About a month ago, I was Off The Wall at A Touch of madness in Observatory. Off the wall is one of Cape Town’s longest running poetry platforms and needless to say I jumped at the chance when the current organizer Michael Rolfe informed me that he needed a stand-in as the poet scheduled to read that evening had postponed.
Stand-in or not, I wasgrateful for the opportunity. The waiting list to have a slot t at Off The Wall is rather long, so if it is offered you grab it.
I had an entire 30 minutes (very long in poetry time) to share my poetry,divulging this much poetry was something I had never done before. The reading went well though, the audience was receptive and God/the universe pulled out the stops by blacking out and lighitng up the room during my poem called Black, the best stage direction ever!
What affected me more than sharing a vast body of my work, was the actual concept of Off The Wall . After my reading the audience had an opportunity to share any poems they had either written or found. It occurred to me that these were one of the few spaces where poetry in any form is still appreciated. Many of the audience members are regulars and are known by name, and Michael who plays master of ceremonies as well, know many of them by name. Off the wall is a rare and beautiful gem.
After the show, I stuck around for a bit and encountered an oldish gentleman from Scotland who had attended the reading. Matter-of-factly he informed me that my subject matter was rather gloomy and suggested that I should not recite poems like Black as everyone is over skin colour and that I should have left my feminist agenda at the door too. Alternatively he suggested that I use humour in my poetry and let go of these dark, gloomy topics. “Comedy always triumphs” he confidently stated.
I agreed with him to a certain extent, skin colour to me was just skin colour, so perhaps I should have left Black in the dark, but the reality of the situation is that the content of that poem is still relevant. Many people with darker skin pigmentation still harbourl an inferiority complex. In South Africa, regardless of the fact that the majority of the population is black, the likelihood that feelings of fear and distrust toward black people exist is a reality.
As for the feminist agenda, what I said was “Sir, if a brutal rape of a young teenage girl had not occurred in the week prior to this, perhaps comedy would have been an appropriate subject matter for my poems, but the reality is, that it is not the case, so these stories should be told”
These stories should be told, it s as simple as that. If they are not, the same horrors will occur over and over again. We will not understand the plight of others and our empathy for our neighbours will gradually evaporate if we do not hear each others stories. It is necessary. These stories Shouldbetold.