09 October 2009

poetry africa 2009, (my) day three, durban

Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre
University of KwaZulu-Natal, Howard College Campus
Day 5 of Poetry Africa 2009 (Friday, October 9)

8:14 pm -- Too late, too late… In the middle of Chigo Gondwe's presentation. And I start spinning off on my own, as she riffs and sings and cajoles and exhorts…

If this is the present of poetry, let alone the future, poetry books are dead. Audio is close to finished too -- it's only a matter of time -- and we are marching into video and eventually into a virtual immersion as the only real option.

But I'm not convinced it is the future -- or necessarily the present. Like this notion of universes folded into themselves and stacked one next to the other, I'm not sure whether this is the present or but one present.

I think what's going to prove to make or break the reputation of poets in the years to come is the ease and skill with which they slide between these universes.

Nor am I sure that performance -- in whatever form it is offered -- is any less bound by its medium than the written line is. Ah… see: without even intending to I stumbled across another commonplace -- bully for me!!

But there's something more to this than the banal assertion above. I'm just not sure what it. But there something about a poet's growth, experimentation with new forms -- not necessarily "the latest" (oh dear god but I'm growing old and curmudgeonly) but new to her, whether it be form or format or... It just all feels like ground we've trod many times before. Still, there's something I'm missing here, but only just...

Setting the mic down and walking back behind the lectern, Gondwe says, "I know there are some people here who believe poetry should be read." What does she mean? She's flogging her book -- for sale in the lobby. It includes a cd. "Hook a sister up!" Indeed.

Around 8:30 we head into a break. I've missed the School Poetry Competition Awards -- a real shame; I had really wanted to see them -- and Bongani Mavuso, whose book was launched on Wednesday.

A thought exercise: fifty years on, what will these slam poets and spoken word artists be doing? Will they still be performing? In the same venues? How will they be viewed by the younger poets of the time? Will they have adapted their… Subject? Forms? To the poetry of the place and moment? Or to a past before this present? Will they be giving "readings" or "performances"? Will they be writing books or transcribing or recording? Or…?
I can't help but puzzle through all this framed by the seemingly endless stream of musical group "reunion" tours, from the doo wop showcase they broadcast again and again and again on public television during pledge drives to the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac tours which… yeah, they're beginning to be broadcast during pledge drives on public television in the States too…
8:51 pm -- Anindita Sengupta from India. A lovely voice and a lovely reading. But… I wasn't able to hook into one of her poems all the way through until "Apologia". I wish I could find you this poem, but I can't. She does have a website, though, with others, including many she read tonight.

9:18 pm -- Mongane Wally Serote. Now here's an icon…

"and sometimes poverty rages around us // don't we know this?"

So easy a reader, but a little ragged…

"We were no coincidence."

…and the jingle of the coins he's rolling in his pocket.

It's quiet, he's ranged far and wide and yet, still, he comes home and turns to Linda, who brings him -- and us -- all the way back: "come let us get to work."

And at 9:41 pm we end.

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