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Book Review.

Book name: The voice of a poet.

Author Name: Fortune Bhembe.

One of the noble truth’s in Buddhism says ‘life is suffering’, this has proved evident across the vicissitudes of time, our lives ebb from one type of suffering to the other. Suffering is said to be a great artistic tool, and this has proved itself manifold, great artists have learned how to harvest from their struggles and create art. Fortune is like many of these great men and women in the arts, he too has excavated deeply from his rich suffering and delivered this masterpiece ‘the voice of a poet’, young as he is he has not deprived himself of using his experiences to echo a deep message to his readers. In one of his poems he writes, ‘I have questioned my faith, I have doubted God, I have lost my temper, but there’s one thing that I did not. I never lost hope’, he articulates and echoes what we go through when we are amidst suffering and chaos, the destructive thoughts that visit us when the world is not aware. These thoughts and concepts that Fortune shares and writes about in his book are universal. The book is divided into seven aspects, themes, which are HEART, DEPRESSION, COVAD-19, FUTURE, RAPE, THE VOICE/S, LOSS.

The book comes with a foreword from Sharon Sindane who is herself a phenomenal poet, and a scholar in the field of psychology. In her foreword she writes ‘I have fallen in love with every piece in this book, the fact that the poet Fortune Bhembe could turn his pain/ experiences into prose and metaphors. He has an implacable ability to explain things that a lot of us go through but cannot explain. Reading this book will make one feel less crazy and realize that there is someone else out there who knows exactly how you feel’.

‘The foundation unsteadies

the ground liquefying and crumbling in

the roof caving

the doors have shut me in

the tiles are rotten, filled with cracks

there are moles and mildew

everything is broken, shattered, crushed into pieces

the curtains darkening the room

night and day all the same

my room hasn’t been cleaned in months

Only the pot knows how hot the fire is

and this is the crematorium

a place where the dead are burned to ash

but I am still alive

Fortune Bhembe,’ The voice of a poet.

The heart theme focuses on matters of the heart, predominantly the aspect of love, relationships, and heartbreaks, in this set of poems we hear the voice of one who has suffered at the hands of love, one who has been bruised by the aftermath of a love gone wrong.

In the theme of depression, we hear a familiar voice, a voice that a lot of us have, from the thoughts that torment us when in solitude, when we are in our dark rooms, and when we see life from the sidelines– the voice of depression.

In the segment of Covad-19, something that we are still combating, we hear a voice crying out for absolution to mother earth, we hear a wailing voice from loss, uncertainty, and frustration.

Many of us often look into the future, hoping to see what the future has in store for us, in this theme of ‘future’ the voice of the poet contemplates the coming.

Rape is a particularly difficult subject to engage on, in this theme the voice of the poet touches on this subject from his own experience and the stories that he has heard from those near him.

The theme of loss covers amongst other things, lost lovers, lost kin, loss of sanity amongst the few things that the voice of the poet echoes.

The last theme which is the title theme, the voice/s, deals with some of the voices that people hear in their heads, some of the voices of skepticism that grip us, some of the voices from the world.

‘If my pillow could speak.

If my pillow could speak, it would speak about the times of terrors

the many times my tears filled the banks of my eyes

it would tell of the nightmares that wake me up

it would narrate the secrets of my life and the memories that I shared with some who became foes

it would tell of the thoughts that took hold of me till the darkness of the night drove me to sleep.’ Fortune Bhembe, The voice of a poet.


Why did you write this book?

Fortune Bhembe: I wrote this book because I wanted to share my experiences and pain with the world, furthermore writing has always helped me in my past traumas such as having someone pass on in my arms, discrimination, and other experiences I have been through, writing has always helped me heal, and so I realized if it can help me heal then it can help the next person.

When did your writing journey begin?

Fortune Bhembe: my journey began in 2017, I must have been 14 years.

Who are some of the artists that inspire you in your circle and the arts space?

Fortune Bhembe: some of the people that inspire me include the likes of Puno Selesho, Nhlanhla Mhlongo, and Siphokazi Jonas.

Who was a great supporter throughout your writing and publishing?

Fortune Bhembe: Mr. Tokelo Hlagala of Afrocentric media house which is the literature entity that I published through.

What do you hope for your book?

Fortune Bhembe: I hope for it to be a lesson in stirring the tender poison of knowing self, and it helps people channel themselves into the right direction, that they become aware of what is happening within them and around them.

What are some of the challenges and impediments you had in your writing journey?

Fortune Bhembe: time was one of the great impediments throughout the process as I had to juggle several things at a time and also put a great deal of effort into my writing, but because I knew this book had to come to life, I made it possible to create time for it. Money was also a factor, but I managed also, two of the other potent impediments were fear and rejection, ‘what if my work is not good enough? What if I fail?’, these are thoughts and feelings I had daily.

How long did it take to undergo the publishing process?

Fortune Bhembe: about four months roughly, with back-to-back editing and feedback sessions, I think I had about 4 sessions with my editor throughout the publishing process, after every session I had to go back and edit and relook some of the poems, and at times I felt that it was too much, that maybe I could not manage, but I did.

What are some of the things you learned about yourself through your process of writing?

Fortune Bhembe: I learned that I have wasted a lot of time trying to be what the world wanted me to be, the expectations. Along my writing journey, I found the true power of being me, I realized that I needed to stop being a version of others, that I needed to be the best version of myself, and most importantly­­– that I could overcome everything that happened to me.

What are some of the things you learned about writing along your publishing voyage?

Fortune Bhembe: I learned that writing does not require a lot, it only requires one to be true with themselves, to make the pen and paper their best friend, that there are certain lessons that can only be learned in struggle, which make us the better version of ourselves.

I have learned that in one’s publishing journey there are times whereby you will want to quit, but remembering the people one can impact is what can keep a writer going.

Is it safe to ask your age?

Fortune Bhembe: ha! ha! I am 19 years of age.

Where can people reach you if they want you to perform or buy your book?

Fortune Bhembe: I am easily accessed on email, and also through my publisher Afrocentric media house,

What is your advice to those who want to someday be like you, write and publish a book?

Fortune Bhembe: my advice to them is that they shouldn’t doubt themselves and that whatever idea they have in their minds, they should put it onto paper, it will come in handy someday. Furthermore, they must recognize that their work will most probably meet some criticism, and bad comments, that they should not entertain them, that their purpose– can weather the storms. There are several times where I wanted to quit myself, but they must remember that someone’s life can be saved by their writing.

Blogpost by Tokelo Hlagala.