Monday, 2 July 2012

Lesego Rampolokeng: Head on Fire

Head on Fire: Rants / Notes / Poems 2001-2011
Lesego Rampolokeng: Head on Fire
a Deep South book - distributed by UKZN Press 175 pages, ISBN: 978-0-9870282-0-4

HEAD ON FIRE is Lesego Rampolokeng's tenth book, and his first book of poems to be published in South Africa since The Bavino Sermons in 1999. It includes the complete text of The Second Chapter, published in Berlin in 2003. Rampolokeng is currently in Grahamstown as the first Mellon Writer in Residence at Rhodes University.

 One measure of a poet is the range of his concerns, and Lesego Rampolokeng takes on religion, war, street violence, global economics, obscenity, history, wordplay, sexual perversion, and, not least, his own contradictions. If he spatters the reader with blood and body fluids, it is not to shock or repel but to "engage with my world in all its manifestations... I want to see all the spluttered blood and gore. So I'm attempting to embrace its beauty. Hopefully." Few South African writers are as prepared as Rampolokeng to acknowledge that we all are the authors of our own chaos. "It is necessary for us to strip right down to the bone and see exactly how ugly we are as a people." Or, more aphoristically: Not the barbarian at the door but the savage at the core - Robert Berold

No contemporary South African poet - indeed, no writer - has occasioned more approval or disapproval, partly no doubt due to the confrontational nature of Rampolokeng's poetic persona and style, and the scatological, irreverent content of much of his work. Eclectic and wide-ranging in his influences (these stretch all the way from the figure of the traditional praise poet to Sotho song forms, from rap to the Beats, from Lautreamont and Artaud to Cesaire and Mutabaruka), provocative - some would say apocalyptic - in his performance style and public pronouncements, unique in his varied usage of acoustic regimes and breath-phrasing, unusual in his line structures and his blurring of conventional syntax, his brand of rapped verse has got him, on occasion, into trouble... - Kelwyn Sole, Cross-Cultural Poetics, 2009