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Book Review - Poets to the people Edited by Barry Feinberg

Updated on October 20, 2012


What drew me to read this book was the title of the book itself “Poets to the people –South African Freedom Poems”. The cover page is silver with pictures of black people shouting and hands in air. The expression of which I interpreted as gesture of desperation for a cause. The color of the book being glossy silver reminds me of a well polished silver magnum I have seen some years ago while I was a child. Putting two and two together, I formed the impression about brutality. Gun and people shouting in despair. That tells it all. The book has 83 pages with foreword done by Hugh MacDiarmid.

. Ten South African poets whose poems were published are named as follows;

· Dennis Brutus

· Barry Feinberg

· A.N.C. Kumalo (pseudonym)

· Mazisi Kunene

· Hugh Lewi

· Oswald R. Mtshall

· Arthur Nortje

· Cosmo Pierterse

· Mongane Wally Serote

· Scarlet Whiteman (pseudonym)

It is an anthology of South African poems of freedom written by some of what I deemed to be the top and most radical thinkers and poets of South Africa. The anthology is dedicated to South Africa’s political prisoners and to the African National Congress and its allies.

What made me wanted to read the book?

Very simple. It is the strongest voice of a country that survived the one of the most brutal acts of mankind, the Apartheid. You would rather hear it from those who have been there and seen it; right? That’s exactly what I did when I picked up this book.

South Africans are one of the strongest of all people that ever inhabited this planet. If you want to know how? Pick this great artistic work and you will hear the pure voice of South Africa during the apartheid. The poets expressed the pains, gains and dreams of South African People through the work of poetry with no fear, prejudice or bias.

The poems are unashamedly raw and pure and do not answer to any established academic poetic standards. That is a key factor behind me choosing this book. The poets expressed their thoughts as it came to their mind. The purity of the poetry presented here dissolves any absolute standard of poetry into unrecognizable fragments, should there exist any and am sure they are. That fact alone makes this book one of the best ever produced in South African continent after being suppressed for a long time by the white poets.

How did I felt?

The poems are intrinsically woven into cultural fabrics of a society that held high values on tribalism which I strongly associate with my own society and culture. As a matter of fact, some poems moved me close to tears when the poets brutally described merciless torture and killing of the blacks and the hopes and dreams the tortured blacks cling on so strong. I read with clenched teeth and fist just the way women and children; men of great status in their society were reduced to ashes in broad day light. In my country today, it is not apartheid that people torture and kill each other. It’s the strive for power, status and wealth. An era I so closely associate with brutalities faced in the South African apartheid era.

Who should read this book?

Just about anybody can read this book. It is not just for the poets to enjoy the sensational work of art but it comes with great lessons to humanity. The lessons of love and hate and the lessons about determination and courage to fight for what is right. Government or church leaders, politicians and laymen alike, aspiring thinkers, writers and reactionary academics. Read meditatively. See beyond the words and pages. If you can do this, the book is yours to read enjoy and learn.


The editor Barry Feinberg according to the bibliographical notes given at the end of the book was born in 1983 in Germiston, Transvall and has been living in London since 1961. His poems have appeared in various periodicals and anthologies including Sechaba, Anti-Apartheid News, Lotus, Guerilla warfare and Apartheid.


To have a real taste of what I mean, I leave you with this extract by Deniss Brutus from the anthology reviewed here.


We have no heroes and no wars

only victim of a sickly state

succumbing to the variegated sores

That flower under lashing rains of hate

We have no battles and no fights

for history to record with trite remark

only captives killed on eyeless nights

these nameless unarmed ones stand beside

the warriors who secured the final place

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      Ian 5 years ago

      Thanks mary. the book is so moving that it keeps moving you with the poets. its just so lively and real and pure thoughts painted artistically with words.

      Appreciate your commemnt

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      I enjoyed reading this review. I'd like to read it because I need to know more about the subject. Good work.