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Tongues of Their Mothers by Makhosazana Xaba

Tongues of Their Mothers

by Makhosazana Xaba

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Tingling with sincerity, Xaba's poems are as approachable and varied as they are rich. Varying between reflection and narrative, the poems present themselves as straightforward snapshots built from graceful language and a quiet depth. In a way, many of them reminded me of haiku: you could take them simply in a single quick read, and enjoy them just so simply, or read and reread for another depth of language and meaning.

In the beginning of the collection, I actually wasn't impressed. I found myself turning pages without getting more than a quick and surface enjoyment. After a quick dozen or so poems, though (probably just less than that), Xaba's voice became something more honest and resonating than I'd been seeing, and I began reading and rereading...often not leaving a page until I'd covered a full poem or passage more than three times. Not because of difficulty, but because of the simple and luxurious emotion I was finding in each poem.

In some cases, I could feel Xaba responding to works by Chinua Achebe, Tsitsi Dangarembga, and Sindiwe Magona. At others, historical moments and race or gender relations. (My one quibble with the book is that there are some explanatory notes included at the back of the edition, but no indication is made when the events/terms are noted in the book, so that a reader who needs those notes must then go back searching for each relative poem unless they happened to discover them ahead of time.) As a whole, though, the book responds to attempting more than survival--life, individuality, love--in the face of forces outside of one's own control, and in such a varied and careful way that the theme is discreetly and gracefully woven throughout the work.

On the whole, this book is artful and approachable, and rings with importance. I'm looking forward to re-reading many of the poems, and sharing them. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Dec 25, 2013 |
Brief book of 43 poems by a black South African author who “describes herself as someone ‘schooled by life, politics, and feminism’.” (Back cover) Gives a good flavor of life in South Africa. Although most of the poems are short (one page or less), a few are two or three pages long. Each poem is on a separate page. My personal favorite poems in the collection include those with strong feminist tones such as “For Fanny Ann Eddy” (about a lesbian who was murdered); “Call Me Not, a Woman of Colour” (wants to be called a black woman), and “Tongues of their Mothers” (about wishing to write epic poems about six women honoring their achievements and being silent about the men in their lives). ( )
  sallylou61 | May 1, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 186914144X, Paperback)

Makhosazana Xaba's poems are drawn from situations of contemporary South African life and are filled with topical and familiar references. Her poems question the structure of South African society and contemporary racial and gender divisions. With Xaba’s obvious gift for words, this is poetry of everyday life, filled with the fresh juice of observant wit, with a twist of lemon on the side. What makes Xaba's voice unique is her genuine originality and strong confidence to think for herself.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:38 -0400)

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