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Enough space for all of us | How to... Haroldene Tshienda    
12 days ago



 
Most advice about how to write is written for people who sit alone in a room; searching for memorable words that could connect with a receptive audience.
 
But this is not the only, or even necessarily the best, way for inspiration to find us.
 
Haroldene Tshienda is the author of eight collections of poetry and executive producer of Shofar Books (www.shofarbooks.co.za), a self-publishing house that supports and celebrates the work of both aspiring and established writers and poets. Earlier this month, Tshienda crowned and honoured 135 artists from across the country for the excellence of their work at the inaugural Cape Flats Awards Ceremony.
 
Along with three other poets, she recently established a collective called Poets Vannie Kaap, which meets once a month to share work with a view to performance and/or publication. The collective has already published four anthologies, called Lekka Poets Volumes 1 to 4.
 
This month, the AVBOB Poetry Project asked her to share some of the insights she gained by co-founding this project, while promoting her own work and running a business. Here are the insights she shared.
  1. My advice to aspiring poets is simple: use what you have and start a group or join an already existing group. Libraries are reliable sources of information about how to start poetry groups or book clubs, but in our case, things happened spontaneously.
About two years ago, a few poets approached me to share their work, asking where they could perform or recite it. So, an idea was born, and I shared it with four poet friends of mine. I added them to a WhatsApp group, and we discussed the idea of starting an open mic. We had our first session at someone’s house, and 25 poets came. By now, there are 40 of us. Soon the ability to share and enjoy each other’s work became a necessity. We decided on our name during our open mic sessions, and Poets Vannie Kaap was born. Our sessions happen every last Saturday of the month.
  1. Don’t be afraid to collaborate. I could never have started Poets Vannie Kaap by myself. My fellow poets and authors, we did it together. We are a family now. We support one another.
We had nothing when we started, just enthusiastic poets and some poems. Some of us had already been published and some not. All that mattered was that, as a publisher, I saw that the poems had potential.
  1. Another way to become more visible as a poet is to make short recordings or TikToks of your work. You never know how much you can grow your audience with social media. But most of all, I believe in the power of collaboration. Seek out other artists and create with them. You can achieve more when you are with a few like-minded people.
  2. Think beyond your own voice and words. There are so many amazing storytellers and authors that will never be recognised as they deserve. I feel it is my responsibility, as a midwife of books, to create platforms where we can meet, celebrate and acknowledge each other’s work. There’s enough space for all of us.
In the next few days, see if you can create a poem by collaborating with another artist. It doesn’t have to be another poet, as long as you can produce a poem in the process.
 
The 2025 AVBOB Poetry Competition opens its doors on 1 August 2024. Start preparing now by visiting www.avbobpoetry.co.za and familiarising yourself with the theme and competition rules.
 



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