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Interview with South African Poet: Makhosazana Xaba

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Interview with South African Poet: Makhosazana Xaba by Akinjidetayo(m) : 2:05 am On Mar 26

ASL: Tell us about yourself?
Makhosazana Xaba: I am Makhosazana Xaba, a South African poet, and I was part of the liberation movement in South Africa.
Did that inspire your poetry?
I am sure it did. I always wanted to write, but things had to be done. During those days, no one who was with me in the liberation movement, for a moment thought that things would change. Then of course things got better, and I found that I had things to say, and started writing.
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What was your entry into fiction?
I joined the MFA program in creative writing at WITS. That is where I met
Ashleigh , actually, she was one of my instructors. That is why I am not surprised you are working on such a project together. I came up with a work of poetry from that class.
You mention that you started writing a bit late, other than your political inclination, do you have other reasons?
Well. MFA programs are expensive. I had to give up a few things to be able to take the class. Make provisions. But also, at first, I wanted to write in isiZulu . And then I realized that I wanted to be published. When people ask me why I don’t write in my own language, I always tell them because I want to be published in my lifetime (laughs).
Tell me a bit more about that:
People talk about Ngugi now, about writing in your own language as if it is revolutionary. I think this is a conversation he should be having with publishers and not writers. Many people are willing to write in their own language, and then what? How many publishers will publish that. . .If you ask my daughter now, what I would do if I were a millionaire, she will tell you, “mother would start a publishing firm, where we would translate some seminal works (especially by women) into local languages.”
Interesting. What do you think of new forms of literature?
You need to be a bit more specific. New?
Well, maybe new to me. Things like spoken word and digital literatures etc
I see. Well for “spoken word”, I attend those events, mostly to support friends etc. I think they can be real talent there. But I usually stop listening when someone starts off with “I wrote this in a taxi, on my way here”. I am sure there is a good idea somewhere in there, but I don’t really think I came all the way here to listen to something you wrote in a taxi.
This is like young poets who ask me, “can you read my poetry”, and I usually say, “alright. But first what are you reading?”
What do they mostly say?
I bet you already know. Nothing. Most of them are reading motivational books, or some inspirational book by one celebrity or the other. Their reason is usually that they don’t want to be ‘corrupted’ by another person’s writing. I think they mistaken “inspiration” for “corruption”. So, I tell them, “come back when you have been corrupted, just a little”. Almost none of them ever do.
As for the rest of what you refer to as new literature: two of my friends came to me once, saying they wanted to put together a chapbook. They were really excited, I listened to their idea, and I think they could tell that I was not that excited about it. I told them that a chapbook sounds fancy, but it also seems a bit too convenient. They did the less convenient thing (laughs): one of them has an anthology on jazz now, the first in South Africa; and the other, has a third book on poetry.
Let’s talk about this convenience, could you unpack?
I don’t like spineless things. Why would I read something without a spine? I personally like books and how they feel. I like the work that goes into writing, publishing, and assembling a book. I like that it is a show of effort and craftsmanship. This is why it is hard for me to listen to I-wrote-this-on-the-taxi-poets, you see. I want effort.
I think what you’re talking about is discernment. Can you teach that, the ability for people to choose for themselves what they read?
I don’t know. I learnt it at a young age. Sitting in my bed, sick, and having nothing else to do for six months but read. Soon I started to see what I liked about one book over the other; and that has stayed with me. That is what I mean when I say literature saved my life. Sounds a bit sensationalist. But during those days, I only knew of freedom from books. Actual books.

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Re: Interview with South African Poet: Makhosazana Xaba by Akinjidetayo(m) : 2:06 am On Mar 26

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Interview with Stevie Nii-Adu MensahSweden- Author of It’s so Cold Oo / My fans are a source of encouragement- Serah Iyare (Shewrites) / ‘I have always loved to be a writer’- Ernest Bhabor /

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