Wednesday, September 28, 2005

life beyond .....

Taking off to actually interact with the world .... although the 'fly on the wall' existence is a lot more fun.... the search for the 'perfect poem' continues... back on Sunday (for anyone who is actually interested) - this is like being a radio DJ, we speak and hope that someone actually listens.

the stars speak to me / in the dialect of the gods / and tell me of the birth of the universe / we sit in silence / speak reflections / live orbits / and often rest on mars / for cocktails of red dust and imagined truth / and when the stars retire / under the harsh glare of the sun / i speak to myself
the voices in my head are imaginary / - fictional manifestations of the god in me - / but they too speak incessantly / carving history from memories
i am an empty vessel / and when i sleep / too tired to think / i channel celestial orchestras / as soundtrack to my dreams
my umbilical cord was cut at birth / and re-attached to the universe / so i think in stanzas and verse / blinded by a truth / i don't really want to know
the bliss of ignorance is a comfort to those / who do not hear the galaxy cry at night / as it frays at the edges
frequently / the moon sings the planets to sleep / to dream of new-found galaxies and the breaking of stars / the battle between the moon and the sun is half lost and half won / a cold war that will crack when the universe / cracks under the weight of infinity
i hold my breath and pray for a moment of sanity / tho i've been sane most of my life / and insanity is probably what i need most...................................
words, hope they make sense to someone, 'coz they don't to me. sometimes the 'voices in my head' run riot, take over the pen and whisper strange thoughts. easy runnings

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

sleepless days

Running on empty today... only thing keeping me going is spirit. Reality seems very surreal right now, following three days of little sleep and too much writing (business-related). Add to it all, a truck driver decided to re-design my car last night. That said, still went through to the Gordon Institute of Business Studies this morning (at some ungodly hour - the world should start at 10am and end at 2 am) for a Seminar on 'The Role of the Arts in Empowering the Nation'. Intense. I was one of the speakers, talking about my perspective from a poetry angle and I think I did reasonably well. My epiphany from the experience: I have spent so much time trying to make a living from my writing that I have lost sight of the power of word, and its place in society. Still trying to make sense of it all. The seminar is part of what GIBS calls the NEXUS programme which involves middle to top management from major corporates coming together over a year - this aspect was part of the efforts to expose corporates to a world outside of their own and educate them on the possibilities that are out there.
Okay, feeling incoherent so not going to get into this. Sorry. Activities for this week? Doing the UNISA Festival of Languages on Thursday with Kabomo and Myesha Jenkins, then head of to Lesotho for the Morija Arts and Cultural Festival. Travelling with poets: Napo Masheane, Lebo Mashile, Ayob Vania, Kabomo Vilakazi and Myesha Jenkins. It feels like a bit of a homecoming for me in that I started truly exploring the Word in Joburg and now I am going home. Hoping to also setup more activities and events around poetry there - talent is everywhere, it is about where the possibility lies. I grew up in a household where the sky was too much of a limit and in a country where opportunity to explore alternative lifestyles is, or rather was, extremely difficult. No music school, no studios, etc, etc. I need to make a difference in establishing a true presence for the Word.... this is hopefully the first step in that process.
'i am the voice of nameless men/too scared to speak/ their words caught between their lips/ bubbling in the space between skin and flesh'
'your pupils are the mirror that reflect dreams/ and so / only you see them/ from the inside'
'nowhere is after somewhere/ and i think i am there'
'i miss your rhythm/ when pleasure whispers mystic melodies/ beneath sordid emptiness'
'she peels the petals of my song/ the rhythm of my heartbeat laid bare for all to see/ i am putty pushed through cracks'
omnipresence: seek & you shall find/ bleed & you shall cry/ smoke & you will get high/ stand tall & the devil shall fall/ dance-black-dance/ speak-shout/ chant it down/
but remember your place
Yeah, that's my story. I'm tired.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

the business of artistry

Greetings. Summer in the southern hemisphere is really starting to kick in with the short skirts, shirts, and the like being pulled out from the back of wardrobes. It's a beautiful thing, but sadly, haven't been part of the process up till now. Living in two extremes trying to find balance between living life (with all its luxuries) and being an artist. This weekend has been spent working on a presentation - I'm off to Cape Town for the day tomorrow to pitch for a project. I have often been asked how I find balance between management consulting and creative writing - I still search for the answer. I took a job in attempt to create a solid foundation, which I wasn't getting when I was freelancing as a writer, and have found that, while it provides me with the funds to promote and develop my art, it also takes time away from that. Guess we all have to live with the consequences of the choices we make.
Anyway, in a twist, on Tuesday morning I am giving a talk at a business school in Joburg to a group of suits on 'The Role of Art in Empowering the Nation'. Great opportunity to hustle some funding from those with the funds but I am having difficulty laying out my thoughts. One of the things I have always believed is that, as artists, we are great at being artists and totally hopeless at the 'business of being an artist'. The quest for purity and 'realness' in the Arts has resulted in a never-ending cycle of artists constantly getting screwed. For decades, we have heard stories of artists dying in poverty while their managers, etc, reap the financial benefit. Well, the way I see it, this generation of artists has been exposed to these stories so much, the only reason you get screwed is out of your neglect.
Isn't it time that we learned the business to ensure that we are never hoodwinked by those in the 'know'? It is about time we learned from history and took the necessary steps to ensure that it does not repeat itself. If we don't, we will continue to exist as society's martyrs, tapping into the suffering of humanity, while lining the pockets of those with the foresight and skills required to turn those insights into money.
So what am I going to talk about on Tuesday? How artists must learn the language of corporates and how corporates must learn the language of artists to ensure that we can find a middle ground that will benefit all. It touches us all in different ways and it is important that we all honour those who create.
more words, scribbled ..... i share my notes because, while they may not be well-written (pre-edit), they do carry my truth before logic comes in to mold it grammatically, sequentially, logically ..... before they are prepped for page or stage ....
i am, you are, we are
i am, you are, we are
distant souls trapped in a mindless cage
our humanity cloaked by the surreal bars
we are plural, yet live a singular distortion
i am, you are, we are
i am, you are, we are
i, you, we breathe lies
and bury our truth in fiction
how strange!
comfort is an umcomfortable reminder of what we see
in moments of silence
i am, you are, we are
i am, you are, we are
drifting, floating, dreaming, hoping, drowning
but never living
empty inanimate vessels
dressed in the emperor's clothes
crying wolf when it is ourselves
we should fear most
i am, you are, we are
i am, you are, we are
robotic, automated, mechanical
zombies manacled by a past
wiped clean by history
hobbled by legs that don't bend at the knees
shackled by the lumps in our throats
our voices rendered mute
by broken and forgotten dreams
i am, you are, we are
i am, you are, we are
tired, lifeless, lethargic, inert
and still believe the future is in our hands
our aged, crooked hands
destiny supposedly lies in these hands
we are too blind to see
that the path to that destiny
is overcoming this reality
i am, you are, we are
i am, you are, we are
Copyright © Kojo Baffoe 2005
Let me get back to the grind. easy runnings

Thursday, September 22, 2005

just words - love & hate

these are just words, but words that come closest to speaking my truth.... that come closest to expressing what haunts every waking moment and, sometimes, when i sleep. i am told i speak words when in the sandman's embrace ... this is what i try to say:
she is truth
delicate, fragile yet strong
she lives in the space between heartbeats
and I have tasted her flesh
the tip of my tongue probing her intimate spaces
she moans and thrashes
beneath the weight of my confusion
guides me to the core
amidst the grunts and groans
i have loved and been loved
her love bittersweet
her touch tainted
her thoughts distant
yet a love i crave incessantly
mistress to many
i am one vessel
traversing the ocean that is her
oblivious to the wrecks
that glimmer beneath purple nights
the pieces of the lives
of those who came before
float silently on her surface
i am just like them
believe myself different
swim on, the voices say,
find salvation in her arms
i am indecisive
i give love and take it back instantly
i have tried to leave countless times
i have tried to turn a cold shoulder to her affections
i have tried
i try
i tried and failed
she is beautiful
she is beauty
she is my first love
she drowns me in words
and leaves me tongue-tied
we are a paradox
for which i seek the answers
she is my first love
she is Word
and when all else fails
In Word We Trust
Copyright © Kojo Baffoe 2005
would love to hear your comments ... your thoughts ... even your criticism. easy

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

book readings

The Fort West Heritage Foundation has been holding a series of Book Readings in Pretoria. The next one, titled 'Three Generations Three Authors' is on October 2nd featuring Noni Jabavu, Khosi Xaba and Lindiwe. It is a Literary Lunch and Book Readings from 'Drawn in Color', 'The Ochre People', 'These Hands' and '180 Degrees' - new fiction and poetry by South African Women Writers.
Venue: Old School House, Fort West Village, Pretoria Townlands
Time: 2pm till late
Fax +27 12 378 1454
Cell - +27 (0)82 366 0342 (Khomo) or +27 (0) 83 360 2333 (Linda)
No drama today, nothing vaguely intelligent to share beyond this. If you have poetry events going on, drop them as a comment or send me an email and I will include.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

poet's prayer - a work in progress

Verbal vomit, let me know what you think:
forgive me father
for i have sinned
it has been 23 days, 5 hours and 36 minutes
since my last poem

i have stared at the page so long
my eyes reflect their whiteness
and the world has lost its colour
the words bubble beneath my skin
scratch the insides of my pupils
but remain hidden from my pen

i have resigned myself to living through the words of others
but i am a poet
i seek the voices
they have gone silent
they have forsaken me
for that i accept blame

forgive me
forgive me
forgive me, father
for i have sinned
it has been 23 days 5 hours and 37 minutes
since my last poem
i no longer share my dreams with the page
i have forsaken her for a microphone and the stage
my poetry is spoken
and lately
i am breathless
which makes it hard to speak
and harder to write

the ink in my pen has clogged
my word has found comfort in the arms of others, and.....

for my discretion
for my misguided deception
for my feeble attempt to journey into realms
beyond purpose
please, forgive me, father
Okay, really liked it when i started .... not too sure now... have no idea where i am going with this.
The latest in poetic happenings in this part of the world:
Festival of Languages CELEBRATING DIVERSITY - School of Language and Literary Studies, UNISA, Pretoria - 28, 29, 30 September and 1 October 2005
The Festival is a three-day feast of drama, talks, interviews, poetry readings, sign language, DVDs, videos and performances. Highlights to include: the play, Tsafendas, Don Quixote - a ballet; Chinese Calligraphy; and performances, talks and the like from Jonty Driver, Mathews Phosa, Tony Links, Leon de Kock, Henning Pieterse, Finuala Dowling and others.
I will be performing on the 29th with Myesha Jenkins and Kabomo Vilakazi at 11am, so for those of you in the area, come by and support.
Will probably mumble something about this again, as we get closer to the time, but if you need more information or would like to book for any of the days (or all), then
Phone: 012 429 7604 or Email:
Cost: R10 per day: R25 for the entire festival
Cheques paybable to Unisa: Language Festival
Should be an interesting experience, but we will see - will let you know how it went down after.

Monday, September 19, 2005

african publishing and writing

Interested in publishing? There is a one-day conference on African Publishing and Writing at the British Library Conference Centre in London. "Writers, publishers, academics and librarians, and anyone with an interest in African publishing and writing, are warmly invited to attend."
Why the apostrophes? Repeating their words, which I wouldn't want confused with mine. Don't you find it ironic that a conference on African Publishing and Writing is being held in London and not on the African continent?
"This conference will be an opportunity to discuss the state of African publishing today and developments over the last decade. It will consider how and where new writing is being published, and connections between Africa and Britain and Europe....
Questions to be discussed include:
  1. What are the barriers to publishing in Africa and where are the opportunities - in Africa and abroad?
  2. How and where is African-language publishing viable?
  3. What role can UK libraries play in acquiring and promoting African literature?
  4. Have things got better or worse for women publishers and writers?
  5. What is the relationship between publishing and development in Africa?
  6. How is the internet changing things?

For more information, and to register, contact the conference organiser:

Dr. Marion Wallace, African curator, British Library at"

I was personally glad to hear that the conference is free and follows AFRICAN VISIONS 2005 'Think Africa', A festival of African Literature, Culture and Politics on October 15 - 16th. Now all I have to do is rob a bank to get funds to actually get to the UK, find accommodation and possibly have a meal or two while I am there to discuss publishing challenges on my home continent, which I just left.

Want to know the challenges facing writers and publishers in Africa? Simple! Come to Africa and talk to the countless writers and they will tell you. Talk to a poet on the streets on Johannesburg, Accra, Lusaka, Nairobi, Cairo, or a novellist in Windhoek, Maseru, Luanda... you will probably get your answers there.

I am in the process of setting up a publishing house to be operational by mid-2006. Publishing is easy ... write something, get a quote from a printing company, get it printed, pay them and you have a book - oh, get an ISBN (which is free), create a decent cover and someone to help you edit. So now you have a book .... how do you get it out? I have found that distribution is the hardest part of the process (well, that and determing whether your writing has something to actually offer) and the incestuous relationship between major bookstores and traditional publishers means it is literally impossible to get your work beyond your backpack. How did I find this out? Bumped my head so many times with traditional publishers who are looking for the next book by Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Don Mattera or Ayi Kwei Armah and not interested in the next generation of writers that all I had was my own desire - and the help of Daddy - to publish and be heard. I am but one individual.

In Africa lies the answers to the problems that affect Africa .... not in the UK or Europe. Let me leave it at that.

Easy runnings

Sunday, September 18, 2005

sunday blues

Greetings. It is an extremely hot Sunday afternoon and I have a desire to speak, but not verbally. Do you ever get those days when you just don't feel like talking? Well, I do. Easier to type than speak, so here goes.
As usual, the weekend has flown by and it is back to the job tomorrow, with the regular stresses of the rat race. This weekend was interesting ... my father came to visit, with my stepmother, so I was being host, good son and intellectual, all at the same time. Plus, I did something I haven't done before, but hope it will be more regular in times to come - i had two gigs on one day.
The first was an MC and poetry thing at a San Heritage Festival out near the Cradle of Mankind. Long dusty road, hot sun and I ended up doing two links and one poem to a handful of people. When I was leaving, more people were arriving so I am assuming things picked up after I left. It was a fascinating lesson in race mechanics in South Africa. Took Daddy along and we spent the whole time trying to make sense of the fact that it is white South Africans (well, at least in this space) who seem to dominate the attempts to draw attention to African culture. Too much going on in my head to be able to break it down, but I was surrounded by a potpourri of dye&dye shirts, drumming, etc that seemed to be a mixture of Shamanic (Native American) symbolism and African (can't really place it into one culture, considering how many African cultures exist) desire.
Black Africans were in short supply and were primarily there to do some performance or another or, as was the case with one brother I met, to try and score white chicks. The man had the whole thing going with a Swazi clothe over his shoulder, the walking stick, some beads and skins around his head.... for a minute, I thought he might be a sangoma but when chatting, I discovered he has three kids in Lesotho, is a Zulu and was eyeing the ladies, with relative success.
Don't get the wrond idea .... I commend the organisers for what they are attempting to do, which is to draw attention to the plight of the San people, who continue to be treated with disdain in this part of the world, which does not reflect their position of being the closest to the original man/woman. In some ways, their circumstance seems to mirror that of Native Americans. The desire of the organisers to ensure that these people do not continue to be mariginalised in their home is absolutely necessary ... it just seemed like one was walking into a 'club' where you don't know anyone and are not sure how to act or interact .... and, a club that does not reflect the full spectrum of SA society. Question is: where are black South Africans? Are they doing the same but separately, or are they just not doing anything?
Anyway, went to the opposite extreme from there and performed at a corporate awards ceremony in the evening. Theme was: African, but there were suuits everywhere. Drummers at the entrance who absolutely rocked but were considered more background music as you walked up the red carpet, than the beauty and creativity they expressed. Despite the seemingly conventional setup that one can expect from corporate events, it reminded me of why I love going out and sharing my work. Professionally run, perfect sound, captive audience, wonderful energy and a desire to open themselves up to new things. I was home by 20h00 revitalised and boistered.
It is my theory that the only way poets will be treated with professionalism and courtesy is if we take ourselves seriously and act like professionals. The performance element has put us in the entertainment arena, to a certain extent, and, in competing for work with singers, dancers, actors, etc, we need to change our approach to the way we work. We need to delve more into the business of being artists. The treatment I received at the corporate event re-emphasised this for me.
That's it for me today. Will be posting some information on happenings in the poetry and arts scene, primarily around Joburg, during the week so come back. Going to gradually shift my e-newsletter, Playing With Words, into this realm.

Friday, September 16, 2005

where are we going?

Still stumbling my way through the whole Blogging experience, but learning something new is always fun. Don't worry, sooner or later, i will get the hang of it and then its on. Until then, please bare (yes, that was intentional - lay your spirit bare) and bear with me. This is actually such as self-serving experience - a space to say whatever you want, when you want. makes me feel relevant, although 'speaking' does necessarily imply that someone is 'listening'.
Anyway, for those of you in the Johannesburg region, come through to the San Heritage Festival starting tonight and running through to Sunday. Don't know what I have done with the details so contact Berno on 073 883 5328 for information. I will be MCing a portion of the programme as well as performing tomorrow afternoon.
Also, there is a musical experience going down on Sunday evening at Gallery 181 in Kya-Sands starting at around 4pm. The Soulbird World Music Concert is a Sunday afternoon "bring a picnic" concert featuring El Hadj Djiop, master Senegalese percussionist and drummer, Courtney Ward-Hofinger, Makati Molekwa and Christopher Tokalon. They are an awesome band and the Gallery is an amazing experience with beautiful sculptures dotting the whole space. Tickets are R50 and you can call (011) 708 2116.
Gallery 181 is becoming the new spot for events, etc and I will be having some poetry events there, starting end of October. It is time we broke out from beyond the traditional poetry spaces in this city. While Newtown serves as a cultural precinct, the Word needs to infiltrate all aspects of society and, to do this, we need to break out of the box. The love of Word is not limited to students and rastas and those who exist on the fringes of our world. The mountain needs to start travelling to Mohammed and poetry being perceived as an 'underground' art form needs to end. To me, being underground means struggling to survive and having a limited audience, which doesn't make sense. I assume that once we start to pursue our art form as a career, the intention is to share it with as many people as possible .... all underground gives you is the same faces and the same people every day, every show. Soon we will be talking about 'keeping it real' in poetry and I think it was Busta Rhymes who said 'keeping it real sounds more like keeping it hungry'.
I am ranting, aren't I? Having one of those days when I struggle to remember why I continue to pursue the Word. Would be easier to have it as a hobby and fully join the rat race, defining my routine for the rest of my breathing years:
mechanical zombies clutter pavements, and office blocks, blindly following the worn path, the fork in the road a figment of a dreamer's imagination, and dreams are for the insignificant, who chase a reality that can never exist, is this all there is, wake up, get dressed, have breakfast, go to work, tea break, lunch break, go home, watch telly, go to sleep, the cycle begins again, and again, and again, and again........?
Okay, want to leave this alone for now ....
The new wonder boy of hip hop seems to be Khanye West, a suburban middle-class raised man breaking into the Bling-Bling, Gangsta world of Rap. Just received a copy of an article from The Guardian about him and recently read an article in Time magazine. The common thread is how Khanye is bringing an element of social consciousness into the hip hop realm. He hasn't been a hustler, a drug dealer, a gangsta and, therefore, reflects this in his work.... he also recently openly criticised George Bush for the US Government's slow reaction to the Katrina disaster.
This has got me thinking about the state of poetry in Joburg. It does seem to be a bit of the opposite. If your poetry is not about political consciousness, 'chanting down babylon', fighting the system, there seems to be a perception that you aren't being true to the African cause. In everything we do, there seems to always be a desire to push a particular state at the expense of others. Whatever happened to human beings as multi-layered creatures with the desire to explore all elements of this thing called life?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

In the beginning

In the beginning
there was sound
sound broken into growls
which became words
each word given meaning
representing material
translated into sound

Greetings, my first ever post. The beginning of a journey with an unknown destination. Going through some doubts as to the direction I am pursuing with my life. Having made a commitment to the pursuit of Word (poetry), I have found that the existence as a financially secure poet is close to impossible, especially in South Africa. Following a stint as a full-time freelancer, I returned to the corporate realm to create balance, and instead tipped the scale even further. The irony of it all. The security of a salary gives me the space to do all the things i want to do in poetry, but cuts into the time required to do all the things i want to do. But, I continue to believe that the universe will give direction and provide for me ..... what else is there to believe in?

I shouldn't complain too much, should I? I am fortunate enough to have the performance realm available to me for release and the next two weeks look like they are going to be good to me. Got about four bookings to perform at various events and I am putting on a show in about 10 days time. This weekend, I do a San Festival, an event to honour the San people who, while being widely acknowledged as the roots from which the human tree grew, continue to be treated hideously. On the same day, I perform at a corporate awards ceremony - talk about total contrast.
One of my pet gripes is the fact that poets are not treated with the professional respect they deserve. When booking a musician, or singer, or actor, event people tend to expect to deal with issues like fees, and contracts, and briefs .... with poets, it is all about exposure. The number of events I have performed at (and turned down) that were supposed to provide exposure ..... hell, at this rate, i will become totally over-exposed and broke (okay, weak analogy, but i am sure you get the gist of it). While most poets speak their truth - in what is the purest art form to exist - once we get into the performance arena, all we ask for is the same professional courtesy as other artists.
I ramble and I guess this space is to feed my ego's need for a space to do so, so let us continue.
Oh, you don't really know who I am, do you? Perhaps that is best for now, we can get to know each other as we go.... let's not kill the mystery so early.
Always wanted to setup a Blog and could never find the reason to do so. Now that I have, I still don't know the reason. Would be tragic (and amusing) if this experience fizzles into nothingness like so many other things I have tried to initiate. Tried to setup a discussion forum for people in the Johannesburg poetry scene - 10 subscribers and 5 posts in six months. I have a e-newsletter called Playing With Words that I send out to about 100 people - supposed to be every two weeks, but has ended up being every six weeks. Thinking of taking that and putting it in this space ... we'll see. i am the eternal starter - all fired up when i start things. I run out of steam as it goes, especially when it doesn't turn out the way I expected.
I have no expectations for this journey, which should help.
"run suicides / word by word / line by line / lately i see the world in black and white / because colour hurts my eyes / reflections of dreams broken leave me tongue-tied / shackled to the possibility of tomorrow / hindsight nightmarish / often i speak for the sake of speaking / when my mouth moves / my thoughts are shelved temporarily / i think i dream reality / and live in fantasy fraying at the seams ......"
I will do that a lot .... write irrelevant verse ..... excuse the messiness of the layout and formatting, it will get better as I figure out how to do everything.
easy runnings