There is a cautionary tale behind this blog: a night spent long ago with the poet Mazisi Kunene. This part of the story I’d forgotten until just now. The poets were droning on and I was appalled at the pretentiousness, but my publisher was the organizer of this reading and I was sitting at her table. It seemed there was no escape. He offered me an escape.
He told me how this lapse into inauthenticity, this extravagant display of inauthenticity we’d just witnessed, was a problem for North American artists. As soon as you achieve any fame or notoriety you begin creating for and through that persona. I told him I have totally escaped the trap by achieving absolutely no fame nor notoriety, but he shook his finger at me, warning, “It’s always a danger. Always!”
The manuscript begins with another insight he shared in one of his epic poems:
“Death is an illusion, a transformation,
Whose truth is revealed to those who keep alive their bonds.
Through sacrifice the living continue to commune with the dead,
Yet how lucky we are they do not break through the gates of silence;
We could go insane from the challenge of two uncertain worlds.”
Mazisi Kunene, Emperor Shaka the Great