One of the greatest impediments behind the growth and popularity of the South African
poetry industry has been the lack of consistent exposure on mainstream media platforms.

In the past 4 years SAFM has introduced a 15 minute poetry feature called
“Poetry In The Air”produced by Posy and hosted by Myesha Jenkins.

Poetry In The Air It is broadcast annually, during woman’s month.
It is scheduled to run this year from the  3rd – 27th August, from 11h45 to noon on Safm.

        Poetry In The Air 2014 Highlights

 The theme for 2015 is: Woman: You Are Everything.

 Myesha Jenkins lets us in on the highs and lows of programming Poetry In The Air, 4 years later.

How did the title for “Poetry IN The Air” come about?

Phillippa Yaa DeVilliers and I were brainstorming and coming off of the obvious, “Poetry on Air” we came up with “Poetry in the Air”.  It was basically playing with the idea of our words becoming the oxygen we breathe.

What have been your greatest highlight in the last 4 years?

No real highlights.  We pretty much have a straight-forward format.  Personally, completing Year 2 was important because my arthritis was so bad, I was in constant pain and the long halls of SABC just aggravated it.  That the show got made at all is the miracle for me.

It is also a highlight to see how the show has grown.  Year one only focused on women poets.  Year Two, we expanded to include men.  In Year Three and again in Year Four, we’ve been able to plug into the Cape Town studio to interview four women each year

What was the selection process for the featured poets?

The selection is truly subjective.  From experience, a lot of hip hop poetry doesn’t work so easily (In the absence of visuals, the repetition can become tedious to the ear) so that rules out some people, rappers too.  I try and invite people who have some versatility in the rhythm and beat. I also look for folks who have a variety of poems with different content, varying styles and sounds.  My personal bias is wanting poems that reflect some emotion, that speak with an authentic voice, that use some of the poetic figures of speech.

We’re celebrating Women’s Month, so obviously I want them to have strong women poems.
Selection was easier when I was getting around more. There is definitely a bias toward page poetry.  For next year, I want to hold proper auditions so that I can interact with a wider variety of poets and poetic genres.

 Give us a 4 word story that summarizes the past 4 years of poetry in the air experience?

 “Growing broader every year.”

 How have you managed to keep this show on the roll without any source of funding?

The Drama Dept at Safm values the show, it fits their time slot so it works.  It’s easy to produce and doesn’t cost them very much.  Remuneration is sorely inadequate; I didn’t even get paid for the first two years.   Basically, I’m trying to stay under the radar while at the same time getting the voices of women on the air (and that of our male allies.

If you were given R5 000 000 to reinvent the show, how would you spend it?

  • Have a weekly show for half an hour
  • Pay appropriate rates to produce the show;
  • Make podcasts available.
  • Consciously promote the show to the international and community radio markets;
  • More publicity for the show
  • Record music live as we record the shows
  • Link with poets in other provinces, utilizing SABC studios where they exist
  • Research digital production/integration

If you had to select 2 poets you wish you could get onto the show, who would it be and why?

Warsan Shire-all of the above plus she has a strong gender awareness

Gabeba Baderoon – tight; exquisite description; race, gender and class conscious; gentleness

Toni Stewart – all of the above plus she can be very fierce

What is the 1 thing you wish your listeners knew about Poetry in the air?

No one supports this show, SAfm doesn’t even care that we exist.  There’s really no institutional interest so the show is actually on the air, purely by chance and tenacity.

The purpose of the show is to:

  • Highlight women poets
  • Highlight the issues of women
  • Present poets reading their own poems in their own voices sharing their own, personal opinions (as they respond to questions about their work and process.)

What should listeners look forward to?
This year we are tighter also there’s some new voices we’re featuring.

Tune into SAFM for your weekly dose of poetry
Monday – Thursday
03 – 27 August 11h45 – 12:00

Week 1   (3 to 6 August)
Xabiso Vili, Siza Nkosi, Diana Ferrus

Week 2: 10 to 13 August)
Khosi Xaba, Nkosinathi Gaar,  MoAfrika,  Khadija Heegar

Week 3:  (12 to 20 August)
Koleka Putuma, Sarah Godsell, Phillippa Yaa DeVlliers

Week 4: (24 to 27 August)
Vangi Gantsho, Mandi Vundla, Malika Ndlovo, Myesha Jenkins

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