Khulile Nxumalo was born in Diepkloof, Soweto, in 1971. He finished school at Waterford Kamhlaba, Swaziland, and went to University of Cape Town, University of Natal and Wits University. His first poetry collection, ten flapping elbows, mama, was published by Deep South in 2004. His second collection, fhedzi, was published by Dye Hard Press in 2013. His work has appeared in several literary journals in South Africa, Canada, the UK and the US. Nxumalo has twice won the DALRO award for poetry. He also participated in the LitNet My Generation project, with his contribution ‘The train goes on coal’.
This interview was first published in September 2013.
An extensive interview with Khulile Nxumalo by Alan Finlay was published in New Coin, and is available here.

Khulile Nxumalo (c) Day Hard PressWhen did you start writing poetry?

I started writing, playing around with the poetry we were studying in high school. But it was only when I got to university in Cape Town that I really starting engaging and applying myself to the craft. At school it was people like John Donne, Milton, the sonnets of Shakespeare and Wordsworth. I think it was being exposed to poetry other than classical English that ignited interest in trying to write. At university as part of English we studied Eliot, Blake, Frost, ee cummings, Sylvia Plath etc. I also took courses by Prof Kelwyn Sole on Oral Literature and in African Literature, but by then I had been exposed to Okigbo, Soyinka, Jack Mapanje, Sipho Sephamla, Serote, Kgositsile and Mattera.

What poets have been your main influences? What South African poets do you particularly like?

Mongane Serote has been the most impactful influence. I try to read South African poetry widely, mostly in the journals that still exist. The poets I like are too numerous to mention. Also, one tends to be touched or affected by a poem, and it can even be from a lesser-known poet or writer. Seitlhamo Motsapi introduced me to the work of Kamau Brathwaite, and that has been another long-standing line of influence.

In the blurb to your first collection, ten flapping elbows, mama, you wrote:  “I what I call psycho-narration, I try to write beyond the understanding that ‘inside of one’s head’ and ‘the objective world’ are distinct worlds. This is a form I have grown to love more since I started preferring the long poem format that sits on a conversational tone. It’s a multi-vocalway of writing or telling stories in a less authoritative way, a kinda voice democracy in the poem.” For me, the long psycho-narration poems have a montage effect and I am reminded of TS Eliot