As a freelancer, she also operates under “all things creative”, a company which specialises in event planning, book design and layout, corporate and branding identity, photography, video production and copy-writing.
2018 sent her on a whirlwind word-adventure of finding her writing voice. She experimented with poetry, the result of which a poem titled “Age Rage” – an ode to a woman coming to terms with her fading beauty and changing body as she struggles to find relevance in the new and continuously changing world – which will be featured in The Coinage Book Two.
My name is Mihlali Songcaka, I’ll be 25 in September. I was born in Mthatha, Eastern Cape. I speak IsiXhosa as well as English, Sesotho/Setswana and Afrikaans. I used to play rugby and I started writing poetry in 2012.
What were you like at school?
I had a mild temper but my kindness overshadowed it. I was always respectful towards fellow students and teachers.
Since you write in English, were you good at it in school?
Honestly, I wasn’t good at it and the subject gave me a hard time.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I would like to have a book published in 2019. I would really like for my poems to be well-known and to build my brand. I would also like to become a good performer and a better writer; and to have my work being used in theatre, film and television series.
Which writers inspire you and why?
Honestly, I have not been inspired by any writers and I don’t know many writers but hat inspires me are real-life events and the lives of others.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a few poems that I would like to get published this year.
Why do you write? As in, what made you sit down and start writing?
If I could remember, I would tell you but unfortunately, I don’t remember why I started. I do remember that I wrote a long rap verse for a friend and he told me that it rhymed well. What initiated the poetry is something that I’m still trying to figure out and oddly, since I don’t remember why poetry feels so special to me.
What do you use to write?
I use my laptop and sometimes I write with pen and paper. Most of the time, I feel that the poem I want to write at that specific moment would be better written by hand than on the laptop and it would come out better.
Where do your ideas come from?
Real-life events from people, sometimes from a sog or my own emotions and feelings or just even random words in my head.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Firstly, writer’s block and trying to show others that my style is completely different from the usual stuff they read/hear.
Do you get writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?
Yes, I do. I just don’t write or think about a poem in my head. So, I just leave that poem ad do something else.
Do you read much? If so, who are your favourite authors?
No, actually I only started reading this year, but so far, the book I’m enjoying is Unf*ck Yourself by Gary John Bishop
Which celebrated person, living or dead, would you most like to meet and why?
Well, I have a list but I recently met Sipho Nkosi on Freedom Day. He’s on my list right along with President Cyril Ramaposa and Patrice Motsepe.
Screw It, Let’s Do It by Richard Branson
Drake – Look What You’ve Done
Connect with Mihlali on his Facebook page, Pieces by Mihlali Songcaka
Whoever said that nothing good nor contrustuve could come from a WhatsApp group clearly hasn’t been me for the past few days.
Were it not for our girl’s group, I truly would not have realised that yesterday was Valentine’s day, wasn’t it?
No…. I mean, there wasn’t much red, white and pink around, and lest we forget the big news; but it was pretty much just another day, right? Well, apart from the textual calamity, it was pretty much another day.
See, I happen to be dating a person who happens to be a valentinophobe. Valentine’s day is the zenith of his fear.
He made me look to the right, while he went left and had me thinking that perhaps I should pull an Eternal Sunshine – you know, wipe my memory? I was angry for a myriad of contrived reasons at the level of asininity that he exhibited; but then I figured that I should rather get to the bottom of his sudden angst.
It all started two days ago with an unexpected text message that read “WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT?”, to which I responded with “where?” Of which the subsequent conversation was a passive-aggressive exchange about something that I did not say!
So, why are some people so afraid of Valentine’s day? Is it the expectations? Or is it a deeper fear or love? Maybe it’s just the commercial and material side to it that’s made people more unperturbed by the brouhaha behind this greeting card holiday. Whichever way, my boyfriend should have known that I was one of them and it would have saved us a lot of data.
Whichever way, waking up to messages that Valentine’s day plans were cut short because the big announcement was consolation enough for that little part of me that still wishes it could get a heart-shaped box of chocolates, just once.
Lord Bryon said that “Man being reasonable must get drunk; The best of life is but intoxication”. The regulars at clubs as well as authors seem to concur, so maybe I lost some memo along the way. Literature is peppered with heavy drinkers. From the Fitzgeralds to the quieter, lonelier drinkers like Charles Bukowski, there has always been a need to intoxicate in order to create. Is it because, as Lord Bryon would have us think, that truth and the best is only attainable when drunk? Being uninhibited and less self-critical sounds wonderful to me. Having some grand confidence and believing my laptop will be the birthplace of the next South African novel is not too shabby either. Should I pick out my poison of choice now? Two glasses, please.
So, what is it about the writing community and booze. Having read a few articles on the subject I think I have found the truth. Then again I was perfectly sober when writing this so can I be trusted? Writers write for an invisible audience. We create without really knowing who for, and that makes us anxious. We become self-critical and in questioning our talent, we land up questioning a lot more. We curse the human condition and never believe that anything we write will be good enough for the ghosts. Alcohol is that quick fix, it makes us little arrogant creatures that can scale that wall, hook up with Timothy’s brother or prove that there is no human endeavor we cannot overcome. But, I am not convinced that ghosts are the answer.
Do writers drink because they are so conscious of the human condition that to be away from it, distanced by a foul breath and a hangover makes writing about it easier? Do we have to ‘forget’ in order to write and in that forgetting find ourselves? I recently took a course on writing for children and what took me by surprise the most was the notion that the modern writer is a lawyer, a doctor, a kindergarten teacher with time on her hands. The idea of what ‘a writer’ is is morphing and with it are their drinking habits. I am not suggesting that there are not drunken authors, just that what an author ‘ought’ to be like is changing. Writers can be people who write for 2h a night and then cook and finish their statistics work before bed. Too often do we paint this somewhat glamorized picture in our heads about what it means to be an ‘artist’. We imagine that we, like Hemingway, we must be tortured and drunk in order to write. That the apartment in Paris and the empty gin bottles are welcomed signs of greatness. That in being drunk we are ‘most free’ and what we write will be most fine. I have never written drunk, and there is nothing about the looseness that comes with the state that I enjoy. I am a writer of notebooks, of keeping the margins clean and my water bottle full. Call me prudish but I don’t think that drink is the answer; I think reading is. By reading, we engage with others troubles, their small hopes, and their voice. We can find ourselves in the pages of other books or write ourselves into ones. Drinking may make us more confident, more self-assured but does it make us more talented. I don’t think it does. Confidence should not be in the bottle for if we look hard enough we can find that our confidence is sprinkled across the literature that came before us.
[beep]: (chewing) Hey.
Me: Eh, it’s Coin. I’m so effing stressed. Calisto’s dead, like remember in Jennifer’s Body where Chip said his mum was catatonic like a zombie-mannequin-robot statue? Like that dead and what’s weird is that when he does come round, this really disturbing icon that’s not even in the manual shows.
[beep]: (chewing) uh…
Effing [beep]! Why’s he always chewing when he’s on the phone? And anyway, doesn’t “catatonic like a zombie mannequin robot statue” kinda sorta explain what’s happened? Argh! What an idiot!
Me: So, like, I was…
I took sip of the screw-driver and explained what happened – well, not exactly what happened, just the parts that [beep] needed to know – he’s the last person that needs to know that I have a mini-meltdown over a dumb-ass smartphone.
Me: What do you think it is? Do I like need a new battery or is it like totally kaput? Which would be like a real disaster because I have work and stuff and I won’t have time to get a new phone or battery and I’m gonna miss all that stuff that I’m gonna miss.
[beep]: (laughs, almost chokes then continues chewing) FOMO much, Coinizzle? OK? Sounds like you just have to wipe the gold bits on the battery and your phone with one of those cotton buds and Bob’s your uncle.
Me: Are you serious? I hope you’re not like practical-joking me like on Modern Family.
[beep]: Nah, but it usually does the trick.
Me: OK, hold the line.
I hurried to the bathroom and looked in the mirror cabinet for cotton buds. There was one left. I took it out and dismantled Calisto and wiped the metal bits with
the cotton bud and tried switching the phone on.
Holy crap! If this works, I’m giving up alcohol for like two months, starting today.
Me: Well, I just did that and it’s rebooting, all right.
Me: Anyway, while I wait, [beep], why are you always chewing? It’s kinda disturbing and creepy.
[beep]: To keep my blood sugar levels up.
Me: Anyway, looks like it’s working all right. Thanks.
[beep]: Aite, later.
He hung up! That bum-rush! Can I still call him a bum-rush if he’s got low blood sugar? Anyway, LED light flashing red? I’m gonna need a drink.
– end –
Mother, wife, career-driven, call me multi-faceted. Gone are the days when we were confined, defined. Today I have the freedom to decide or not to decide. Today I have the freedom to choose or not to choose. Hi my name is Twenty First Century Woman and I am dimensional. This is a tribute and I am here to salute. Salute to the home-makers, care-givers, nurturers with opinions. To those mothers with diplomas and degrees, yet make those hearty home-made meals. Salute to those faithful wives who do not need help get to the top. Salute to the mothers killing it, non-stop. It is the twenty-first century, so why do I have to choose between the two? Educated, self-sufficient and independent don’t have to make me a male-bashing feminist or a lesbian.
My name is Twenty First Century Woman and I have the right to maternity leave. In the world I will lead, I will achieve and then go home and breastfeed. My name is Twenty First Century Woman and possess the ability provide, but I still want a man at home as my partner and the father of my child. A home with a king and queen, rather than a home with a king and his sub-human being.
My name is Twenty First Century Woman I believe in love, in family and even marriage, but don’t make me choose. I can be a mother, wife and a talented, passionate big-dreaming human too.
catch up here
Manual, manual, manual! Where are you? Ooh, The Diaries of Jane Somers – been looking for you, must read ’em again. Doris Lessing was too advanced! Geez, it’s cold! It wouldn’t be if… yeah! Oh wow, thought I returned that, oh well! Okay, why am I here? Oh, the manual! Ouch! Stupid thumbtacks. The box, I see it! Manual, okay… Let’s see. Battery. Troubleshooting. Mother effer! For. Crying. Out. Loud. The damn icon thingamajig’s not in this stupid manual. Why create and icon and not put it in the book? Who does that? Wait, the people at RIM, that’s who! Or… maybe Calisto made it up, after all it is kinda haunted! It changes my alarm tone weekly, when it arrived it already somehow summoned *cough, cough*’s contact details, so it can be true! I think I’ll give *cough, cough* a ring when this is all over. Damn piece of crap! You’re pretty useless, you know! Yes, this phone is crap, people go on about how awesome it is to own one but they hardly tell you about all the glitches! ARGH!
I tried the whole routine again, anyway. Hope is a funny thing. Perhaps I was insane? Dismantle, shake, charge. Nothing. I stormed out of the study and banged the door. I stood in the middle of the lounge – someone had left the TV on mute. In the light it emitted, I found a glass of red wine on the coffee table and took a sip. It tasted bad. So I scratched my bum.
Okay… Calisto, maybe you’re not stupid. Maybe I should cry and everything will be better – works that way in those chick-flicks! What? Cry over a cell-phone, all alone?! Hey, that rhymes, maybe I should be a rapper after all! Ugh, that so Bridget Jones. Where’s the vodka? This wine is off! Maybe I should have another cigarette? Stuff it! All I need is music, the music on my memory card then I’ll be able to sleep. Maybe –
I walked to the kitchen, located the vodka then measured out three shots and poured them in a high-ball glass and gulped down a bit from the bottle before adding some orange juice to the glass. I read the label on the bottle and put it down then headed to the lounge. I rummaged through the objects on the coffee table and found a Nokia 1200. It was on.
Ah! A nice screwed up screw driver will do. Too damn cold to go smoke outside. Let’s see what’s on TV. Was that a phone? Oh holy cow! A phone! Wait, whose phone? Does it matter, it’s a phone! Doesn’t look like it has a mem-card slot, though. Damnit! But it’s a phone and it’s on! Maybe I should call [beep], he always knows what to do.
Now, being one of those that insist on memorising people’s contact details before storing them on any device in case I found myself in in a situationas the one I was currently in, unfortunately for me [beep]’s number was never memorised and so, I stood there trying to come up with a formula to remember his number. The fact that I could just take my SIM card out the phone and put insert it in this other phone had escaped me, completely. I scrolled through the contact list of the curious1200 and lo! and behold, [beep]’s number.
… to be concluded.