Phillippa Yaa de Villiers (http://de-scribe.posterous.com/)
Love and/or getting off with someone seems to be mainly luck and making good use of opportunity, but we all know that it’s so much more than that. Using the biggest sexual organ, the one between our ears, we listened and spoke about this magnificent theme that has given so much to literature and other art forms. Jozi House of Poetry’s Love, Romance and Erotica session kicked off with readings by Quaz Roodt and Dikson Slamajamjar and Myesha Jenkins, closing off with Raphael D’Abdon and Natalia Molebatsi.
Poets constantly create language, which is plain to see in the works of wordsmith Dikson. Quaz chose to expose himself, bringing personal poems freshly hatched and blinking in the light, poems of love and rejection instead of his usual philosophical/humourous fare. We spoke of women writing and men writing and the way that it is almost painful for men to expose vulnerable emotions: anger and enthusiasm, righteous rage and sarcasm are so much easier to express than fear, love, sadness, jealousy. D’Abdon’s masterful poem about masturbation rocked the house and got many upperlips a little sweaty, and he spoke about the difficulty of reading the poem out aloud. The poem was a tongue flicking over the body of the audience, arousing each part, peaking and finally sinking, satisfied into 50 minds.
Writing about erotica seems to be the province of older, more lived-in writers: while they’re young and beautiful they’re having far too much sex to write about it! But I suppose it’s also about the intention behind writing – how this changes each time one begins. And yes, perhaps there is a little nostalgia once one gets a little far from the real thing…
Myesha, Raphael and Natalia are editing an anthology of contemporary South African erotica, and they spoke about how the first submissions were closer to love than erotica. Myesha Jenkins with characteristic candour read poems that instantly evoked sexual organs, fully aroused and ready for action, and Natalia’s customary lyricism found its own way there. We spoke about erotica and pornography, and what is the difference? One audience member suggested that pornography starts with titillating the body, and erotica goes to the brain first. Pornography is shot under hard light and leaves no room for nuance or feeling. According to Audre Lorde, pornography is the direct opposite of erotica “for it represents a suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling.”
She continues: “The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.”
Sex and power are inextricably linked in this patriarchal society. Erotic writer and film-maker Gillian Schutte, who co-moderated the session, spoke of the politics of naming and the liberating power of language. Schutte’s sense of humour saw her also baking vulva cupcakes, similar to the ones in the attached photo. Schutte actively provokes by using language that is extremely explicit – one of the differences between erotic and pornographic countered D’Abdon. Writing is like having an orgasm, she suggested, because it creates a safe space to think and to be. Other writers don’t find the act of writing at all orgasmic, because they are concerned about finding the right words to express what they are thinking which makes them anxious – the opposite of aroused.
The session highlighted the different ways we enter sexuality from the society we emerge from, the shame and fear of sexuality, the taboos around homosexuality and female pleasure. It started as a little session about love and sex and ended up as an examination of power. Some members of the audience wanted to keep sexuality as a sacred space not spoken about, but the poets cantered into the arena blinking and naked. Visitors from Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Nigeria were inspired by the openness of the discussion, which sort of veered off literary concerns because we still need to talk, refine, define and capture the sexual experience in order to liberate ourselves. There’s work for everyone. The open mic featured poets from Lagos to Jozi and rounded off a very satisfactory session. We cherish the sacred space to write and share and allow ourselves to be tickled, touched, ignited and to open ourselves to each other, to create together new futures.
March 25’s session is called Being Human and explores the human condition in the words of Makhosazana Xaba, Vangi Gantsho and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers. Starting at 2pm sharp, the session will go on till 5 or until the final open mic candidate is heard. The session will be moderated by Myesha Jenkins.
Sacred sex: a photo poached from Gillian Schutte’s facebook profile.