December 5, 2017

I tore up your picture (Frank Petty Trio)

Filed under: harry, jumping,music,nicola deane,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 10:28 am

I tore up your picture when you said goodbye

but I put it together again

as I tore it apart it was tearing my heart

only you dear can mend it again

i tried to erase from my mind your sweet face

but i found it was only in vain

i tore up your picture when you said goodbye

but i put it together again

I tried to erase from my mind your sweet face

but i found it was only in vain

i tore up your picture when you said goodbye

but i put it together again

August 14, 2017

Siphokazi Jonas – crowdfunding poetry

Filed under: poetry — ABRAXAS @ 2:02 pm


August 9, 2017

Lydia Lunch and Weasel Walter

Filed under: lydia lunch,music,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 10:57 am


July 18, 2017

To Breathe INto Another Voice

Filed under: kagapoems,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 9:01 pm


first published here: http://www.poetrypotion.com/to-breathe-into-another-voice-a-south-african-anthology-of-jazz-poetry/

June 21, 2017

on silence speaking

Filed under: literature,nicola deane,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 12:55 pm

You do not go to the desert to find identity, but to lose it, to lose your personality, to be anonymous. You make yourself void. You become silence. You become more silent than the silence around you. And then something extraordinary happens: you hear silence speak. (Edmond Jabes)

May 28, 2017

GWEN ANSELL reviews To Breathe INto Another Voice

Filed under: kagapoems,music,poetry,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 11:46 am


first published here: http://www.news24.com/Columnists/GuestColumn/book-review-poetry-like-jazz-20170528-2

May 24, 2017

To Breathe Into Another Voice

Filed under: kagapoems,music,music and exile symposium,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 11:52 am


March 8, 2017

on performing poetry with a bag over one’s head

Filed under: poetry,unga dada — ABRAXAS @ 9:48 am

The great thing about doing poetry with a bag over your head is that the audience does not become emotionally swayed by the poet’s eyes. Eyes are lubricants, they perform a kind of foreplay to the poem, allowing the words to get into the audience’s erotic centres too quickly. With a paper bag this becomes more difficult and one is allowed to focus exclusively on the words.

Aryan Kaganof

December 7, 2016

Eugene Skeef – Igama

Filed under: poetry — ABRAXAS @ 8:39 am


December 3, 2016

You’re In Chains Too

Filed under: 2016 - Opening Stellenbosch,kaganof,music,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 9:49 am


first published here: https://wordnsoundlivelit.wordpress.com/2016/11/17/youre-in-chains-too-solidarity-concert/

November 17, 2016

Forgive My Tongue – KABELO MORATWE

Filed under: poetry — ABRAXAS @ 1:53 pm

Forgive my tongue

For the truth it speaks.

Forgive my mind

For the nomadic adventures it takes.

Sorry for my dreams all pathetic

Maybe I’m just seeking sympathy from the white warder who never feels sorry enough to let go of my black mind,

Who engraved a monograph in my thinking

White is cool black is a disgrace.

A black man is only good for a tool.

Forgive my fathers for their monopolized mentality


White is holy

Black is evil.

That’s how Azanian land was sold,

In exchange for a black book that promised a land la maswi le dinotshi.

Pray to the white God professing to be all mighty and holy.

We listened attentively as our ancestral beliefs were demolished

We kneeled down in temples and prayed now we call our ancestors “agents of the devil”.

Now their job to indoctrinate

Us is done,they allow

A black man to be care taker

Sorry I meant president.

Our birth rights stolen with a green book that labels us with segments of a barcode.

Forgive my tongue

For having it’s own mind

It just wouldn’t allow mental slavery

Thus it’s not scared of steel bars that locked in

Poets before me for telling the truth.

Silent kills

July 18, 2016

67 poems for freedom

Filed under: kagapoems,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 10:53 am

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March 30, 2016


Filed under: lydia lunch,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 7:14 pm

Come to my arms, cruel and sullen thing
Indolent beast, come to my arms again
For I would plunge my fingers in your mane
And be a long time unremembering
Bury myself in you,
Breathe your wild perfume, remorselessly
For one more hour
Breathe again, as of a ruined flower
Fragrance of love you have defiled
I long to sleep,
I think that from a slumber like death,
I would awake as I once was
And lavish without shame
Caress upon your body, glowing and dark

To drown my sorrow there is no abyss,
However deep, that compares with your bed

Come to my arms, cruel and sullen thing
Indolent beast, come to my arms again
For I would plunge my fingers in your mane
And be a long time unremembering
Bury myself in you,
Breathe your wild perfume, remorselessly
For one more hour
Breathe again, as of a ruined flower
Fragrance of the love you have defiled
I long to sleep,
I think that from a slumber like death,
I would awake as I once was
And lavish without shame.
Caress upon you, glowing and dark

To drown my sorrow there is no abyss,
However deep, that compares with your bed

There is no abyss, however deep,
That compares with your bed

March 15, 2016

ARTHUR RIMBAUD (1854-1891) The Poet as Revolutionary Seer [1871]

Filed under: poetry — ABRAXAS @ 12:55 am


My Dear Sir!

I shall be a worker: that is the idea that holds me back when mad rage drives me towards the battle of Paris – where so many workers are still dying as I write to you! Work now? – never, never; I’m on strike.

I’m lousing myself up as much as I can these days. Why? I want to be a poet, and I am working to make myself a seer: you won’t understand this at all, and I hardly know how to explain it to you. The point is, to arrive at the unknown by the disordering of all the senses. The sufferings are enormous, but one has to be strong to be born a poet, and I have discovered I am a poet. It is not my fault at all. It is a mistake to say: I think. One ought to say: I am thought. Pardon the pun.

I is someone else. So much the worse for the wood if it find itself a violin, and contempt to the heedless who argue about something they know nothing about!

– From Greece to the romantic movement – in the Middle Ages – there are men of letters, versifiers. From Ennius to Theroldus, from Theroldus to Casimir Delavigne, it’s all rhymed prose, a game, the enfeeblement and glory of countless idiotic generations: Racine is the pure, strong, great man – If his rhymes had been effaced, and his hemistitches got mixed up, today the Divine Fool would be as unknown as any old author of Origins. After Racine the game gets crumby. It has been going on for two thousand years!

Neither joke nor paradox. My reason inspires me with more certitude on this subject than any Young-France ever had with rage. Besides, newcomers are free to condemn their ancestors: one is at home, and there’s plenty of time.

Romanticism has never been properly judged. Who was there to judge it? The Critics!! The Romantics? who proved so clearly that the song is very seldom the work, that is to say, the idea sung and intended by the singer.

For I is someone else. If brass wakes up a trumpet, it is not its fault. To me this is obvious: I witness the unfolding of my own thought: I watch it, I listen to it: I make a stroke of the bow: the symphony begins to stir in the depths, or springs on to the stage.

If the old fools had not discovered only the false significance of the Ego, we should not now be having to sweep away those millions of skeletons which, since time immemorial, have been piling up the fruits of their one-eyed intellects, and claiming themselves to be the authors of them!

In Greece, I say, verses and lyres give rhythm to action. After that, music and rhymes are a game, a pastime. The curious are charmed with the study of this past: many of them delight in reviving these antiquities – that’s their affair Universal mind has always thrown out its ideas naturally; men would pick up a part of these fruits of the brain: they acted through them, they wrote books through them: and so things went on, since man did not work on himself, either not yet being awake, or not yet in the fullness of the great dream. Writers, civil servants – author, creator, poet, that man never existed!

The first study for a man who wants to be a poet is the knowledge of himself, complete. He looks for his soul, inspects it, puts it to the test, learns it. As soon as he knows it, he must cultivate it! It seems simple: in every brain a natural development takes place; so many egoists proclaim themselves authors; there are plenty of others who attribute their intellectual progress to themselves! – But the soul has to be made monstrous, that’s the point: after the fashion of the comprachicos, if you like! Imagine a man planting and cultivating warts on his face.

I say that one must be a seer, make onself a seer.

The poet makes himself a seer by a long, prodigious, and rational disordering of all the senses. Every form of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself,he consumes all the poisons in him, and keeps only their quintessences. This is an unspeakable torture during which he needs all his faith and superhuman strength, and during which he becomes the great patient, the great criminal, the great accursed – the great learned one! – among men. – For he arrives at the unknown! Because he has cultivated his own soul – which was rich to begin with – more than any other man! He reaches the unknown, and even if, crazed, he ends up by losing the understanding of his visions, at least he has seen them! Let him die charging through those unutterable, unnameable things: other horrible workers will come; they will begin from the horizons where he has succumbed! . . .

– To continue:

So, then, the poet really is the thief of fire.

He is responsible for humanity, even for the animals; he must see to it that his inventions can be smelt, felt, heard. If what he brings back from down there has form, he brings forth form; if it is formless, he brings forth formlessness. A language has to be found – for that matter, every word being an idea, the time of the universal languages will come! One has to be an academician – deader than a fossil – to finish a dictionary of any language. Weak-minded people, beginning by thinking about the first letter of the alphabet, would soon rush into madness!

This [new] language would be of the soul, for the soul, containing everything smells, sounds, colours; thought latching on to thought and pulling. The poet would define the amount of the unknown awakening in the universal soul in his own time: he would produce more than the formulation of his thought or the measurement of his march towards Progress! An enormity who has become normal, absorbed by everyone, he would really be a multiplier of progress!

This future will, as you see, be materialistic – Always filled with Number and Harmony, these poems will be made to endure.

Eternal art will have its function, since poets are citizens. Poetry will no longer rhyme with action; it will be ahead of it!

Poets like this will exist! When the unending servitude of woman is broken, when she lives by and for herself, when man – hitherto abominable – has given her her freedom, she too will be a poet! Woman will discover part of the unknown! Will her world of ideas be different from ours? She will discover things strange and unfathomable, repulsive and delicious. We shall take them unto ourselves, we shall understand them.

Meanwhile let us ask the poet for the new – in ideas and in forms. All the bright boys will imagine they can soon satisfy this demand: – is not so!

every budding priest has the five hundred rhymes hidden away in the secrecy of a notebook. At fifteen, these outbursts of passion make boys lecherous, at sixteen they are already content to recite them with feeling; at eighteen, even at seventeen, every schoolboy who has the ability does a Rolla, writes a Rolla! Perhaps some still die of it.

Baudelaire is the first seer, king of poets, a real God! Unluckily he lived in too artistic a circle; and the form which is so much praised in him is trivial. Inventions from the unknown demand new forms.

the new school, called Parnassian, possesses two seers: Albert Merat and Paul Verlaine, a real poet. – So there you are.

[Reprinted in Ellmann & Feidelson, The Modern Tradition.]

March 5, 2016

osip mandelstam – the century

Filed under: poetry — ABRAXAS @ 11:58 am

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March 4, 2016

TRICIA WARDEN, The Hague, 1995

Filed under: poetry,tricia warden — ABRAXAS @ 9:34 am

February 8, 2016

SYLVIA WASHINGTON BA on The Experience of Negritude

Filed under: literature,music and exile symposium,poetry,race — ABRAXAS @ 11:28 pm


Among the qualities, experiences, and attitudes constituting negritude, the most outstanding is the heritage of suffering. All literary expression of the black man has reference to this theme, as it is impossible to speak of him without recalling the historical fact that has marked him most deeply: servitude, either directly through slavery or indirectly through colonization. Conditioned, if not by the actual experience of slavery, at least by the knowledge of its existence as an integral part of his past, the black man feels himself doubly wronged by the complete gratuitousness of his condition. His feeling of innocence is frustrated by his position as victim since his past perpetuates itself in the present through other forms based on the same traditional principles. One of these forms is exile, an ordeal both physical and moral that produces the feeling of alienation. The drama of exile experienced by the young Senegalese student in the Paris of the thirties is one specific and fruitful instance of this form of suffering. This coincidence of man, moment, and circumstances constituted one of the sources of the awakening of the black man, an awakening that is in the process of converting the victim of destiny into the victim conscious of shaping his destiny.


A lyrical source par excellence, the exile of the black poet transcends the case of the classical lyric poet. It is the alienation of a man from himself, the alienation of an entire segment of humanity from man’s essential human dignity. History has thus imposed upon the black man a destiny inextricably bound to his pigmentation. Whether African, West Indian or American, the black man experiences this feeling of alienation to a degree proportionate to his cultural, geographical or civil estrangement. What coud be richer in lyric possibilities than this alienation in a man feeling the need of re-establishing contact with a unified world, the need of the equilibrium of an existence no longer ambiguous? It is this “suffering and desire combined” that is at the source of Senghorian negritude. The actual experience of exile followed by the analysis of its causes constitutes the first step toward the recognition of this negritude, which is both cause and effect. It was the constant opposition between his own sensitivity and values and those of Europe that led Senghor to analyze, conceptualize, and formulate into a credo those qualities proper to his mode of being. In the words of Sartre, “his negritude evolved from the state of immediate existence to that of a reflective state.”

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The young Senghor’s arrival in Paris was a foreshadowing of the alienation he was destined to suffer. “It was in the cold, dreary October rain that I arrived one morning in Paris. And everything was gray, even the famous monuments. What a disappointment!” His adjustment was only partial. “In spite of all that I had read, the feeling of being in a foreign land was terrible, and got worse several weeks later when I took my seat in one of the amphitheatres of the Sorbonne.” The theme of exile pervades Senghor’s poetry, from this very first cultural shock throughout the more or less constant ordeal of the black man in a white world. He writes of exile in a variety of tones, from lamentation and personal grief to reproach; from disillusionment to anguish and espair.

January 26, 2016


Filed under: poetry — ABRAXAS @ 5:43 pm

If you have any poetry inside you, go into the world and live it.

The verses will write themselves.

Herman Charles Bosman
What Is Poetry?

HERMAN CHARLES BOSMAN on what poetry is.

Filed under: poetry — ABRAXAS @ 5:01 pm

Poetry is anything that a poet does.

And a poet is nothing more or less than a divinely inspired madman.

Herman Charles Bosman
What is Poetry?
August 1944

January 18, 2016


Filed under: Gillian Schutte,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 9:58 am

let me
let me rip
ride of
under your
let me
my fingers
that lie
in wait
let me
rip out
so that
you see
outside in
grab you by
your falsity
break open
smash your
let me ride
you into
black holes
and on the
let me
break you

let me
undo you

January 9, 2016

olu oguibe on scansion

Filed under: poetry — ABRAXAS @ 2:35 pm

A couple of months ago, I attended a public lecture in the English Department at my college. The lecture was given by an emeritus professor, who’s also Connecticut’s most prominent contemporary poet. I was never a fan of her poetry because she writes in a vein that few Africans from the Continent relate to, but that’s exactly why I made a point of attending the lecture. It was, in fact, a masterclass of sorts, and the subject was something that I also never paid much mind in my own work when I was still writing, given as I was practically what in the visual arts we might call a self-taught or naive practitioner back when I still wrote poetry. The subject was scansion, that is, the craft of determining proper metrical length for a line of verse. I know it theoretically and rather vaguely, having taken classes in poetry appreciation all the way through college, but, poetry appreciation is quite different from creative writing class. You do not learn how to write poetry in a poetry appreciation class.

The lecture lasted just over an hour and a half, and like I said, it was a masterclass. I actually came away with a great many negative impressions of the writer, which I will write about some other time, but nonetheless you could tell why, in her time, she was a great teacher and still is. More importantly, I learnt a whole lot, from stuff that I took for granted to others that I was entirely unaware of. And I discovered some of the reasons African writers especially of my generation wrote–and mostly still write- poetry quite differently than contemporary American or Western poets.

One is that we scan and versify in fundamentally different ways. Most contemporary American poets–and possibly, some African poets who studied poetry writing formally, especially in the West–scan graphically or numerically, and in a proper regular fashion, while African writers like me versify by what one might call length of thought. In other words, in our verse the length of a line often corresponds to the length of a sentence. Should that become impracticable, we often find ourselves completely lost and simply winging it.

In effect, we versify same way that we build our cities, streets, and even nations, that is, randomly and with little clear guideline, strict planning, or regular pattern. As a matter of fact, we still mostly build our homes in same manner. Often, there’s no architectural blueprint or nobody pays it any mind. You have a basic idea: number of floors or stories, number of rooms, and a vague layout. With that, you break ground, pour your foundation, and have the contractor and his masons go at it!
Another reason is that we actually do view poetry quite differently. Contemporary Western writers and readers approach poetry as text: we approach it as sound. In effect, they write for sight, for silent scanning, while we still regard poetry in its original form. When we write, we do not write for the words and lines to be seen: we write for them to be verbalized and heard. That I prefer. It’s rather old fashioned, of course; in fact, entirely ancient and anachronistic, and has been for several decades. But we prefer it that way. I like it that way. I like it when I hear Thomas read “And death shall have no dominion” or Eliot read from ‘The Waste Land” or Neruda read from ‘Veinte Poemas’ though I often cannot understand the words, which is how I imagine Lorca and Tagore might sound. That’s how Igbo bards sound, albeit with musical accompaniment: Lorca and Neruda and Tagore were also set to music. Try setting Rita Dove to music!

And when you write to be heard, you write very differently than when you’re writing simply to be read. You think of cadence, because it is oratory, and oratory does not follow graphic scansion. Oratory relies on cadence and cadence is sound, cadence is music, cadence is what Lorca famously described as “duende”: cadence is soul. That’s why many Africans are turned off by contemporary American poetry; because, to us, it lacks soul. Oratorical cadence has it’s own entirely different metric system and it rises and falls and rises allover again, and only comes to rest whenever and wherever it may. Cadence has no respect for a strict pattern of five units to a line.

But there the problem arises, because where there are no strict rules, there’s also little rigor or discipline. There, quite often, there’s a sense that you can’t be lost if you don’t know where you’re going. You just go. The result is often akin to the chaos and mayhem that Fela Kuti described in his song, ODOO (Overtake done overtake Overtake). At least, to the degree that one considers regular pattern and rigor essential to poetry without necessarily apotheosizing the iambic pentameter.
That’s the other thing I learnt from the lecture: that anyone may invent or devise their own metric system or scanning rules, as long as they observe some conscious, regular method and do so with discipline. Should they decide–decide is important here–to ignore all that like some altogether still great poets did, then, they had better bring another element of substance to the work that’s worthy of attention.

If I had to return to writing poetry now, I doubt I’d ever be able to find the discipline of a Derek Walcott. However, I certainly made a note to pay closer attention to scansion.


January 8, 2016

matsemela cain manaka – poem for lefifi tladi

Filed under: 2005 - giant steps,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 12:32 pm


January 7, 2016

vonani bila safe

Filed under: poetry — ABRAXAS @ 12:37 pm


first published here: http://bookslive.co.za/blog/2016/01/07/vonani-bila-to-be-discharged-from-hospital-after-shooting/

January 4, 2016

vonani bila, shot

Filed under: poetry — ABRAXAS @ 3:41 pm

first published here: http://bookslive.co.za/blog/2016/01/04/vonani-bila-recovering-from-a-shooting-read-a-poem-by-athol-williams-in-his-honour/

January 2, 2016

VONANI BILA has been shot four times

Filed under: poetry — ABRAXAS @ 8:09 am

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On December 29 one of our greatest living poets, Vonani Bila, was shot four times by thugs in his home village of Elim. He has fractures on his upper right thigh and right arm, and a bullet still in his left leg. Please send messages of support to vonanibila@gmail.com

from “Ancestral Wealth”

If you were alive today, madala –
You would tell me about that rope
That roamed in your nightmares
The rope that made you so impatient
That made you hate everything about your wife
The rope that made you hit her
And want to kill her with a knife
The rope of which prophet Muvhangeli said:
U nga yi rhwaleli loko u yi vona endleleni ya wena
(Don’t pick it up when you find it placed on your path)
The tough rope of wicked relatives
Who had long sized your neck

If you were alive today, madala –
You would tell me how you and Ngholeni picked up that dead rabbit
Early in the morning on your way to work
How you skinned the rabbit with delight
How you wanted to cook it for lunch
When suddenly a strange man came
And touched your forehead
And said, “and hi yena papantsongo wa Frank.”
Then your forehead ached and pounded
And when you came back home from work
The same strange man
Hobbled to your house
All he said was one sentence:
I needed to find Frank’s brother’s place
Then he vanished
Stealing your heart
Placing it in a cave
Planting a cockerel’s heart in you
And you coughed and coughed

Papa, I know it took us twenty years to erect your tombstone
All along the wind was blowing you away
The sun was burning you
Your pillow was your hand
But now Bila, Mhlahlandlela, rest in peace
Do not open the grave and come home wearing shorts
Since you left, your wife has remained in the house
I’ve not seen a man sitting on your chair
It’s still your house
Full of trees and vegetables

7/8 u ya lithanda isaka la mazambani
U ya lithanda isaka la mazambani

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