A friend had sent an image to the least annoying of the many Whatsapp groups that I belong to. The image was of a watermelon-coloured thumb nail on a crisp white page with just five sentences on it.
“here you are. black and woman and in love with yourself. you are terrifying. they are terrified. (as they should be).” The words are from an anthology called Soft Magic by the UK-based poet, Upile Chisala.
It resonated with me because in 2017, young, black women everywhere - not just in a South Africa where guys argue about using the word “trash” to describe men and not about the trashy things that men do - are forced to be in love with themselves.
That’s a power that we weren’t always encouraged to embrace. One post of those words on Instagram garnered 105 likes from women and men of all races. That’s also the power of poetry. You don’t have to exclusively relate with something in order to acknowledge its power.
Soft Magic is just one of the anthologies that have managed to not only be a voice for many people around the world but it has also managed to bring the spotlight back onto young women writers.
Chisala’s social media presence is proof that you don’t have to be a poet and a recluse to be considered an artist. You can chew gum and cross the street at the same time.
This multi-dimensional aspect to art is one of the things I love about Koleka Putuma. The poet and theatre practitioner is having her moment in the sun and it’s wonderful to see.
Her poem, Water, is something of an anthem in the South African poetry scene. A part of her art that is most frequently quoted on Twitter and other social media platforms is from a poem called Memoirs of a Slave and Queer Person.
It says: “I don’t want to die with my hands up or legs open.”
Putuma’s work points a lens at the life of marginalised people in South Africa. And her new anthology, Collective Amnesia is brilliant. She is on tour around the country conducting readings and book signings.
The Cheeky Native’s Twitter reported that Collective Amnesia was selected as prescribed text at Stellenbosch University.
Social media is a great place for one to make a name for themselves. And likes aside, it’s wonderful to be introduced to artists who not only take a stand for something but artists who are like a mirror to society too. Young, black women are making their voices heard through poetry and we would be wise to listen.
* Which poetry anthologies have moved you? Tell us @IOL_Lifestyle on Twitter.