Friday, August 27, 2010

South African Poetry at Edinburgh Book Festival

Last night I went to one of the best events I've ever attended at the Edinburgh International Book Festival featuring the South African poets Keorapetse Kgositsile and Lesego Rampolokeng. I hadn't heard of either of them before the event, but I'm always interested in discovering new poets, particularly those who probably don't visit Scotland very often.

Both poets are very politically engaged and the poems they read reflected this. Kgositsile has a much quieter style while Rampolokeng is a speed reading hip-hop poet. Both poets are unafraid to speak their mind but are such skilful poets that they can negotiate the fine line between polemic and poetry.

After they had both read they discussed the links between poetry and music and the importance of politics to their poetry. The discussion was fascinating and entertaining, moving organically from topic to topic. One minute the dangers of idolising political figures (such as Nelson Mandela) the next minute the dangers of believing what you read on the internet. The event over-ran its time as much as an event at the Book Festival can over-run and I have a feeling that both audience and poets would have been happy to have stayed for quite a bit longer.

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