A minuscule tribute by O Bolaji
South Africa's greatest Black poets? One's mind automatically goes to Mongane Wally Serote, and Keorapetse Kgositsile, who has just died.
I have been lucky enough to meet both exalted bards over the years. Kgositsile epitomized poetry and was a warm, affable, eclectic presence who graced poetic and literary occasions with elan.
Prof Kgositsile always exuded bonhomie despite his awesome credentials as international academic, wordsmith and author of several works distributed in hundreds of literary centres worldwide. He would very warmly hold hands with much younger burgeoning poets, joking with them, showing them many of his published works in deprecating fashion.
His face always creased with smiles; evoking laughter and applause, Bra Willie was nevertheless a tough literary critic who would attack the works of the literary greats like Achebe and Ngugi. But of course in fairness to him, he was critical of his own works too. "One might find out that what one has written is a can of worms" he would say.
He was a well travelled, polished bard, highly respected globally. I recollect Mr Malcolm Hacksley, former Director of NELM Grahamstown telling me some intriguing anecdotes about Bra Willie. The late Flaxman Qoopabe was also well enamoured with prof Kgositsile. His pungent criticism often upset much younger bards at literary occasions, but nevertheless they all warmed to him and admired him.
The late prof Kgositsile early in his career was something of a journalist; he went on to study at Columbia University in the USA, where he was influenced by Black poetry, with strong musical - jazz - elements integral to his poetry. He published over ten revered works on poetry, and was named as South African National Poet Laureate in 2006.
Books published by Keorapetse Kgositsile
The word is here: poetry from modern Africa
My name is Afrika
The present is a dangerous place to live
If I could sing: Selected poems
This way I salute you: Selected poems
When the Clouds clear
To the Bitter End
Approaches to Poetry Writing
Places and Bloodstains: notes for Ipelang