Kyle Allen - 2011-10-26
Where does poetry begin?
Poetry begins in silence and transcends ourselves. A poem is both a message and a destination. A poem is both a process and an entirety. We are channels and also embodiers of the poem. Where does the poem end and another existence begin? And yet the poem is separate from us. As soon as we write or speak it takes on new life, like a child.
Should there be a message in poetry?
Poetry is the message. Poetry is our consciousness extended and revealed. It is a revelation of the link between things. Poetry is a synthetic process, combining many concepts and things into a unity. If there is poverty, write about it. Don’t shrink from existence. Art is about being awake to whatever form existence takes.
My favourite poets
Dante Alighieri, TS Eliot, Robert Lowell, Wopko Jensma, Kobus Moolman, Christopher Marlowe, Ike Mboneni Muila, Mxolisi Nyezwa, Shakespeare, Rainer Maria Rilke, Seithlamo Motsapi, Uche Nduka, Christopher Okigbo, to name only a few. I believe in our South African contemporary poetry – we have produced some great poets in recent decades. I rate Mxolisi Nyezwa to be the equal of a Lorca, yet most people in this country do not even know his name. Motsapi is mind-blowing. I am in awe of his reconstruction of syntax, yet he is not even in most compiled African anthologies. History will acknowledge him as one of the greatest poets of the continent. Muila is a modern Burns and ee cummings in one, but our scholarly elite regard his poetry as too far out – yet they appreciate James Joyce. Wopko Jensma is apocalyptic. You feel his words like portents in your body. Few modern writers are so powerfully stripped down. Kobus Moolman is like a messenger between the seen and the unseen. He is both a great symbolist and an imagist, a great estranger of language. Yet so many of our young people write as if these writers never existed.
The visionary writers like Mxolisi, Seithlamo and Khulile Nxumalo have decolonised English syntax and made powerful new systems out of it. Angifi Dladla is another amazing imagist poet. Don’t forget Isabella Matindoane. Her death is a tragic loss but no one seems to care. I also like Rustum Kozain and Steven Watson, and I ask why people are so afraid of writing long or longish poems? There seems to be an interdict against it or a scepticism in poetry’s qualities and essence. I work a full-time job, yet apply myself with discipline to writing poetry. My life and poetry flow into each other continually. It takes years to learn craftsmanship. Application is vital. Inspiration is the spark, but you must keep the fire burning with earnestness. And let me not forget Don Mclennan, who has thousands of imitators now. He stood for good values like a true painter: clarity of light; good use of language.
These are merely a couple of writers that come to mind, but in reality I am very open to experience. My veins are open to poetry in any form. What carries you as a poet is an attitude of openness, an ability to receive words, an understanding that wisdom begins in silence. To be potently overcome by deep silences.
I collate a poetry journal, Sibali, which is Zulu for brother-in-law. I have done only print versions so far, but I’m looking into doing an online version soon. I made a very big magazine, consisting of 116 pages long, a short while ago when I had sponsors. Unfortunately they lost interest. I ended up trying to print the magazine myself at home. What a crazy labour of love! The magazine’s contents were amazing, but self-publishing is hectic when you work from limited personal funds.