Poetry as we know it is evolving. What really is poetry? How should a poem be structured? What rules should a poet follow? I personally think there is no rule as to what a poem should look like. Poetry should be fluid. It should not be rigid. I’m grateful to the new voices that are creating new poetic pathways. Koleka Putuma is one of the new poets changing the game with their poetry.

A friend got me Koleka’s debut poetry collection – COLLECTIVE AMNESIA – as a souvenir from South Africa.

It was published by uHlanga Press, South Africa in the year 2017, with ISBN : 9780620735087

In Collective Amnesia, Koleka celebrates and mourns her blackness, womxn-ness and queerness through the book’s three sections — Inherited Memory, Buried Memory and Post-memory.

“Your perpetuator has your uncle’s eyes and his cheap brandy breath/ How many abortions have fallen out of your mouth while counting the men in your life.”

“Madness sits at the dinner table, too, saying grace with one eye open.”

I can’t really explain Koleka’s poems to you. You have to read them yourself. Her poems are so powerful. Liberating. Bold. Loud. Her poems do not care. About you. Your feelings or your conservative ideas. Her poems are not afraid to ask questions or question the status quo.

OH DEAR GOD, PLEASE! NOT ANOTHER RAPE POEM – the title of this particular poem does not even prepare you for the content. And while it’s difficult to pick a favorite, I really loved INDEX on Page 71:

I think
Every time someone dies,
God is committing suicide.
I think God suffers from suicidal thoughts, too.
I mean, what’s with all the
And wars
And natural disasters, anyway.

Or clumsy.
Or mean.

Or old and forgetful.
Or busy.
Or bitter.
Or the Hulk in spirit form.

Unless God is really pissed off.
Or a child learning how to walk.
Or an adolescent figuring shit out.
Or an artist recreating their work from scratch.
Or in a coma.
I’d commit suicide, too.

But I wish God would leave a
Telling us why.

Koleka Putuma writes beautifully well with a refreshing honesty and that’s why COLLECTIVE AMNESIA is for the open minded.

Through grief and memory, pain and joy, sex and self-care. Collective Amnesia is a powerful appraisal, reminder and revelation of all that has been forgotten and ignored, both in South African society, and within ourselves.

These poems should not be read once. They should be read twice. No. They should be re-read over and over and over again.

“Suicide. Not everyone can decide to breathe for a living. – Page 73, Collective Amnesia.

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Koleka Putuma holding a copy of her book

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