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Poetry Update: Word ‘n Sound

We Are Poets?

As you all know, Tuesdays are poetry days. As a surprise I was going to upload a video of Ole from Ole’s Truth performing his poem Hold My Nigga Moment at the Market Theatre this past Saturday. Alas I did not have time to work on the video and fix a sound issue. Instead of doing that, I’ve decided to share with you the experience.

Poetry has always been one of those weird writing styles that I have a love/hate for. I used to do quite a lot of poetry back in the day, performing at Constitutional Hill and Johannesurg Art Gallery. We had a poetry club, printed an anthology, and had meetings. I was part of the “founding” partners of the poetry club. At that point in my life I thought I was a poet, standing up with confidence and a slight ego. I’ve learned now that young Nthato wasn’t a poet – he was a good rhymer with a big head.

image: Dominican Convent School poetry evening. 2015

School poetry evening back in 2005

I stepped back from the scene after that, focusing on writing fiction. I dabbled a bit in poetry but it was only until recently, when fellow writer and good friend Olerato told me he wanted to get involved in poetry, that I dived back in. It was also part of a side writing project I’m working on, and with that in mind I decided to help him. Hence the return of Tuesday poetry as well as all the guest posts.

Part of getting involved included going to poetry sessions and performing poetry in public spaces. So this past Saturday, 3 February 2018, Ole and I went into the heart of Johannesburg. We experienced the crowds. The taxis. The stench. The dichotomy of beautiful skyscrapers and decrepit buildings. The gorgeous Mandela Bridge overlooking the old-but-functioning train track, congested-filthy taxi ranks and the revamped buildings beside the highway.

Our first stop was registering Ole for a Poetry Slam at the Market Theatre. An elegant, revamped building that smelled and shouted “art” and the potential for our city. After that we met other poets who were going to an audition at the Joburg Theatre. Thus began our track through the bustling Joburg streets.

image: view from Joburg Theatre

A view from Joburg Theatre

The audition was part of a poetry programme that would run for the year. Selected poets will attend workshops run by prolific South African poets, will perform poems, and other really amazing opportunities to better their poetry.

This wasn’t something Ole and I were going to do but I convinced him that if I auditioned then he has to, too. Motivation right? So without any preparation, I went into the audition room. It was dark, walls and seats painted black. Spotlights shining onto the stage as an invitation. Three judges sat on a table clothed in black. Two women, one man. Intimidating. I climbed onto the platform and answered the usual drabble “Who are you? Where you from? What do you do?” spiel. Then I performed my poem “Hypocritical”. I think they liked it but they didn’t necessarily like me – something about being too nonchalant. At the same time they seemed persuaded in giving me a chance as I had potential. I’ll only find out at the end of February.

Ole then went in to perform his poetry. They loved him and his performance, though they were a bit apprehensive of his poems (which I think are amazing). He may also be considered for the programme.

Word ‘n Sound

Following our track back, we stepped into the Market Theatre auditorium for Ole’s actual performance. I’d listened to him recite it to me but this was it. The main event. The big stage. Word ‘n Sound is an organisation that hosts poetry sessions, and runs the Poetry League. The event runs on the first Saturday of every month and this year will be its eighth season. There were returning poets and champions, newcomers of every age and location. Pretoria poets even came down.

Not to be biased but I loved Ole’s performance. So dramatic. And the crowd did too. Every time they saw him they would say “That’s a nigga moment.” as reference to his poem. A really enjoyable experience. Of course there were other really amazing poets there to, and some not so great. It was the first show of the year after all, setting the scene for what was to come.

image: Ole performing at the Word 'n Sound poetry league

Ole performing at the Word ‘n Sound poetry league

We even had a surprise guest performance by singer Samthing Soweto who has an incredible voice: https://www.facebook.com/SamthingSoweto/

Where To From Here

On Sunday we went to The Orbit, a jazz lounge. It was open mic session where we were expecting poetry but instead were serenaded by amazing voices and great music. Nonetheless, it was one of those things we will be doing more often. Every first Saturday of the month we’ll be at Word ‘n Sound. We’ll be looking for poetry spots and being intentional about performing our poetry. It’s going to be amazing.

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