Monthly Archives: July 2013

Interview: Clinton Smith



Please briefly tell us about “Fly Language and what the purpose of this initiative is.

Fly Language is an initiative by Washington DC Commission on the Arts and the nonprofit organization, Split This Rock, to bring high school poets in DC to South Africa for two weeks of cultural exchange, advocacy training through the arts, and youth empowerment. We have 4 teaching artist and 5 students spending time in both Pretoria and Johannesburg.

How have your visits to South Africa influenced you, your view of the world and your writing?

I think that any time you meet and exchange with people from different backgrounds, it enhances both your perspective and your ability to empathise with a wide array of people. I’d like to think that this larger and more open perspective is represented in the growth of my work and its ability to resonate across cultures.

What is the one thing that you love about our poetry scene in SA that you haven’t been able to experience anywhere else?
When I moved to South Africa in 2010, the poetry community welcomed me with open arms. I don’t know where my life, much less my poetry, would be without the year I spent living in Joburg. Something that I really love about the South African poetry scene is the sense of urgency and purpose that so many poets carry in their work. You can tell that the things being touched upon are hugely important not only for the poets themselves, but for the community, the nation, and the continent. It inspires me every time.


In your years of traveling and performing in different countries, what would you say is the one thing that remains constant with poetry and what is forever changing?

Wherever you are and whenever that is, when people speak truth to their lives and the lives of others around them, the world gets a little bit better each time. I truly believe that.

What would you like for the student poets that you are traveling with to learn about our country?
You are part of an art form that is so much bigger than you. South Africa has such a rich oral and artistic tradition. We are here to learn from that and understand the ways in which we can more effectively inter weave art and activism, as so many have here.

Interview: Mpho Khosi

Mpho Khosi is no stranger to the Word N Sound stage. In the last three years he’s taken us on many journeys through the narratives in his work. This month this jazz man showcases his latest poems. We caught up with him for a quick interview.

What inspired your first book “Portraits of Propaganda”?
Portraits of Propaganda was an experimental book, it was to see if Frank and I could self publish and also helped in assisting those who would want to pursue the same channel.

Did you find publishing your second book less challenging than the first one?
Publishing will always have its challenges, as said before, the first book assisted in me knowing the channels and how to do certain things work. But the second book; “Quietly Loud” came with its own challenges.

How is writing poetry for a book different from writing for the stage?
For me it’s not that different as I mostly write “on the go”, meaning I write work that feels comfortable for me to take to the stage but also allows people to read and enjoy.

When did you know that you were ready to publish your work?
One is never truly ready to publish as there are things that we as writers may feel we still need to correct or fine tune. But, I am of the opinion that the best way to fine tune something, is to put it out there for the world to see then tell you what to work on. Again, we need to remember that the best way to spread and preserve any history(as ours is happening) is through written/recorded works. So, I am an advocate for publishing by any means necessary.

You’ve incorporated jazz in your performances, would you ever consider working on an audio album that merges jazz and poetry?
I would love to work on such a project and am actually hoping to do so in the not so distant future. I’m busy compiling poems and trying my hand at composing jazzy/bluesy tracks to put on the album.

You write a lot of narrative poems, are all the stories in your poems inspired by personal experiences?
I believe most (if not all) of our works as poets are inspired or have traces of our personal experiences. With me, some may not have happened to me directly, but are events that unfold in our lives where we grow up.

You’re showcasing at the next Word N Sound Series, what are you mostly looking forward to?
Showcase neh, should everything come off as I see it in my head, then I’m looking forward to the entire event as it unfolds. I’m a story teller, so I’m looking to explore that aspect of my writing in this showcase.

These are the first two lines of a poem by the famous american poet “Langston Hughes” please complete with four of you own lines ” What happens to a dream differed, does it dry up like a raisin in the sun….”
…or does it merely linger in the dark sides of each and every waking moment, haunting and taunting you, and in the end swallowing you like a nightmare in broad daylight?”

The importance of reading is always emphasised in poetry circles, but what exactly would you say are the benefits of reading as a writer?
Reading benefits with broadening your own world through the written works of others. Different writers have different ways with words and as an artist you also learn other aspects that would not be so obvious to you if you merely rely on your own “experience” and knowledge.