Thibedi Mokgokong is a poet who discovered writing through the strain of living in a house where “a child is seen but not heard.” Poetry was a way to express complex and suppressed emotions in a verbose but quiet manner. The weight in his poetry comes from words and expressions long kept but never spoke.
Jeannie Wallace McKeown lives in Makhanda (previously Grahamstown) and works full-time at Rhodes University. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Rhodes, and has had poems published in New Coin, New Contrast, Poetry Potion, Aerodrome and other literary journals. Her work appears in the anthologies Voices Of This Land 2nd Edition, For Rhino in a Shrinking World, the EU Sol Plaatjie collections VII and VIII, and on the AVBOB Poetry website. She is the mother of two boys, has just the perfect number of cats, and a dog who wasn’t planned but is now an integral part of the family. Her collection, Unremembered Poems, will be published by Modjaji Books in 2019.
Her poem “Even-Handed” is featured in The Coinage Book Two. It is a simple and beautifully written reflection on the concurrent exploration, experimentation, growth and change within ourselves and others.
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
Showed man and woman,
Showing us as the nation,
Never to back down
and to keep fighting,
You left us
and into dark holes,
Our hearts fell,
To the nation,
You are a hero.
Mother and daughter,
Strong and courageous,
Never say die,
From mother to daughter,
Your teachings, your words,
Your songs, your voice,
Echoed through the generations,
Your spirit remains,
In the black clothes and doeks,
Mothers and sisters,
Pay their respects,
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.
Damn, I love this city.
Siza Nkosi is a published poet, writer, lyricist, guitarist and a mother who has shared pages of her life-stories on stages with renowned poets and artists. She currently works as an IT Networking Specialist. Her journey as a poet and writer started in 2006, when she was discovered by Abdul Milazi – Editor of Sunday World – at her sister’s funeral. She wrote a poem to pay tribute to her sister at the back of the funeral programme and since then, she has never looked back and her love for poetry was unearthed.
She is currently co-ordinating two book clubs in Dube, Soweto where young people are afforded a space and platform to learn how to read and write their own stories. Siza’s poetry has grown from strength to strength, and has motivated her to become one of the first women to fuse poetry with the acoustic sounds of a guitar and explore the connection between poetry and jazz. She is the founding member of House of Siza, an NPO that seeks to change people’s lives through literature, and empower them to tell their stories in their own languages. She’s a resident poet for the MoFaya Poetry Movement,in Randburg, where poets meet every quarter to share and connect with others. She is also a member of Divulge – a creative space for artists to share, connect and network on their projects. In 2007, she was one of the finalists in the international poet of the year competition in Michigan, USA. In 2013, she was part of the Spoken Word Project that was organised under the auspices of Goethe Institute – Johannesburg, where ten South African poets showcased their spoken word skills and engaged audiences in a torrent of words and stories. She also took part in the 2012 and 2014 Polokwane Literary Festival and 2014 Northern Cape Literary Festival as well as the Vhembe International Poetry Festival in 2015. Her work has been published in the Timbila Journal, the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology for 2014 and other online poetry journals; She’s written articles featured in magazines like Urban Tymes California and has recently shared her poetry on Poetry in the air on SAfm with Myesha Jenkins. Her work has also been recently featured in Poetry Potion’s 21 Poets project that used poetry to track the story of South Africa, 21 years after democracy.
The texture and quality of her work is informed by real life experiences and stories that narrate the realities of people around her. Since education is her passion, she has to enrolled with UNISA for a law degree (LLB). She is currently working on her debut collection of poems which will be published in the last quarter of 2015.
Her poem, “Try Not To Mourn”, is featured in The #Coinage Book One.
You can keep up-to-date with the House of Siza, here.