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?
Zena John: I am an accidental poet. Poetry found me! I was noting down observations of the human condition and universal experiences, and these were identified as poems by outside eyes.
Alwyn: How does a poem begin for you?
Zena: A poem spills out of me onto the screen or page. It is almost a subconscious moment, a channelling of sorts. When this creative force is done, a poem has appeared. I don’t edit or re-write; it’s a once-off. The moment has come and gone.
Alwyn: You are part of a very exciting collaboration called “Beyond spice”, and you recently published your first poetry book. Could you tell us more about the collaboration and the main themes you explored in the book?
Zena: I am honoured to be part of a collective of six South African Indian women from Pretoria, who decided to pool our artistic talents into one book. I had been writing for years and decided to publish my collection of poems.The young art collective created imagery around themes within my poetry. We touched on the nuances of life, love, belonging, spirituality and all things mystical, in an attempt to reveal the sometimes hidden, creative world of women in our community.
Top, L-R: Shenaz Mahomed (Fine Artist), Kershnee Velloo (Artist), Raeesah (Designer, Illustrator, Photographer) Bottom, L-R: Jayna Mistry (Fine Artist), Zena John (Poet), Shaskia John (Artist)
Alwyn: Please give us a short summary of your ideas expressed at Imbokodo on 12 August at MB Studio Community.
Zena: I traced a line from the past to the present, alluding to the Indian indentured labourers that arrived in SA 150 years ago, and our unbreakable bond with all those that have gone before us. Bringing in elements of the soul and spirit world that hinge on our physical reality, I whispered the universal truths that bind us all to each other.
Alwyn: Why do you think is it important to celebrate Women’s Month in poetry?
Zena: Poets and other artists are keepers of the intangible threads that filters through all life streams. In our current reality, the Divine Female energy is consistently overlooked. We need to harmonise the celebration of women in all facets of creativity, and poetry brings the consciousness of society to the forefront. Poets are musical philosophers.
I am the free flow
I am the energy
I am you and I am me
I am is the most powerful thought in the universe
I bring to life that which has lain dormant for centuries
I sizzle through water drops
I dance on rainbows
I am the smile on your child’s face
I am the wrinkle on your oldster’s skin
I am life bursting forth from the green shoots
I am the wail of a newborn
I am the last sigh of the soul that travels beyond
I am infinity in a star
I am a wisp of thought gone in a second
Neither here nor there
© Zena John.
I wrapped myself within the african continent
tugging at its northern most point
tweaking its southern tip
to reach a comfortable
belt of awareness
I danced with the south asian sub-continent
giving flight to centuries of bell-jingling footsteps
toyed with the moon glistening on its holy waters
and found my soul hidden
in its duet
© Zena John.