Philani Nyoni

This is a two-part book review of Xitha Makgeta and Philani Nyoni’s Pen Still Inking, illustrated by Phethego Kgomo. I decided to co-write this book review with my friend Takudzwa Goniwa, a poet based in Zimbabwe. I will share my views on Xitha’s poems in the book in this article. While Takudzwa reviews Philani’s contribution in part two.

Xitha’s collaborative work with Philani on this collection of poems is a mind-blowing fusion of poetry and illustrations by Phethego. Xitha’s poetry has evolved so much compared to his previous book Bits and Pieces. I think this chapbook is a necessary collector’s item because he vividly covers the state of the times we live in. On the poem Half Asleep he speaks about how he uses poetry to stay afloat in a country that has no respect for artists.

THA MAN: Xitha Makgeta. Photo supplied.
THA MAN: Xitha Makgeta. Photo supplied.

Burning is one of my favourites as he speaks directly to Gender Base Violence(GBV) and how a woman’s body has become a battlefield. The first part of the poem addresses the rainbow community the LGBTQIA+

He writes…

Maybe God is a Lesbian and her pussy has learned its lesson, to forget how to breathe, to remember the closet

Its no secret how the LGBTQIA+ community is dying at an alarming rate due to homophobic attacks, Xitha continues lamenting GBV…

 …We taught you how to become fire, now the flames are burning our daughters

They are burning

it was their bodies doused in gasoline

 they are burning

Our country is experiencing  two pandemics all at once- COVID19 and GBV. In this piece Xitha shines light on women  like Uyinene, Karabo, Naledi Phangindawo, Motshidisi Pascalina, Noxolo Mabona, Lindo Cele and many others who remain unnamed.

ART AT WORK: Songs of Akiliz. By Phethego
ART AT WORK: Songs of Akiliz. By Phethego

My only disappointment was that I expected more words because two poets collaborated here. But that was my error. I mean, I’m sure chapbooks are usually this size…right?

Every generation has an icon who inspired everyone who had an opportunity to work with them and Xitha pays homage to his icon, Mama Myesha Jenkins.

XITHA'S ODE: A poem for Jenkins, beautifully illustrated by Phetogo
XITHA’S ODE: A poem for Jenkins, beautifully illustrated by Phethego

Born in San Francisco California in 1948, Jenkins was a poet, a cultural activist and a spoken word performer. Jenkins passed away last September. I loved how Xitha chose to honor her the best way he knew her, through poetry.

THA ILLUSTRATOR: Phethego Kgomo. Photo supplied
THA ILLUSTRATOR: Phethego Kgomo. Photo supplied

Phethego Kgomo’s illustrations  complemented the type of poems in the book and I think that was an  amazing choice of artist. Xitha’s love for illustration goes back to Bits and Pieces where he also had artwork complementing his poetry so effortlessly. I would defiantly recommend this book to poetry lovers and MCees (not rappers) because there is that Saul Williams typa vibe in Pen Still Inking.

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