Pretoria-based spoken word performance poet Given Masilela speaks to PDBY of his journey to become a performance poet, his inspirations and how his work challenges the modern views of society and “seeks to encourage good ethics, morality and great value systems”. Given Masilela is a Pretoria-based spoken word/ performance poet with an impressive eleven-year career behind him so far and he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Masilela’s poetry takes on themes of patriotism and family, and transforms them into artistic works about faith, love and hope. Masilela says that he always strives to challenge the modern views of society and to encourage a return to a godlier way of life. His work “seeks to encourage good ethics, morality and great value systems”. Masilela spoke to PDBY about his “innate disposition for creativity” and the art that is performance poetry. Masilela explains that slam poetry refers to competitive poetry whereas he is more of a performance poet. Masilela published an anthology of poems in 2012 titled Shifting Paradigms, and is on the verge of publishing a second book titled Corridors Within, which is also a collection of poems. How did you get involved in the performance poetry scene? I began my journey as a performance poet in 2010 when I attended a rap and poetry session at the University of Pretoria. This exposed me to a group of poets known as PenseedPoets. They were a community of performance poets who had regular events, and it was through consistent performances at these events that my skills as a writer and performer were harnessed. What exactly is spoken word poetry? Spoken word poetry is a way of expressing your thoughts, emotions and experiences through wielding words in an artistic manner. Poetry somewhat accomplishes the very same objective as music, dance or painting, but what distinguishes it from most mediums of expression is that it relies more heavily on descriptive language. Which of your poems are you proudest of, and why? I am most proud of a poem titled “My Philosophers’ Rock”, which is a poem that captures the dynamics of my family very well. It mainly expresses how I feel about my mother, a single parent who had to carry the weight of raising four children virtually on her own, and how her own upbringing influenced the way she raised us. I love my family dearly and this poem has given me an opportunity to express the complicated relationship between my mother and her children, as well as how we as siblings relate to each other. Your performance of the poem “Our Home” offers a very touching reflection of our country. What inspires you, as an artist, to make this specific kind of poetry? “Home” was meant to be part of a project I was working on for the United Nations in 2015. The project itself never manifested, but a lot of the poems I wrote for that project live on. “Our Home” became a poem that invoked the patriot in me. It continues to remind me that [there] are many things to appreciate about South Africa and our beautiful continent. What is the process you follow when creating a poem? At the risk of sounding unsophisticated, I actually don’t have a process at all. My writing sessions are sometimes provoked by inspiration, an overwhelming desire to create a piece of art, but that’s not always the case. In most cases I write poems simply because I enjoy it, I find it to be therapeutic. Why is spoken word poetry something that appeals to you, as opposed to simply publishing written poems? In my experience, I have found that the South African audience tends to resonate more with live performances. Spoken word poetry when performed creates an experience for the audience that the literature is incapable of producing on its own. You work closely with Spoken Sessions. Could you explain Spoken Sessions in terms of what it is about and what the platform has done for you? Spoken Sessions is a community of poets, writers, singers, rappers and lovers of art. As the Spoken Sessions team, we labour to create a safe space for poets, singers and comedians to come and share their work and for their work to be consumed and enjoyed by audiences. In creating these spaces, Spoken Sessions has also given me a reliable platform to share my work and to connect with other artists. What inspires you to keep creating? Inspiration is not necessarily what keeps me creating, although it does help. I’ve come to understand that I continue to create simply because I have an innate disposition for creativity; it is my domain and place of belonging. It’s simply God-given. What is the next step for you as a poet? At this point, my primary focus is on publishing my next book of poems, Corridors Within. By God’s grace I hope to also produce a studio album and a mini documentary series to accompany the book digitally. You can check out Given’s video content and any future announcements on his socials: Instagram: @givenillustrative Facebook: Given Illustrative Twitter: @IllustrativeGM

view posts

My name is Ashleigh Pascoe and I am doing my Honours in Publishing. This is my fourth year studying at UP. I would describe myself as a bubbly extrovert with a passion for written work and writing!