It’s not just me who’s raving about the second InZync Poetry Session at AmaZink in Kayamandi last Friday night – ask anyone who was there. Ask poets Danie Marais and Marius Swart, or writer-at-large in Stellenbosch Pierre van der Spuy. Ask professor in German Studies Carlotta von Maltzan, or invited poet Mambesi Goje, or one of the many Stellenbosch students who were present. But, most of all, ask the performers who took hold of the Open Mic and belted out their carefully crafted riffs of verbal art, their bold and clear expressive agitation. Ask emerging rap artist Adrian Different, ask Thateng, Mr O, Cwele, Sinalo and Lucy Graham. Ask Miriam to whom the microphone was taken so that she could perform from her wheelchair in Xhosa.
Talk about multilingual! The poetry crossed from isiZulu to ‘mooi’ Afrikaans, from English to Afrikaaps, and from Xhosa to rap idioms in various “dialect” appropriations across the shimmering, changing surface of our language sea.
Danie Marais did a strange and wonderful thing: he stood on stage and listened, along with the audience, to his own recording of a series of poems about living in Germany, poems accompanied by comical animation. Animated poetry – what a great act! It went down well, especially because the poems were spiced with the kind of ironic wit for which Marais is widely admired.
Both Marais and Swart performed their “Ginsberg” adaptations – their “Letter to South Africa” as contained in the new Umuzi book, Letter to South Africa: Poets Calling the State to Order. Transplanted from the setting of the original event which gave rise to this book (a colloquium held at the grandiloquent Sasol Art Museum in Stellenbosch during Versindaba last September), these poems came off in a rather different way in the Kayamandi setting.
What is it with these spoilt, middle-class white boys ? (And I include myself in this description.) That was the feeling I got, listening, again, on Friday night in Kayamandi. They’ve got jobs, cars, nice phones, and still they’re so angry with “South Africa”, so cuttingly dismissive, so witheringly ironic. What will it take to make them feel better?
But the middle-class white boys were not the only ones who were saying hard or angry things about the whole matter of being human in South Africa, in the Cape area, circa April, 2011. Many of the poems spoke in bare language about conditions which one might describe as “bare life”, following a certain well-known literary theorist. Except that these poets didn’t need Giorgio Agamben to tell them about “bare life”. They didn’t need anyone to tell them about life populated with death.
Mambesi Goje: “How can you call this place a home? / Because of this place I am dead / It happened one horrible night ...”
Thateng: “Today we are free but live the life of chained dogs.” Sinalo: “I’m asking, what will tomorrow bring? / Will it bring us some food to eat ... / will people feel free to walk the streets at night ...”
Lucy Graham: “All I can tell you for sure is, / there is no fucking hope.”
Mr O: “She’s black but not too black.”
Bjorn: “Grasp insanity without the cloud of doubt / Open your eyes to see through the fiction of the situation.”
Pieter Botha: “Dan skuif die realitiet onheilspellend voor die son in / die skadu diepdonker, soos 'n oopmangat / waarvan die deksel gesteel is vir skrootmetaal / vir witbrood vir kinders, vir sigarette / want die rookmis bevat geen nikotien ...”
Elde: “We give them false hope and then we leave them to die alone.”
Before these bravura performances on the Open Mic, invited performance poet Blaqpearl gave us her Afrikaaps poems. Her lines included one about “Krotoa van ons dag”: “Eendag sal ek dit maak / die man van my drome sal hier kom park.” One of her titles was, “My life is not a metaphor”. The line between expressions of strong being and metaphoricity – between death, love, hunger, between all this, and the metaphorical “play” with which our well-known paper poets often become so beguiled – this line was shifted back quite decisively in Kayamandi. The dangers of disconnected – or socially disengaged – aestheticism remain with us, or so the 2nd InZync Poetry Session made it feel to me, last Friday.
On top of all of this, we also received a mysterious e-mail the day before the event, containing a sound poem by someone called "Tjopper". Below follow extracts from the e-mail, as well as an mp3 of the poem as we played it during Friday night's poetry session.
In March 2005, Stellenbosch student Inge Lotz was found murdered in her flat in Welgevonden, brutally bludgeoned to death with a blunt object. Subsequently, her boyfriend was arrested, accused and tried for the murder, and ultimately acquitted. This poem is not about the boyfriend. This poem is about the text that started surrounding the victim after her death. Hierdie tekste het nie lywe nie – hulle praat deur TV skerms, radio’s, rekenaars en koerante. Skerms en luidsprekers kan nie bloederige hande hê nie. These words do not come to us from bodies, they are imposed on our bodies, tattooed onto our skins.
There are no tattoo artists. Die liggaam is oortollig. And in any way, live performances are for the living. Tjopper wil weet wat gebeur as liggaamlose woorde ons van alle kante omsingel. Can words commit the perfect murder? Tjopper is a verbal DJ. Tjopper is the sound system. Tjopper is the roving microphone, the empty stage, the disemboweled voice that speaks in stereo. Now press play:[audio:http://slipnet.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/A-true-story-of-murder-and-the-miscarriage-of-justice-final.mp3|titles=A true story of murder and the miscarriage of justice - A poem by Tjopper]