Find the perfect dress for every occasion...
After watching the award- winning poet, Khulile Nxumalo, perform on the opening night of Poetry Africa at UKZN, I woke up early the next day and in the rising Durban spring sun read some of his poems from his latest book, Fhedzi.
What was surprising was that, unlike many of his counterparts who chose on the previous night one long poem for their five minutes on stage, Nxumalo chose four short poems. Yet, in Fhedzi he has used longer forms of poetry in almost all of the published work.
There were poems about his father, love poems and a poem dedicated to theatre legend Gcina Mhlope which he read on the night.
“I performed short poems last night because the power of poetry can be achieved in short poems,” he told me later that afternoon at his North Beach hotel. “You can achieve clarity with something short.”
He explained that he recited the poem dedicated to Mhlope as she was in the audience. It was an emotional experience.
“I met her when I was 14. I used to be part of an experiment where we kids from Soweto were put into a Joburg children’s theatre around the fall of the Group Areas Act. Gcina Mhlope taught us and she got me interested in theatre.”
His interest in theatre is still very strong, so much so that he is doing his Master’s in the dramatic arts. Fhedzi is his second book and was published earlier this year. His first poetry collection, ten flapping elbows, mama was published in 2004. He is also a commissioning editor for drama at SABC.
“I define myself as the poet of the page. What I work for is the heritage of the legacy on the shelf. I am a scroll. When a poet delivers the voice on the mic it disappears like paraffin. I am the poet of the page which means I might make your reading difficult.”
No kidding! In Fhedzi it was the contrast between simple poetry and very complex expression where he often joined words. He also mixes other languages with English. This provides a challenging read.
“I join words in English because it is a colonial language. For the first 12 years of my life I didn’t know English at all. I became proficient in English. I create most of my poems in English and maybe I dream in English.
“In Fhedzi I force it politically in the text and it is so compressed. Salmon Rushdie said there are many Englishes. You need to come back to my poems because they are on the shelf. They are supposed to stay there for a lifetime.”
Fhedzi is published by Dye Hard Press.