n Scrutiny2 - `The mangled flesh of our griots' : music in the verse of Seitlhamo Motsapi

Volume 9, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0041-5359


This article considers the use of black Atlantic music in Seitlhamo Motsapi's volume of verse, <I>earthstepper / the ocean is very shallow</I>. In his poetry, Motsapi constructs a critique of the popular music industry while heralding the therapeutic potential of various dissonant musical modes, central among which is free improvisational jazz. We are concerned to appraise whether this musical genre, which by its own insistent definition resists representation, is adequate to the poetic and intellectual role Motsapi requires it to fulfil. This allows for an examination of the relationship between modernist aesthetic solutions and, what we might term, the black diasporan imaginary. Our tentative conclusion is that inscribing a dissonant practice, based in the right to deny and defy, can lead poetry to turn on a constitutive absence. In the case of <I>earthstepper / the oceanis very shallow</I>, we argue that this absence both indicates the complexities of a`transformational poetics'' and casts doubt on the very therapeutic turn the verse describes.

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