The Department of English, in collaboration with the Department of Library Services recently hosted an event titled: 'Meet your African poets: Dr Raphael d'Abdon and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers'. Opening the event in the words of English poet Wystan Hugh Auden, Ms Elsabe Olivier, Assistant Director of Marketing, Quality Assurance and Fundraising at the Department of Library Services said, 'A poet is before anything else a person who is passionately in love with language.'
Introducing the poets at the event Prof Molly Brown, Head of the Department of English, highlighted that poetry is enormously important. 'It is famously said that poets are the unacknowledged legislatures of mankind and they give voice to the things we feel and sense, but cannot express ourselves', she said. On behalf of the University she expressed her gratitude, thanking the poets for honouring the invitation.
Dr D'Abdon had the audience in a cheerful mood when he read a poem titled I hope you won't give up, in tribute to one of his favourite writers, Alexander Roosevelt. He emphasised the importance of acknowledging other poets by sharing their work in the same way that musicians do. 'I started with this poem because I think we poets, especially here in South Africa, do not pay enough tribute to other poets'.
Dr D'Abdon was born in Udine (Friuli, Italy) and moved to Pretoria in 2008. Some of his works include his debut poetry collection Sunnyside Nightwalk, which was featured at the International poetry festival, Poetry Africa, in Durban. His second collection of poems, Salt Water, was launched in May 2016 and in 2013 he edited the collection Marikana. He has performed poetry in Italy, Nigeria and the United States.
Ms De Villiers is a writer, performer and the author of two poetry collections. She co-edited No serenity here: an anthology of African poetry. Her prose and poetry are published in a number of local and international journals. Her autobiographical play, Original skin, toured Africa and Germany between 2008 and 2012. Since 2007 she has performed poetry in Germany, Denmark, the UK, Cuba, Sweden, Zimbabwe and Ghana.
At the event, Ms De Villiers performed her poetry with expressions of song and dance. She made the audience feel her poetry and before performing her last poem, Faithful as a shadow, she mentioned that she wants her poetry to encourage people to write. 'You are carried by your story until you are big enough to walk', she recited. The audience snapped their fingers and nodded their heads while she performed. She ended the poem with the words: 'Your life is a world that you honour by giving it a voice'.
The event was successful in its aim of introducing students to their African poets. It also encouraged the spirit of collaboration among poets, while inspiring and expressing the love of language.