WRITER’S BLOCK | THABO JIJANA
Born in 1988, Jijana won the prestigious Ingrid Jonker Prize for his debut poetry collection, Failing Maths and My Other Crimes (uHlanga), as well as the Sol Plaatje/EU Poetry Award in 2014, the same year his memoir, Nobody’s Business, was published.
Why do you write? An easy answer would be I get inspired by something (inspired as in provoked, angered, “touched”, any number of ways really) but another answer would be that I write because there are things I would like to see being written about in this country or being written about in a certain way, and in both cases I feel this is not being done at the moment: not enough different voices, certain issues/themes being shunned for what sells, etc. In other words, I attempt, in my work and as far as I can, to fill in the gaps.
The thing you love most about poetry? My affair with writing, with words, really begins with reading. After that, it’s all just words – poetry, fiction, the factual, it all makes no difference at the end, it’s all writing, writing I want to read and have gained so much from. The same things I love about poetry can be said of prose: the fluid play with image, the demands on economy, the language, the captured moment.
The greatest lesson writing has taught you? If it’s got you, it’s got you. (Borrowed from that fried chicken ad we all know.) But it takes a lot of work. As (author James) Baldwin said, “Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all endurance.”
The hardest thing about writing? Sticking with it when doing something else – securing a government tender, going out drinking, busking for R2 coins from
uncaring street walkers – could really make one’s life a little easier. There’s more to life than writing, and I always have to remind myself of that just to stay sane.
What are you working on next? I’m doing my MA at Rhodes at the moment. My thesis is a couple of fabulist novelettes. A very kind of modern folkloric writing. Crude realism of some sort. Beyond that, I wish I knew.