On the 3rd of September 2016, the Word N Sound Poetry League will witness the announcement of the Season 6’s Top 5 who are to battle for the title of King/Queen of the Mic. It’s the last lag of the race, and considering this year’s tough competition, it’s hard to guess who scored the most points to qualify to be part of the Word N Sound International Poetry Festival in October.
On this day, Xabiso Vili, who was in last year’s Top 5 at the Poetry League finale, will be showcasing at the Market Lab-Bus Factory. We got an opportunity to have a chat with him about his upcoming showcase, where poetry has taken him and why some artists use pain to create.
XONGANI: How did you get introduced to slamming? How has competitive poetry influenced your writing?
XABISO: I first started writing poetry after watching a slam poet in grade 6 and being completely inspired to craft my own piece. Obviously I didn’t know that was slam at the time. Over the years,as I wrote more often,I competed in performance competitions and eisteddfods winning a few and getting more into the drama field. I started watching slams on the internet but they were mainly American slams. In Rhodes,we didn’t really slam but just shared. So, my move to Gauteng in 2013 was my proper introduction to slam. Not counting a couple of DFL Lover + Another slams in 2011.
Competitive poetry has really helped to refine my writing, to deliver more value with every word. My writing is stronger, more relevant and more honest and that is because it has been allowed a platform to interact with the world often.
XONGANI: You’ve traveled the world through your poetry. What were the highlights of some of your trips and why? What did you learn about the poetry industry in Scotland, London and Washington, compared to South Africa?
XABISO: Ah man,it’s been a trip.
From doing a whole bunch of provinces in SA – KZN, Mpumalanga, Western Cape, Free State, Eastern Cape, to doing Scotland, London and Washington, poetry has been a real magic carpet.
What always stands out for me are the people. In London, the team we worked with was extraordinary. In Washington, the people we met were so ambitious. Scotland has amazing architecture and amazing beer. All these spaces ooze so much culture.
All these places I’ve been to really had a well set up infrastructure, there were multiple paying poetry events every night and it almost seems as though making a living as a poet is a possibility for everyone.
London’s writing beats Washington’s writing, Washington’s performance beats London’s performance. South Africa beats Washington and London every time.
I’ve learned that we have the talent, we just need to get better with our infrastructure.
XONGANI: We’ve seen you incorporate different art forms into your performances. What is the significance of merging different art mediums particularly in your work?
XABISO: Merging different art forms allows for greater collaboration with other artists, it allows me to be able to stretch my own skills which then allows for new innovative creations and ways of creating. The story allows itself to be told in new different formats. The merging of art forms creates new language for us to be able to explore these new experiences that we’re living in. This lived experience gets more complex every day and a single art form is starting to be less and less adept at telling this story
XONGANI: For those who have missed you on the WNS stage, what would you like to say to them about your upcoming showcase?
XABISO: They can expect honesty, always. The poems I have been writing for my series “Black Boy Be” are some of the most revealing and personal I have written in ages. There might be tears and anger and laughter and all the good, the good and the not so good, and the good. But they must just come on the 3rd of September and experience me for themselves. Because that is what I’ll be giving. All of me.
XONGANI: Artists come across to be lonely and depressed people, what do you think could be the cause of that and what solutions do you think artists should start taking to avoid going into spaces that would render them vulnerable and unreachable?
XABISO: There are a multitude of reasons people and artists can be lonely and depressed, sometimes there isn’t a reason at all. Artists can also tend to open themselves up to that loneliness and depression because it helps some create or the process of creation is painful and/or leaves them vulnerable.
What’s important is that we maintain spaces where we feel safe, feel held. I don’t know if there is a cure and I don’t think there is any one person that can save you, unless it’s yourself. We really do need to be kind to ourselves, patient with ourselves, protect ourselves, any way that we can and we know how. These spaces we perform in, aren’t enough because sometimes, they can be the problem. We need to listen to each other more outside of these spaces. Vulnerability isn’t necessarily the danger, it’s the unreachability that is dangerous. We don’t have to open ourselves to every single person but finding a safe person or a safe space, some form of safety is important. We can trust our friends to protect us but it is our own responsibility first.