Unisa Poetry Society held a truly unique poetry event on Friday evening August 12 called Imbokodo at MB Studio Community in Pretoria. Five well-renowned poets, Athol Williams, Nkateko Masinga, Zena Velloo John, Kobus Kotze, and Mthunzikazi Mbungwana performed some of their poems in celebration of Women’s Month in South Africa. We interviewed the poets and asked them to share some of their work with us.
Alwyn Roux: Why did you start writing poetry?
Kobus Kotze: I guess for the same reason most men do. I was in love with the coolest girl in our school when I was 13 and thought writing her some poetry would do the trick. It didn’t. That being said, I have always been in love with reading and words and the way books and stories made me feel was something sacred, untouchable and deeply personal. I guess I wanted to see if I could, in some way, touch this abstract but yet so real world on a different level than just being a reader
Alwyn: How does a poem begin for you?
Kobus: Interesting question. I think it kind of just happens. I mean, things happen in our daily lives – you have a conversation with someone, you witness something inexplicable that keeps bugging you, you see a person that reminds you of someone or something or you hear a song that takes you to a place that freaks you out so much that you have this need to try and understand the not understandable. You have to write about these things otherwise, they either disappear into oblivion and the fact that you experienced them become obsolete or they morph into repeating thoughts in our heads that drive us insane.
Alwyn: Could you tell us more about your upcoming poetry collection?
Kobus: Yes, it’s a collection of poems telling stories about landscapes, people, and dreams. It seems it’s always threes, isn’t it? Think of Freud – the ego, the super-ego and the ID, or the Holy Ghost, Jesus and the Father or mind, body and spirit. For me, people, landscapes, and dreams make up my abstract reality or then private dogma. I believe we are all extensions of other people and when we write about other people we actually write about ourselves as well as our split personalities, hopes, and ideals. Landscapes are open and, especially in a country like South Africa, landscapes and place names have big political significance. Where the people I write about project my personal inward feelings. Dreams are obviously the fictional world that blurs the lines between everything. Think of people as the traditional Jesus figure, landscapes as the bigger God –like figure and dreams as the more mystic Holy Ghost or people as a body, landscapes as mind and dreams as the spirit (in a Buddhist sense). I have always been accused of being a bit too political in my writing, I hope to live up to that in this book. As an Afrikaans speaking white man and a pale male, I like to challenge the perception people have of me and my identity. The poetry in Afrikaans and will also include a QR Code or CD, we are still figuring that out, with a link to a spoken word album where some of the poems are paired with music. I was lucky enough to have the help of some of my favourite current South African musicians in this regard.
Alwyn: Please give us a short summary of your ideas expressed at Imbokodo on 12 August at MB Studio Community.
Kobus: The poems I prepared had to do with things from my personal life. I talked about the strangeness of living in a foreign land, I currently reside in Korea. The second poem was about a brother and son my mom, me, dad and sister lost a very young age and how that memory almost became a metaphor for rebirth through hardship for me. My mother was there that evening and, as selfish as it might sound, it is a poem I wrote for her and I wanted her to hear it firsthand. There was a poem about a young boy being both abusive and abused, just as the 80s political system did to our society. This poem, just like the previous two were both autobiographical, albeit both with a bit of a creative license. The last poem was a drug infused rant to be quite honest.
Alwyn: What do you think it is important to celebrate Woman’s Month in Poetry?
Kobus: It is always important to celebrate women.