22 April 2014

Writers' Blog Tour: My Writing Process

I was very pleased when writer and storyteller Nadine Tomlinson asked me to be part of this Writer’s Blog
Nadine Tomlinson
Hop Tour. And not least because of where Nadine is from. There’s something about those islands that produces writers who know what they’re talking about as well as how and why. Nadine is mainly at http://nadinetomlinson.com. I wasn’t sure I could do it and I was right. I’m already a day late, through the fault of my family who organized a trip over the Easter weekend without telling me there was no wi-fi connection where we were going. But here I am, a day late, thankful to be part of this venture and especially appreciative that Nadine thought to ask me.

I have known Nadine for quite a while over the years and our relationship has always been sweet and literary. She likes books and so do I, we like the same authors and seemingly the same poems. I thank you, Nadine, for giving me this opportunity to acknowledge you and to say a little something about myself. The following are reflections based on questions that I have been posed as part of the exercise.

What are you working on?

I’m mainly working on a manuscript to my second book of poems. It started with poems that didn’t go in the first book and picked up from there. I find that three things still command my attention when I write: home (Lesotho), the untimely deaths of my brother, nephew and father, the first two by violent political death at 17 and 3, and the latter by illness, and I also write about religion. I can write about them all except for religion, which I don’t know how to approach. To date I must have two or three poems about religion that I consider poems.
The manuscript is tentatively called Waslap (washcloth) because when my dad passed away one of his belongings I took and cherish is his waslap. Here is the title poem:

The waslap of my father

In my palm sits my father’s waslap,
as I knew it would one day,
each time I saw him scrub himself
with it in the zinc tub beside our hut,
darkening the water with his mood.
I wash myself with that waslap,
wishing he were here to watch me,
all growed up and whistling in the cold
morning of winter. I gather it again
and squeeze the water out of it
the same way he always did, with might,
because it is that, too, remembrance,
nothing but a conquest of will
that has made me the keeper
of my father’s dreams, his pants
and best cotton shirt that fit me,
the hat he bought in Bloemfontein
when there for work once, a belt.
All fit and I wear them to parties
to impress my friends. The day
my father lay here in state on his back,
shocked at what the world had done,
I wet the waslap and dabbed his brow,
before scrubbing him well from
sternum and chest down to the legs.
My father who said he was off somewhere
and we should let him—
I wonder, is he watching me now
as I wring this out and put it on my head
to dry, like a kippah, O cloth
of memory; all his clothes go
on me like a charm, except his shoes
which are too big for me to wear.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I write poems, and by definition poems are personal. That does not mean they have to be reclusive in any way, or cater to a small, similarly minded minority. It means they come from a personal experience. A poem about a pencil cannot or at least should not be the same as another poem about a pencil by another writer. Even twins should not be able to write similar pencil poems because despite the fact that they are the same person they can't have had similar experiences in life. Or, to put it in other words, any poet wouldn't have written the same poems if they had lived elsewhere and been brought up under different “rules”.

But further than that, my poems want to reach the reader directly, by exposing themselves without any—not metaphor or other poetic tools—but holding back, or inviting the reader to ferret the feeling. I try to write the poem that I would have enjoyed reading myself, communicative poems as learned by reading Geoffrey Philp, Rustum Kozain, Pamela Mordecai, Derek Walcott, and before them, Robert Frost, e.e. cummings, Sylvia Plath (What a thrill!/My thumb instead of an onion./The top quite gone/Except for a sort of hinge). In this way I do not try to imitate them but simply learn and try to understand why their poems make me tick. Then find what it is in me that will make me tick in a similar way.

Why do you write what you do?

I think it is important for my people (pardon the cliché) to know who we are, what we have done, and as a result where we need to go. My poems are not history, they are personal history that necessarily involves a nation, the Basotho nation, and wider than it, the African nation. In my reading process I do not hesitate to read everyone from everywhere because I read for pleasure and I read to learn: why is this poem good? But my writing is more restricted because my experience is. I write so that the demons come out into the open where they can be dealt with. I write so that the world may know about us, the good and the ugly. I write so that I may live.

How does your writing process work?

I don’t really have a process. I may write a sentence that needles me (Many butterflies in Ladybrand today,/as many as snowflakes in a blizzard) because I lived it, or because I saw a poster in the Paris underground. And it starts from there. Sometimes I have to put a book I’m reading down and grab my notebook because a line or two is being born in my head from the situation in the book I’m reading.
Then I tend to work on the resultant poem a lot, re-reading and revising, and listening for chimes and other ideas that may come along as I go on.

Next week, the blog tour continues with…
I’m afraid I haven’t got any writer to share at present. I apologise for this and blame my family once more for taking me to a heavenly place in the north of France where there was no wi-fi at all!

9 April 2014

Birds of Ill

They’ll follow any being carried away by
the winds of tumult, these ominous things
that hang in flight till a creature dies
at length.

And is it in the life of us
to turn against these pinions of demise?
Renegades born under a dying day
they’ll follow any being
across the landscape of survival.

But we are all children under this house,
different organs to the same spirit;
pressed against the wall and menaced
by the shadow of wingspans, is it in the life of us
to withstand?

Gnarled under hunger, demented eyes holes,
they have put that lading upon our souls.

4 April 2014

Sesotho film wins award

Carlos Carvalho, director of photography for The Forgotten Kingdom, the first feature film produced in Lesotho, has won the Haskell Wexler Award for Best Cinematography at the 14th annual Woodstock Film Festival Maverick Awards Gala held in New York. The annual gala celebrates exceptional independent film.

Sesotho film wins award
#lesotho #sesotho

3 April 2014

Happy birthday, Marvin Gaye!

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye was born on 2 April 1939. Happy Birthday to him.

© and photo credit: http://photo.sing365.com

Stephen calls him a silky soul singer, which I think is a darn good description. He was born Marvin Pentz Gay, but stuck an "E" to his surname to avoid misunderstandings. Remember I heard it through the grapevine? He followed that up with a string of successes like You're all I need to get by in 1968 with Tammy Terrell, What's going on? in 1971, Let's get it on in 1973:
"Let's Get It On" is a 1973 number-one single recorded by American soul singer Marvin Gaye for the Tamla (Motown) label. The title song of the album release of the same title, "Let's Get It On" held the number-one position on the Billboard Pop Singles chart for two non-consecutive weeks in September 1973. In its first time at number one, it replaced "Brother Louie" by Stories, and was replaced by "Delta Dawn" by Helen Reddy; it then replaced "Delta Dawn" and was finally replaced by "We're an American Band" by Grand Funk Railroad. Written by Marvin Gaye and Ed Townsend, and produced by Gaye, it was the most successful single ever released on a Motown label.
After several other hits like Got to give it up, a funky dance groove, and Sexual healing, perhaps his most famous hit (partly for being the most recent in memory), Marvin descended into drugs and booze, and fears that someone was out to kill him. In 1983 he did a version of the Star-spangled banner, the American national anthem. He finally moved in with his parents and was shot dead by his preacher father on 1 April 1984, a day before his 45th birthday. He is sorely missed. Most of this information and more can be found on Wikipedia.