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Kgebetli Moele

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE


In the Heat of Shadows

Remember, inaugural day
nineteen ninety four
our table piled with the future?

If we were all like poets in behavior, thinking and conduct – a poet is a different kind of a human breed. This is an enigma that trying to explain one will seem to be answering the question of falling or being in love with one. The poet is social activists at best he/she wants justice for all people of the world despite their differences. The poet is that higher being representing and presenting the average people.

in your eye
in my eye
when i see me in you
and you in me in my eyes
history makes and unmakes life and time

There are times when one comes across a poet and there are rare times when one comes across an anthology then bask in wisdom and what wisdom to use in understanding the modern day democratic South Africa than the poets, for one they always tell in in the way it is. Second; the poet never fuck with power though they do respect it but they fuck power and do speak against it all the time. This is the reason why I respect poets and the reason why I think that the world needs poets.


much I’ve tried to pay my debt to you. Only to find that
debts of guilt are endless. And debts of love? There are
no debts of love.

Because poets are not deceivers and fabricators, they don’t write politically correct, they don’t write poetry for development/social responsibility poetry, a phenomenon by the ruling party to have poets praising our struggle, a June 16th poem/a Sharpville day poem but no poets have participated in such indoctrination activity. There was a call for international Mandela poem where poets of all nations had to write a poem about Mandela and from each nation one winning poem will make it into this big international publication book of poems about him. The poets that I know gave it their middle finger – to put it poetically but bluntly, they said “FUCK THEM.”

This is the reason why I respect poets and the reason why I think that the world needs poets.

We are now become your fools.
Our heroes’ fools.

In the Heat of Shadows: South African poetry 1996-2013, Denis Hirson presents the poets of our beautiful country, thirty-three but not all. It is sweet music dripping in wild honey – the one, one had to harvest – it is sad music sopping in wild honey because you got bee stung in the process. You got bee stung by the “dis kak in die land.” But you got the honey. That is the power of poetry it is a rise above, it rises above pain as it becomes more powerful and everlasting than the inspirational/described pain. Poetry surpasses joy as it conveys one woman’s joy into our joy that we will enjoy forever and ever.

Can I say Amen?


Yes I went with him to the river. Mother, I went along

but I never meant to cross the river

In this beautiful country of multilingualism it is sad, sad that I have never enjoyed Antjie Krog in her – to borrow from apartheid – native Afrikaans taal and segregate poets, sorry. Denis has offered me that chance here with translations, Bongekile Mbanjwa, Bulelani Zantsi, Isabella Motadinyane and it was a little sad and painful that the original were not included in this collection.

A cry
Of come and see
Our home is a home
Of tears and bitterness
Women crying

In the Heat of Shadows attempts to reflect us a nation as people living as we are living, it is a representation of every aspects of our lives because, yes

I know all kindsa pa’s
pa’s what hates their kids
pa’s what likes their daughters
pa’s what hits their wives
pa’s what gets sick with no wine
pa’s what speak only sometimes
I know all kindsa pa’s
Except the one
I never seen

In the Heat of Shadows is a cream, an inner self, our shadows that cannot pretend but screams brutal honest life that is rarely lived in the public spaces, of vicious truthful life that is locked in memory never to be uttered.

My heart and head are open
And we laugh and eat together
Like well-brought up folks
Deep inside me somewhere
I know where I stand

And I know that you know that even in the deepest raging anger a moment of laughter is to break free. I know that even if poets can never solve the troubles of our world but they can make us laugh and to laugh is to emerge victorious, to clap hands is declare victory.

An applause.

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