even the one prepared in the crucible of 19th century sordid European design.

When Europe cut up this continent into little pockets of its imperialist want and greed it was not for aesthetic reasons, nor was it in the service of any African interest, intent, or purpose.

When, then, did the brutality of imperialist appetite and aggression evolve into something of such ominous value to us that we torture, mutilate, butcher in ways hideous beyond the imagination, rape women, men, even children and infants for having woken up on what we now claim, with perverse possessiveness and territorial chauvinism, to be our side of the boundary that until only yesterday arrogantly defined where a piece of one European property ended and another began?

In my language there is no word for citizen, which is an ingredient of that 19th century omelette. That word came to us as part of the package that contained the bible and the rifle. But moagi, resident, is there and it has nothing to do with any border or boundary you may or may not have crossed before waking up on the piece of earth where you currently live.

Poem, I know you are reluctant to sing
when there is no joy in your heart
but I have wondered all these years
why you did not or could not give
answer when Langston Hughes who
wondered as he wandered asked
what happens to a dream deferred

I wonder now
why we are some
where we did not aim
to be. Like my sister
who could report from any
where people live
I fear the end of peace
and I wonder if
that is perhaps why
our memories of struggle
refuse to be erased
our memories of struggle
refuse to die

we are not strangers
to the end of peace here
we have known women widowed
without any corpses of husbands
because the road to the mines
like the road to any war
is long and littered with casualties
even those who still walk and talk

when Nathalie, whose young eyes know things, says
there is nothing left after wars, only other wars
wake up whether you are witness or executioner
the victim, whose humanity you can never erase,
knows with clarity more solid than granite
that no matter which side you are on
any day or night an injury to one
remains an injury to all

somewhere on this continent
the voice of the ancients warns
that those who shit on the road
will meet flies on their way back
so perhaps you should shudder under the weight
of nightmares when you consider what
thoughts might enter the hearts of our neighbours
what frightened or frightening memories might jump up
when they hear a South African accent

even the sun, embarrassed, withdraws her warmth
from this atrocious defiance and unbridled denial
of the ties that should bind us here and always
and the night will not own any of this stench
of betrayal which has desecrated our national anthem
so do not tell me of NEPAD or AU
do not tell me of SADC
and please do not try to say shit about
ubuntu or any other such neurosis of history

again I say, while I still have voice,
remember, always
remember that you are what you do,
past any saying of it

our memories of struggle
refuse to be erased
our memories of struggle
refuse to die

my mothers, fathers of my father and me
how shall I sing to celebrate life
when every space in my heart is surrounded by corpses?
whose thousand thundering voices shall I borrow to shout
once more: Daar is kak in die land!

Keorapetse Willie Kgositsile

Featured Poem:

For Sterling Plumpp & Letter from Havana

Enlarge poem

FOR STERLING PLUMPP
When Harriet Tubman
heard the thunder of the guns
and saw their terrible lightning
and the blood and the dead bodies
your voice was there

Your voice was born and borne
in the muddy waters of the delta
way before a brother had been
through enough to resolve
he would rather drink muddy water
sleep in a hollow log
than go to New York City
and be treated like a dirty dog

Sterling, we dub you itinerant
as troubadour here to testify
when your mojo hands call
we must go to reclaim our history
and resolve that no force on this planet
will ever fold our life into banknotes
as we create our future full of laughter
and purpose

As Baraka says: we own the night
and the day will not claim them
how could you not testify
when your voice is parent
and son of the blues

LETTER FROM HAVANA
(for Baby K)

A while back I said
with my little hand upon
the tapestry of memory and my loin
leaning on the blues to find voice:
If loving you is wrong
I do not want to do right

Now though I do not possess
A thousand thundering voices
like Mazisi kaMdabuli weKunene
nor Chris Abani’s mischievous courage
as I trace the shape of desire and longing
I wish I was a cartographer of dreams
but what I end up with is this stubborn question:
Should I love my heart more
because every time I miss you
that is where I find you

prof_badilisha

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Biography

Professor Keorapetse Willie Kgositsile, considered one of South Africa’s most distinctive poetic voices since the l960s, is South Africa’s National Poet Laureate. Gwendolyn Brooks, the late poet laureate of Illinois, said of Kgositsile’s work almost forty years ago:

I would say that he is a ‘master’, if it were not for my belief that no one ‘masters’ anything, that each finds or makes his candle, then tries to see by the guttering light. Willie has made a good candle. And Willie has good eyes.

Kgositsile left South Africa in 1961 as one of the first young cadres of the African National Congress (ANC) instructed to do so by the leadership of the national liberation movement. While doing his MFA at Columbia University in 1969 he started teaching literature and creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. He has also taught at a number of other universities and colleges in the USA, including: Queens College, Bennett College, State University of New York at Stonybrook, University of Denver, Wayne State University, New School for Social Research, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1975 he returned to Africa and taught at a number of universities, including: the universities of Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Fort Hare.

Professor Kgositsile has worked in various departments and structures of the ANC, both above and underground. He was one of the founding members of the ANC’s Education Department (1977), and the Department of Arts and Culture (1982). He was also a founding member of the ANC Veterans League in 2009 and was a member of the ANC National Centenary Task Team.

He was Special Adviser to former Ministers of Arts and Culture, Mr. Z. Pallo Jordan and Mr. Paul Mashatile.

Kgositsile is one of the most widely published South African poets. His work has been translated into many languages. He has been the recipient of a number of literary awards, among them: the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize; the Harlem Cultural Council Poetry Award; the Conrad Kent Rivers Memorial Poetry Award; the Herman Charles Bosman Prize. In 2008 he was awarded the National Order of Ikhamanga: Silver (OIS).

BOOKS PUBLISHED:
THIS WAY I SALUTE YOU – Kwela Books & Snailpress, Cape Town, 2004

IF I COULD SING – Kwela Books & Snailpress, Cape Town, 2002

TO THE BITTER END – Third World Press, Chicago, 1995

APPROACHES TO POETRY WRITING – Third World Press, Chicago, 1994

THE PRESENT IS A DANGEROUS PLACE TO LIVE – Third World Press, Chicago, 1993

WHEN THE CLOUDS CLEAR – COSAW Publications, Johannesburg, 1990

FREEWORD (with Katiyo, Davis, & Rydstrom,eds.) – Writers’ Bookmachine, Stockholm, 1983

HEARTPRINTS – Schwifstinger Galerie-Verlag, 1980

PLACES AND BLOODSTAINS – Achebe Publications, San Francisco, 1976

A CAPSULE COURSE IN BLACK POETRY WRITING (with G. Brooks,
H. Madhubuti, D. Randall, eds.) – Broadside Press, Detroit, 1975

THE WORD IS HERE (ed.) – Doubleday, New York, 1973

MY NAME IS AFRIKA – Doubleday, New York, 1971

FOR MELBA – Third World Press, Chicago, 1970

SPIRITS UNCHAINED – Broadside Press, Detroit, 1969

Keorapetse Willie Kgositsile

prof_badilisha
prof_badilisha

Biography

Professor Keorapetse Willie Kgositsile, considered one of South Africa’s most distinctive poetic voices since the l960s, is South Africa’s National Poet Laureate. Gwendolyn Brooks, the late poet laureate of Illinois, said of Kgositsile’s work almost forty years ago:

I would say that he is a ‘master’, if it were not for my belief that no one ‘masters’ anything, that each finds or makes his candle, then tries to see by the guttering light. Willie has made a good candle. And Willie has good eyes.

Kgositsile left South Africa in 1961 as one of the first young cadres of the African National Congress (ANC) instructed to do so by the leadership of the national liberation movement. While doing his MFA at Columbia University in 1969 he started teaching literature and creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. He has also taught at a number of other universities and colleges in the USA, including: Queens College, Bennett College, State University of New York at Stonybrook, University of Denver, Wayne State University, New School for Social Research, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1975 he returned to Africa and taught at a number of universities, including: the universities of Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Fort Hare.

Professor Kgositsile has worked in various departments and structures of the ANC, both above and underground. He was one of the founding members of the ANC’s Education Department (1977), and the Department of Arts and Culture (1982). He was also a founding member of the ANC Veterans League in 2009 and was a member of the ANC National Centenary Task Team.

He was Special Adviser to former Ministers of Arts and Culture, Mr. Z. Pallo Jordan and Mr. Paul Mashatile.

Kgositsile is one of the most widely published South African poets. His work has been translated into many languages. He has been the recipient of a number of literary awards, among them: the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize; the Harlem Cultural Council Poetry Award; the Conrad Kent Rivers Memorial Poetry Award; the Herman Charles Bosman Prize. In 2008 he was awarded the National Order of Ikhamanga: Silver (OIS).

BOOKS PUBLISHED:
THIS WAY I SALUTE YOU – Kwela Books & Snailpress, Cape Town, 2004

IF I COULD SING – Kwela Books & Snailpress, Cape Town, 2002

TO THE BITTER END – Third World Press, Chicago, 1995

APPROACHES TO POETRY WRITING – Third World Press, Chicago, 1994

THE PRESENT IS A DANGEROUS PLACE TO LIVE – Third World Press, Chicago, 1993

WHEN THE CLOUDS CLEAR – COSAW Publications, Johannesburg, 1990

FREEWORD (with Katiyo, Davis, & Rydstrom,eds.) – Writers’ Bookmachine, Stockholm, 1983

HEARTPRINTS – Schwifstinger Galerie-Verlag, 1980

PLACES AND BLOODSTAINS – Achebe Publications, San Francisco, 1976

A CAPSULE COURSE IN BLACK POETRY WRITING (with G. Brooks,
H. Madhubuti, D. Randall, eds.) – Broadside Press, Detroit, 1975

THE WORD IS HERE (ed.) – Doubleday, New York, 1973

MY NAME IS AFRIKA – Doubleday, New York, 1971

FOR MELBA – Third World Press, Chicago, 1970

SPIRITS UNCHAINED – Broadside Press, Detroit, 1969

No Serenity Here

Enlarge poem

An omelette cannot be unscrambled. Not even the one prepared in the crucible of 19th century sordid European design.

When Europe cut up this continent into little pockets of its imperialist want and greed it was not for aesthetic reasons, nor was it in the service of any African interest, intent, or purpose.

When, then, did the brutality of imperialist appetite and aggression evolve into something of such ominous value to us that we torture, mutilate, butcher in ways hideous beyond the imagination, rape women, men, even children and infants for having woken up on what we now claim, with perverse possessiveness and territorial chauvinism, to be our side of the boundary that until only yesterday arrogantly defined where a piece of one European property ended and another began?

In my language there is no word for citizen, which is an ingredient of that 19th century omelette. That word came to us as part of the package that contained the bible and the rifle. But moagi, resident, is there and it has nothing to do with any border or boundary you may or may not have crossed before waking up on the piece of earth where you currently live.

Poem, I know you are reluctant to sing
when there is no joy in your heart
but I have wondered all these years
why you did not or could not give
answer when Langston Hughes who
wondered as he wandered asked
what happens to a dream deferred

I wonder now
why we are some
where we did not aim
to be. Like my sister
who could report from any
where people live
I fear the end of peace
and I wonder if
that is perhaps why
our memories of struggle
refuse to be erased
our memories of struggle
refuse to die

we are not strangers
to the end of peace here
we have known women widowed
without any corpses of husbands
because the road to the mines
like the road to any war
is long and littered with casualties
even those who still walk and talk

when Nathalie, whose young eyes know things, says
there is nothing left after wars, only other wars
wake up whether you are witness or executioner
the victim, whose humanity you can never erase,
knows with clarity more solid than granite
that no matter which side you are on
any day or night an injury to one
remains an injury to all

somewhere on this continent
the voice of the ancients warns
that those who shit on the road
will meet flies on their way back
so perhaps you should shudder under the weight
of nightmares when you consider what
thoughts might enter the hearts of our neighbours
what frightened or frightening memories might jump up
when they hear a South African accent

even the sun, embarrassed, withdraws her warmth
from this atrocious defiance and unbridled denial
of the ties that should bind us here and always
and the night will not own any of this stench
of betrayal which has desecrated our national anthem
so do not tell me of NEPAD or AU
do not tell me of SADC
and please do not try to say shit about
ubuntu or any other such neurosis of history

again I say, while I still have voice,
remember, always
remember that you are what you do,
past any saying of it

our memories of struggle
refuse to be erased
our memories of struggle
refuse to die

my mothers, fathers of my father and me
how shall I sing to celebrate life
when every space in my heart is surrounded by corpses?
whose thousand thundering voices shall I borrow to shout
once more: Daar is kak in die land!

Featured Poem:

For Sterling Plumpp & Letter from Havana

Enlarge poem

FOR STERLING PLUMPP
When Harriet Tubman
heard the thunder of the guns
and saw their terrible lightning
and the blood and the dead bodies
your voice was there

Your voice was born and borne
in the muddy waters of the delta
way before a brother had been
through enough to resolve
he would rather drink muddy water
sleep in a hollow log
than go to New York City
and be treated like a dirty dog

Sterling, we dub you itinerant
as troubadour here to testify
when your mojo hands call
we must go to reclaim our history
and resolve that no force on this planet
will ever fold our life into banknotes
as we create our future full of laughter
and purpose

As Baraka says: we own the night
and the day will not claim them
how could you not testify
when your voice is parent
and son of the blues

LETTER FROM HAVANA
(for Baby K)

A while back I said
with my little hand upon
the tapestry of memory and my loin
leaning on the blues to find voice:
If loving you is wrong
I do not want to do right

Now though I do not possess
A thousand thundering voices
like Mazisi kaMdabuli weKunene
nor Chris Abani’s mischievous courage
as I trace the shape of desire and longing
I wish I was a cartographer of dreams
but what I end up with is this stubborn question:
Should I love my heart more
because every time I miss you
that is where I find you

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (1)
  • Inspiration (1)
  • Reflection (0)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (1)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (1)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

No Serenity Here

Enlarge poem

An omelette cannot be unscrambled. Not even the one prepared in the crucible of 19th century sordid European design.

When Europe cut up this continent into little pockets of its imperialist want and greed it was not for aesthetic reasons, nor was it in the service of any African interest, intent, or purpose.

When, then, did the brutality of imperialist appetite and aggression evolve into something of such ominous value to us that we torture, mutilate, butcher in ways hideous beyond the imagination, rape women, men, even children and infants for having woken up on what we now claim, with perverse possessiveness and territorial chauvinism, to be our side of the boundary that until only yesterday arrogantly defined where a piece of one European property ended and another began?

In my language there is no word for citizen, which is an ingredient of that 19th century omelette. That word came to us as part of the package that contained the bible and the rifle. But moagi, resident, is there and it has nothing to do with any border or boundary you may or may not have crossed before waking up on the piece of earth where you currently live.

Poem, I know you are reluctant to sing
when there is no joy in your heart
but I have wondered all these years
why you did not or could not give
answer when Langston Hughes who
wondered as he wandered asked
what happens to a dream deferred

I wonder now
why we are some
where we did not aim
to be. Like my sister
who could report from any
where people live
I fear the end of peace
and I wonder if
that is perhaps why
our memories of struggle
refuse to be erased
our memories of struggle
refuse to die

we are not strangers
to the end of peace here
we have known women widowed
without any corpses of husbands
because the road to the mines
like the road to any war
is long and littered with casualties
even those who still walk and talk

when Nathalie, whose young eyes know things, says
there is nothing left after wars, only other wars
wake up whether you are witness or executioner
the victim, whose humanity you can never erase,
knows with clarity more solid than granite
that no matter which side you are on
any day or night an injury to one
remains an injury to all

somewhere on this continent
the voice of the ancients warns
that those who shit on the road
will meet flies on their way back
so perhaps you should shudder under the weight
of nightmares when you consider what
thoughts might enter the hearts of our neighbours
what frightened or frightening memories might jump up
when they hear a South African accent

even the sun, embarrassed, withdraws her warmth
from this atrocious defiance and unbridled denial
of the ties that should bind us here and always
and the night will not own any of this stench
of betrayal which has desecrated our national anthem
so do not tell me of NEPAD or AU
do not tell me of SADC
and please do not try to say shit about
ubuntu or any other such neurosis of history

again I say, while I still have voice,
remember, always
remember that you are what you do,
past any saying of it

our memories of struggle
refuse to be erased
our memories of struggle
refuse to die

my mothers, fathers of my father and me
how shall I sing to celebrate life
when every space in my heart is surrounded by corpses?
whose thousand thundering voices shall I borrow to shout
once more: Daar is kak in die land!

Comments

Your email address will not be published.