Poet and Author Matshidiso Taleng has written and published a book titled SECRETS. It’s her first collection of poems which she began writing from a very young age. Her passion for literature has not only grown but has enabled her to reach heights she herself had not imagined. In this interview, the feisty Taleng opens up about her views on the world of literature and tells us about her inspiration for writing her book. This Bloemfontein based writer has been performing her poetry around the Free State for close to ten years now.
1. How did you get into the world of creative writing? How did it all start?
The first time I was introduced to writing was in 2004. I was invited to a poetry session by Tebogo “Naycha” Molatole, the founder of a group called Beyond Mind Control Poetry Club. That is where I met other writers, such as Lerato Nonyane, Simphiwe, Nkabiti, Onthusitse Molefi and that’s just some of them. I began finding my passion for poetry and that is where my love for art began.
I started writing poetry as well and I didn’t even think I would end up publishing my book.
Poetry allowed me to reminisce about the things that happened to me, the people close to me and to reflect on the good and bad things that happened to me.
I also used to listen to artists such as Jill Scott, Lauren Hill, Floetry, the type of artists whose sounds are poetic and whose message resonates.
2. Which books or authors over the years inspired you?
I was inspired by Dr Zakes Mda’s book, Ways of Dying which is a book about a professional mourner who was paid to give life to a funeral. What intrigued me about the book is its ability to tackle issues that people do not take into consideration. The way he describes the scenes and the way the plot thickens, is bound to keep you captivated.
3. How long did it take you write your debut book?
I had been writing for almost all my life without realizing that it was actually poetry I was doing. I began writing way before I even entered the poetry groups and so I can’t clearly specify the exact period I started compiling my debut.
I decided to edit some of my old poems and include them in my book. Many of the poems I have included in my book include even those from 10 years back, signifying my growth and maturity as a writer.
4. You are a passionate person not scared of revealing your innermost feelings to readers, is this part of your personality; or can you separate your own identity from your own work?
Some of my poems are from a personal experience and in some I just put myself in somebody else’s shoes. So this means that sometimes I can separate the two.
I wrote the poem Secrets when I was in a depressed state and although I couldn’t write it then, I found the strength to confront my past and pain and that enabled me to put it out there. I was raped as a child and although I received the support from people in my life, I still needed to come out and deal with what had been haunting me. I am strong today because I feel nothing is holding me back and talking about it has enabled me to regain my strength, giving me back my voice. It’s not a lot of people who can open up about what they went through and so by me coming out, I’m giving a voice to the voiceless. What I wanted them to know is that they have nothing to be ashamed of.
5. The Free State has a very vibrant black literature scene, what do you feel about contributing your own quota to this environment?
I feel that every writer contributing their work to literature sustains literature as a whole; therefore I, contributing to the environment will help other writers who come after me.
Some of the challenges faced by writers are that there is a lot of jealousy and we just don’t support each other. This is a very small town for us to conspire against each other; we need to build on our strengths and improve our weaknesses.
What I have realized is that people seem to be discouraged from attending poetry sessions, undermining the talent that is out there and by doing so, we are killing literature. People do not read. We only focus on the books we are given in schools and not taking much consideration to books that are available out there. Some people choose to go to the library to get books instead of buying them.
We as artists need to make sure our voices are heard.
6. Generally speaking, how can we encourage more people to read more creative writing?
Creative speaking (poetry) is the fun part of the art, by teaching them that we’ll be teaching them creative writing. Encourage people to come to poetry sessions which will inspire people to write more.
7. What are your future literary plans?
It is to read and write more about my mother tongue. I’m considering writing another book; it’s not a done deal yet.
CONCLUSION: Take your craft seriously by reading more to better your skills in writing and understanding literature.