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Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za

Menings | Opinion > Onderhoude | Interviews > English

David Wa Maahlamela on poetry in Africa

Janet van Eeden - 2011-11-01

Untitled Document

David Wa Maahlamela

What does being invited to Poetry Africa mean to you?

Acknowledgement of the contribution I have given to South African poetry. It also motivates me to continue carry this heavy yoke of writing.

Does an event like Poetry Africa make poetry, a traditionally overlooked genre, more meaningful to the general public?

Absolutely. Looking at the variety in types of poetic styles and languages selected, it caters for different people and equally exposes them to new forms of poetry. Furthermore, its community outreach programme is without doubt one of its kind in the entire country which directly benefits a large number of school learners, students and community members. As a result, the impact of previous Poetry Africa festivals is seen from the large number of participants during poetry readings, workshops and competitions organised in this year’s festival. Quality in poetry presented by those who are regarded as budding poets matches that of renowned poets, which in a way guarantees that many other literary giants are to be expected from this province. On the other hand, it is encouraging them to treasure their mother tongue, which I can tell, there’s no province in this country where young writers treasure and master their mother tongue like here in the KwaZulu-Natal, and I believe the same impact will be seen in places included as Poetry Africa Tour destinations.

Are you launching a new work here? If so, which one and when?


What are you most proud of in your literary career to date?

Being awarded the PanSALB multilingualism award alongside great language preservers such as Gcina Mhlophe, Jedizweni Mhlobo and Simphiwe Dana.

Do you see yourself as a writer first and a poet second, or is it the other way around?

I was a poet for eight years before I started writing prose. I even write prose through poetry. I am primarily a poet, then a writer.

What have poets got to offer our country?

In my recent poem I wrote for Masizi Kunene, there’s a quote that reads: “A country without silver-tongued poets is a political limousine cruise-controlled on a highway of corruption.” Poets have the duty of documenting both the past and the future, advising the nation and its leadership, and if possible, reading the future. Theirs is not to impress but to express themselves. All these will be road signs to the coming generation.

What is the one thing people should remember about you and your work after you’re gone?

I want to be remembered for having been a poet who took poetry as a skill rather than a calling. A poet who did not imprison himself to a specific cause, language or style of writing; he explored different forms.

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