Croc E Moses is an enigmatic poet. Watching him from the audience of the Drill Hall at last year's National Arts Festival, I was reminded of the first time I saw Croc’s poetry live, in the hazy half-light of a Stellenbosch Friday night. Croc had slipped into an arresting orange worksuit, and he wielded a walking stick like a seer as he wove a whirling lyrical dervish that took the audience’s breath away. His poems are soundscapes that wrap you in words and pull the comfort out from under your feet when you least expect it:
Croc is a performance poet, be in no doubt. His work is lyrical, witty, dazzling and ultimately life-affirming. SLiP interviewed him, a process he advises us to take with “a pinch of charcoal”.
SLIP: Croc, your poetry is unorthodox, to say the least. What is the energy that lies behind it?
Croc: The energy behind my poetry comes from living poetry and music as a way of life in the context of having born an April fool in sub arctic Canada and now having lived well over half my life in Swaziland and South Africa.
It’s a listening and research and tinkering process. Distilling words
A way of mapping, unbundling and bringing clarity to my complicity, schizophrenia and disconnection from creation and the humans occupying it. Dispelling the abuse of word language
It’s the intersection of my depression, anger, natural philosophy, natural insurrection, music, daring, unlearning lies, confusion and my instinct to create for pleasure and antidote and restoration
For me the inspiration comes from deepening the exploration of how word language can be musical. I am passionate about this thing called phrasing: How the voice will phrasing itself melodically or not in relation to another rhythm, instrument or sound
SLIP: What’s your poetic process?
Croc: It’s totally and utterly chaotic. There are papers everywhere. It’s kind of a distilled gardening like process where i just keep my hands in the soil and in touch with untold word riffs; always coaxing the poems to form themselves. By continuusly tinkering with words on the page and verbally outside while walking in creation, i set in motion a musicmomentum where the poem songs almost cultivate themselves. As long as i am alert to the charge of a poem/song forming then they arrive in their own nature. For me it’s about humbling one self. It’s songbearing.
SLIP: Why did you decide to put a collection together?
Croc: I was approached by UNISA Press who were starting their new Flame Series; This series focuses on inter-disciplinary publications. The Driftword collection captures the transition/integration/maturation from slam poet/spoken word through accompaniment with guitar to fully fledged melodic songs. The graphics included in the book represent the trickster and visual aspect of my performance but are also intended to demonstrate the poetic coherence across the different mediums of expression.
SLIP: What’s your favourite poem from this new collection?
Croc: Shrink Bigger.
SLIP: What’s your daily routine as a poet?
Croc: It used to be mostly reading and when i had long stretches of free time i would write, write and write and re-write banks of lyrics. I really explored the act of writing without trying to achieve too much or get results or finished product.
I was so inspired in the early 2000’s to be writing, that i found myself scribbling all the time. I have never really sat down to write about anything specific. I have always come to writing with a sense of play and mischief and at the same time a large part of me enjoying watching the what is really just my pen stumbling over landscapes. Sleight of pen i would call it.
I don’t really write so much now as i have so many lyrics and much unfinished material. I am focussing on trying to finish mainly songs. If i do write anything now it’s very short like:
You’ve been on the mountain
You’ve been robbed
Now for the art
Or my newest word skyllables.
SLIP: What’s your optimum writing time of day?
Croc: For me it’s not so much what time of day as to when i have space to be alone. For most of my music and writing i need space to hear my ears thus the cover of one of my albums with the mic to my ear
SLIP: Who would you say are your poetic influences?
Croc: Before i even knew i was a poet i was drawn to Mzwake Mbuli and Lesego Rampolokeng and LKJ in the late 80’s early 90’s. Then when i first started spoken word poetry in 2000 i was very excited and influenced by Ike Mboneni Muila and Justin ‘Jiggs’ Thorne. Then it was a whole broad range from Ben Okri, Sethlamo Motsapi, Egbert Van Bart, Saul Williams, Caroline Duffy, Dylan, the Beatles, Lauren Hill, Kate Tempest and the list goes on and on....
SLIP: Any new poets you’re excited by this year?
Croc: To be honest i haven’t been reading much poetry if any last year. I prefer going to live poetry events where there is a diverse range of voices, where no one voice stands out.
SLIP: What are you currently reading?
Croc: Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe, Meditations of a non-white white – Alan kolski Horwitz, and A man of good hope – Jonny steinberg.