Book Review – Wena

2011-02-25 14:57

Let me state my prejudice up front: I am no stranger to Ntsiki Mazwai’s work but neither am I a fan. I have always found her to be overly repetitive and her writing to seldom go beyond the surface.

So I decided to take an open-minded ­approach to her anthology Wena, hoping she would ­surprise me with a bit of wordplay and depth.

Mazwai certainly reflects popular street culture with poems like ­Wena and Age of Colour.

Her love for the township life she grew up in is captured in Ghetto Princess and Love in Soweto.

But she has much more luck with her love poems than with any ­other. For You is a lovely piece, save for a somewhat weak ending.

One of her best poems in the ­anthology also happens to be the shortest one, In my Garden.

In My Garden

I picked up all your cigarette butts,

threw them in the dustbin: Memories too.

Mazwai has brief moments of imagery and subtle wordplay.

An example would be describing the ­humiliation and degradation of the miniskirt-clad girl at Noord Taxi Rank.

But these moments are fleeting.

Her writing is far too repetitive and literal, taking all the fun out of poetry.

On stage, she has the energy and personality to carry her work but on paper all you have is the writing – and there is just not enough skill in her work.

And when writing is all you have, the least you can do is check for spelling errors.

The book opens with glaring spelling mistakes that made me cringe.

Granted, her writing might be a reflection of changing times, a ­“culture in evolution”, as her introduction reads, but the basic art of writing poetry seems to be lost in the pursuit of a new and evolved art form.

Publisher: African Perspectives Publishers
Pages: 93
Price: R145

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