Talk overflows there - Dimakatso Sedite    
Mon, 06 March 2023

Have you ever felt that there are stories in your family that are never told? Do you have a story you would like to write down, but for which you haven’t found the right words?

As the world prepares to celebrate International Women’s Day, the AVBOB Poetry Project celebrates the work of Dimakatso Sedite, award-winning poet and passionate excavator of untold stories. Her poems tell of the lives of people, especially women, in marginalised rural communities.

Her debut collection, Yellow Shade (Deep South, 2021) was hailed as a breath of fresh air and praised for the startling grittiness of its language. It was joint winner of the HSS Award and was shortlisted for the Ingrid Jonker Prize in 2022.

Sedite is a graduate of the South African Writer’s College, holds an M.A in Research Psychology from Witwatersrand University and has worked in children’s rights, livelihoods and HIV/AIDS. Her social concern is always apparent, but she says she keeps her own opinions as far from the poems as she can. “All a poet can do is to tell the truth, to make all experiences tangible, felt to the skin.”

She fell in love with poetry at the age of 19. She found that she could translate her heartbreak into something like music, something that could “dare the unspeakable to speak.”

“There are experiences we do not have a language for, no matter how hard we try. I think poetry is an attempt to find that language, that missing colour of the rainbow.”

Sedite uses her own formidable talent to shed light on mostly unrecorded lives.  In her 2019 Africa in Dialogue interview with Sinaso Mxakaza she writes: “A lot of stories with good potential get lost through the cracks. We are lazy to dig up and polish new writing talent between huts and rivers and one-street small towns.” Sedite’s women and men characters travel roads “littered with lives too real to be etched /in books or movies or statues of bronze, /lives that carry grease under their fingernails.”

By simply writing about what she knows, Sedite archives, resurrects and celebrates such untold stories. In ‘When Women Are Train Stations’, one of the collection’s most haunting poems, she describes a man who has “a woman at every station.” When it comes to identifying the women themselves, she names them according to the township in which they live: Mahikeng, Orkney, Orlando, Tembisa. The poem only hints at their stories and then moves on, reminding us how much will always remain unknown. It ends:

“Each station was more than his taste buds
could take,
leaving smoke to haunt the tracks of this train
of a man.”

In the midst of intense loneliness in these poems, we find an image in the title poem of “tired women in overalls” who “perch under the yellow shade” of a lemon tree, their talk overflowing. And the collection ends on an image of the poet “sharpening a pencil, to hear /what charcoal tales it will tell.”

With characteristic modesty, Sedite says that she has been surprised by the success of Yellow Shade. “Writers just need to be honest,” she says, “and not follow trends. We have a rich tradition of oral storytelling, which is spontaneous. Experience is richer than thought. All the writer has to do is pay attention: stories and poems are everywhere.”

Visit the AVBOB Poetry website at to learn more about Sedite's work, order Yellow Shade from Deep South, or read her poems and blogs online. Remember that The AVBOB Poetry Competition reopens its doors on 1 August 2023. It’s never too early to start writing or telling your own story!