Sunday, November 24, 2013


As I'd mentioned earlier and elsewhere on the blog, I've been looking forward to playing host to four Swedish poets for the last week. The main event happened last night and this is my week's recap.

All 8 participating poets recorded a couple of poems that we intend to share freely on the internet over the next couple of months

Lunch time at a local restaurant, I had mash and oxtail in a mini traditional cooking pot... yum

Laura Wilhborg performing for the students at Kgale High School

Students during a workshop and QnA session held at Maikano CJSS

Sam Kessel and Jorgen Gassilewski after a school workshop

A secret gig on the Friday where up to 40 local poets, show organizers and MCs were invited to share their work in a intimate session with venue details only being texted at the last minute. The local poets were each others entertainment and audience.

The Thapong Visual Arts Center has artist studios, this one houses various traditional instruments. The poets couldn't help but start a band

A visit to the botanical gardens yielded a few surprises including a plant named - in Setswana-  'a man does not wear clothes'

We took the poets on a tour of the city of Gaborone. This is the 3 Dikgosi monument in the Central Business District. That gold dome peeking from behind the diKgosi is the High Court of Botswana
Its a wrap!

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I get to travel a bit as part of my 'job'. Its no secret that poets sometimes get to travel to different parts of their countries or indeed to other countries in order to share their work. Its been an amazing half decade for me, I've always wanted to see the world but it was never really something I could afford to do on my own. But now sometimes I wake up and realize that the street in my dream was one I walked in Copenhagen or that I recognize some building from my favorite crime drama because I sat lost on the stoep trying to read a map there once. I mostly love getting to meet some of my favorite poets in person and discovering ones whose books I may not have picked up in a bookstore who not only add to my list of favorites but who I instinctively quote in a recording studio on Buttmanstrasse (which has to be the coolest street name in the world). 
As you can tell I'm easily pleased and nothing makes me happier than being able to bring a little bit of the world back home with me. I share my collection of books (my return luggage is always overweight) with some of the young writers that I work with mainly because the cost of books locally is prohibitive and we don't have a strong second hand book market but I love when I can 'carry' back actual poets. And so to cut a long story short through a Swedish Arts Council funded initiative the arts organization I run took myself and 3 other Batswana to Sweden in October to do some readings and we are now happy to be hosting 4 Swedish poets in Gaborone between November 20th and 24th. They are visiting a number of government aided schools, participating in a secret gig open only to local poets as both readers and audience, giving a (free) talk at the University of Botswana on 22nd Nov as well as participating in the festival finale on Saturday the 23rd Nov at the Mantlwaneng (which means place of play) Theatre. The 4 poets are:

LAURA WIHLBORG is a poet and Poetry Slam champion.  Laura represented Sweden at Poetry Parnassus in London - an international poetry festival featuring poets from over 200 countries. She performed at the International Literature Festival in Berlin. And toured Europe with the poetry show Smoke and Mirrors. Laura has a degree in radio production and radio theatre from the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic arts.

Jörgen Gassilewski’s first collection of poems, Du (You) came out in 1987 and his tenth pärla barbie klistermärke Vi hade vi inte. Kommer inte att. Skulle komma att. Kunde inte tro att. Visste inte att (translated as - Pearl barbie sticker We had we not. Will not. Would. Couldn’t believe that. Didn’t know that) in 2012. His poetry is collected in a 3 volume box set – Hittills samlad poesi 1983-2009. He runs OEI, a magazine for experimental writing. In 2006 he published the documentary novel The Gothenburg events.  

HENRY BOWERS is one of Europe’s leading slam-poets. Known and acclaimed as one of Sweden’s best hip-hop acts Henry Bowers is also known as Kung Henry. Henry’s poetry reflects society and himself. It is intelligent, sharp and to the point. He breaks down the wall between high culture and mass culture taking influences from and referring to everything from horror films and children’s stories to classic masterpieces and great philosophers, everything combined with a dose of irony and humor.

SAM KESSEL is an actor and poet. Starting early in feature films and TV he now mainly acts on stage. This year he is starring in the theatre show “God is away on business” based on Tom Waits music. Sam won the Triathlon Swedish National Slam award 2009. His poetry is angry but also hopelessly romantic.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

THE WEEK THAT WAS: Maun International Poetry & Literary Festival

Dude…the weather, man but lets not go there. So I was in Maun, a bonafide tourist town yes but real people who have nothing to do with selling the idea that the Okavango Delta happens to be in their backyard also live there so…context.

I live an 8 hour drive or an hour and a half long flight away from Maun but because I know whats awaiting me when I get there I often look forward to the journey, or at the very least the getting there. Come on NASA we know you can beam us wherever we want to go, all those Scottys must have made a plan by now, anyway the Poetavango collective invited 20 odd poets over to participate in their annual, this was the third installment, festival. This year there was a lot more of a literary component with storytelling/reading sessions for children at the local library, a short story writing workshop, a brief history of Botswana poetry in English as well as a book exhibition and a visual arts and poetry collaboration which had artists interpreting poems into paintings/photography etc

We stayed in these lovely but/and rustic chalets for a week

This is NOT my view in the city, I can tell you that much

These two came to say hi at the hotel so I followed them out and then just kept walking

There is drought in Botswana and the cattle are not as robust as one would like

There is life beyond the hotels and performance venues so I went in search of it, then this guy turned up while I was buying ice pops (popsicles) from a derelict garden shop 

The man you can barely see on the stage is named Stiga Sola, a  musical autodidact he can make that guitar make sounds I don't think the manufacturer knows about

Kgosi (Chief) Letsholathebe who welcomed us to his Kgotla and village. By the way his name means shield-carrier which is kind of cool

Some girl in dodgy pants (aka me), Leshie Lovesong, Marcus Elliot, Mista T, Idle or Spoken (he's half of the collabo) & Anthony Stanco standing in a parking lot, pre or post a public jam session 

Anthony Stanco ensemble - mad talented and as flexible as …jazz when it comes to collaborating/jamming with local acts. 

Locally based publisher Nick Green with Poetavango PR Juby Peacock & senior lecturer Barolong Seboni

At some point we rehearsed and wrote and stuff

Yeah so we ate this, someone plucked it fresh out the bottom of the river and we peeled it and split it into chunks. Clearly I'm alive and well as I write this, a week later, so don't be shy if someone offers you water lily root - eat raw or cook with meat.

This is the Thamalakane River (its name means riddle) 

This gentleman has to herd his cattle back to the correct /home side of the river . They swim over  to graze.

Around 1045 on Saturday 02 Nov, we looked up and the sun had a halo so I took a picture. It happened again on Wed 7th round about the same time

We found these wild berries (Moretologa) growing along the river so we ate them

Three boat fools of poets later and we were safely back on shore.
For photographs of poets on stage please visit KALAHARI IMAGES on FB