Writing can take many forms and take people on multiple journeys. South African-based poet, researcher, project manager and content editor, Katleho Kano Shoro, recognises the reflective and transformative power of words. I interviewed her about soon to be released book, Serurubele, published by South African publishing house Modjaji Books. Katleho also shared with me the metamorphosis of her personal relationship with writing.
Tell me about the relationship you have with writing and how it has evolved over the years? Do you have a particular relationship with poetry that is different from other forms of writing? How did this come into play with Serurubele?
I need to write. I keep a journal where I go through my thoughts, emotions, ideals and plans with myself: my level of honesty, analysis and healing through this kind of writing has grown from when I first kept a journal. As an academic within the social sciences, I am basically trained in reading and writing. And although writing my Master’s dissertation was one of the hardest pieces of writing I have ever had to produce, the process taught me discipline and perseverance where discipline falls short. I learned to understand my own writing processes, as well as the importance of writing with integrity. Oh and the more I write in general, the more I appreciate the value of editing and then of learning to let go once I have written in the best way I can. So maybe I can say my relationship with writing is one that teaches me basic life skills too.
I have come to embrace my need for writing in order to stay sane – particularly where poetry is concerned – so the relationship has strengthened. This means that I am actively learning more about poetry and I am doing more research about the things I write about. The newer poems in Serurubele are a reflection of my growth and an embrace of this kind writing. I am in the caterpillar stages of playing around with form and learning to tame English (in the Chinua Achebe and Ntate Keorepetse Kgositsile sense) within my writing.
Also, poetry is more than writing to me. Besides using it to reflect on the world, poetry has allowed me to speak through more than words, i.e. through performance. This, in turn, has made me more aware of presence – mine and others – within poetry spaces. This awareness feeds my writing and reach for narratives with integrity.
‘Serurubele’ is coming out in August 2017. Would you like to share the creative journey that you went on to put this work together?
For starters, the journey has taken years! I had to begin seeing poetry as more than a cathartic process. I had to begin respecting the craft and profession and work on it. I am glad it has taken so long though. It has taught me to work towards goals but also be patient – especially with myself and life’s timing. Serurubele is coming out at a time when I have learnt to trust that I too am an intellectual, and that there are other creative intellectuals who have been here…who are here. This publishing journey has had its hiccups and twists; through them, I am beginning to expect that people treat me (as Motho) and my craft with respect. I too am learning to be a creative who gives poetry its due respect.
When putting ‘Serurubele’ together did you imagine a particular reader in mind?
At the beginning it was simply fellow poets, creatives and academics. Then it was my gran because she represented the elders I was trying to make proud. Now, I am hoping that some of the poems resonate with people who do not particularly go out searching for poetry as well as the friends (or rather age group) of my nephews and nieces. The idea of having poetry conversations with people who are not in the creative and academic industries seems like a necessary part of Serurubele’s life (as well as the poetry industries general growth).
What are some of the themes you have covered in ‘Serurubele’? What journey can people expect to be taken on through this book?
Well, of course each reader will have his/her own journey with the collection. But if I were to lead a tour, I would ask the reader to note that there are explorations of performance, writing and poetry throughout the collection. We begin the tour by being present and acknowledging that we carry the knowledges of many. We then move into a space of grappling with (and reaching for) different parts of identity – particularly black, African identity. Here, language, histories, pan-Africanism and masculinity are themes. Fatherhood is present. Whim, bliss and colour feature too. Then we reflect on mourning loved ones and return full cycle to the idea of not doing this life thing alone.
Anything else you would like to mention about ‘Serurubele’?
The name “serurubele” means “butterfly” in Sesotho. Nevertheless, the collection is mostly written in English, salted with black, African sensibilities (from my experiences and understandings) and peppered with Sesotho. You tell me if the meal works…
What are some of the themes you like to explore through your words?
Broadly speaking, my words and work are rooted in my understanding that creativity and art are an important space where intellect thrives. My work mostly centres on African intellectualism. Unfortunately, we are still at the point where we have to remind ourselves, as Africans, and others, that we too are intellectuals and hold many kinds of knowledge. Also, as full humans we are complex and layered. All other themes in my work tend to stem from these understandings.