Teesta Review: A Journal of Poetry, Volume 2, Number 2. November 2019. ISSN: 2581-7094

All the Places, Musawenkosi Khanyile, uHlanga,
 Cape Town, 2019, ISBN: 978-0-620-83871-9

This collection strikes me as a mature book of a poet who has considerable control over the craft of writing and the selection of images, and seems like firm footsteps of a poet who will soon register his voice in the global arena of anglophone poetry. I am optimistic that this collection is the first of a poet whose verses may cause some ripples in the still lake of time. Musawenkosi Khanyile’s All The Places uses language evocatively to de-familiarize his life with poems divided into sections, “Rural”, “Township” and “Urban”:

She had a beautiful smile with a missing tooth.
She said Doctor, spitting out saliva,
when I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up.

The acknowledgement section recalls how this book was composed in partial requirement for a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of the Western Cape, which endows him with a unique vantage point to pursue the craft of writing. The collection is published in 2019 by Cape Town-based uHlanga, a publishing house that has previously published Koleka Putuma’s collection Collective Amnesia, which still lingers in my mind.

By engaging with this collection as an English Poet from India, I perceive that poetry written in English from South Africa seems to stress on rhythm and rhyme, and has a higher degree of performative elements. But this nuanced collection seems to have terse metaphors when it comes to tackling issues like racial violence:

Like now, seated at a long shiny table in a hotel
with colleagues who overlook his township English
and laugh kindly at his jokes

Correct those who ask you: What was it like growing up in the township?
Say the appropriate question is: How did you survive the township?

The poet successfully captures the alienation one feels in hyper-luxurious circumstances, beautifully articulated in the verses that follow:

The immaculate toilet
It smells like lavender here.
The floor is immaculate. The walls white.
I take a pee, push the button in the middle
and watch the yellow liquid disappear.
In the mirror I stare back at myself.
No rush. No smell to escape from.
I could eat in here..

Forks and knives
I don’t know of any household
that uses forks and knives.
Every piece of food finds its way
to our mouths by spoon.
Our stomachs are beggars;
details do not matter
when we respond to their pleas.

The verses commented here highlight how Khanyile’s writing “declasses” the English language: this is a poet worth his weight in gold.