Announcing: Modern Rasputin, by Rosa Lyster

Screen Shot 2016-10-18 at 10.00.41 AM.png

uHlanga are proud to announce our latest release: Modern Rasputin, by Rosa Lyster. Lyster's collection is the first of a trio of releases of debut collections by South African women poets, with collections by Francine Simon and Koleka Putuma to follow in 2017. This weird, poignant and wonderful collection from one of South Africa's brightest and most unique young writers, is set to be released late-November 2016.

Challenge extended: we wonder, 
would you spend an afternoon

in the dark and foreign corners
of the Wikipedia category “Australian Criminals”?

Eclectic, eccentric and eloquent, Modern Rasputin firmly establishes Rosa Lyster as one of South Africa's most exciting young writers. Diving into a (not entirely made-up) world of precocious children, hand-poked tattoos, minor royalty, Russian prisons, and electrocuting water faucets, Lyster's debut is a testament to the wild machinations of imagination and the soft poignancies of friendship and young womanhood. 

With found poems – from e-mails, books, and exam papers – treatises on film, and other poetic anarchies, Lyster expands traditional concepts of narrative poetry, providing one of the most unpredictable and cosmopolitan collections from South Africa in years.

Rosa Lyster was born in Durban in 1984. Her writing has been published by The New Yorker, Prufrock, The Millions, The Hairpin, The Toast, the Sunday Times, and many others. Rosa lives in Cape Town, where she works as an essayist and a PhD student at the University of Cape Town.

Modern Rasputin will be released in November 2016, for sale through bookstores throughout South Africa, and elsewhere from the African Books Collective. To order copies for your store, contact our distribution agents, Xavier Nagel Agencies.

Announcing: Prunings, by Helen Moffett

uHlanga are proud to announce our latest release: Prunings, by Helen Moffett. This chapbook/collection hybrid presents some of our most experimental and performative poetry yet, from one of South African literature's most prolific editorial forces.

Where do unfinished poems go – the early buds, the offcuts, all of the blooms that can't be bunched together? In this beguiling bouquet of travel poetry, diary fragments, letters, works-in-progress and retrospection, Helen Moffett offers us a rare look into the workings, misfirings and triumphs of a literary mind. A collection of tentative moments and emotions, rendered in fleeting and experimental forms.

Helen Moffett was born in Pretoria in 1961. A poet, editor, feminist activist and academic, her publications include university textbooks, an anthology of landscape writings, a cricket book (with the late Bob Woolmer and Tim Noakes), and the Girl Walks In erotica series (with Sarah Lotz and Paige Nick under the nom de plume Helena S. Paige). Her first poetry collection, Strange Fruit, was published by our friends at Modjaji Books in 2009. She lives in Noordhoek.

With an unfinished cover illustration by the late botanical artist Ellaphie Ward-Hilhorst, this is a collection that embodies the trials and small victories of being a writer; the side of a poet and creative mind that few people ever see.

Prunings will be released in September 2016, for sale through bookstores throughout South Africa, and elsewhere from the African Books Collective.

Thabo Jijana wins 2016 Ingrid Jonker Prize; Genna Gardini wins Commendation

uHlanga is thrilled to announce that Thabo Jijana’s Failing Maths and My Other Crimes is the winner of the 2016 Ingrid Jonker Prize for Poetry – South Africa's most prestigious poetry award – with Genna Gardini's collection, Matric Rage, given special commendation. Both collections were part of the uHlanga New Poets series in 2015.

The Ingrid Jonker Prize committee's release states:

In a fiercely-contested struggle among seven eligible volumes, Jijana’s debut emerged victorious. Jijana was championed by one judge in particular, who described his debut, with its ‘subtle, wry and memorable title’, as ‘a rich and satisfying collection where, unusually, every poem strikes something hard and vital.’  The judge went on to remark that ‘Jijana has a painterly way with the image, capturing in impossibly few words a picture that does most of the poem’s outer work, so that the poet himself can get on with what it is he is trying to say’. 
The judge observed that ‘while the self is – in any enquiring poet’s obsessions – an important project, what emerges here is not the self as the bull’s eye, but the self as link – between histories, times, generations and people’.
Gardini’s debut was singled out for her ‘lyrical-experimental imagination’ which contributes to the ‘edginess’ and ‘sexiness’ of the poems and their ‘wonderfully varied scenarios’.
This year’s judges were Karin Schimke, Jim Pascual Agustin and Professor Sally-Ann Murray. Judges of the Ingrid Jonker prize are unaware of one another’s identities until judging is complete.

uHlanga would like to thank the Ingrid Jonker Prize committee and judges for this vindicating, thrilling and humbling honour for us and our two poets. We'd also like to congratulate Modjaji Books' Elisa Galgut, who also won a Commendation for The Attribute of Poetry.

The 2016 Ingrid Jonker Prize for poetry will be handed over at the Franschhoek Literary Festival on Saturday 14 May at 17.15 in the Council Chamber. This is a free event, at which uHlanga poets will be reading. For media enquiries, please email nick at uhlangapress dot co dot za.

Announcing: Questions for the Sea by Stephen Symons

This is a place
conceived by bone

uHlanga is proud to announce our next release: Questions for the Sea by Stephen Symons.

Lyrical and lachrymose, Stephen Symon's debut collection voyages into the unknowable depths of ocean and adulthood. In gorgeous, flowing verse, Symons gives in to the currents of love, war, parenthood and childhood; and, above all, a collection infused with an all-encompassing awe for the power and mystery of the natural world.

Stephen Symons was born in Cape Town in 1966. An avid surfer, his writing has been published in journals, magazines and various anthologies throughout South Africa. He holds a masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town and is currently working on a PhD in African Studies that focuses of the experiences of ex-SADF conscripts. Currently, Stephen lives in Cape Town, where he works as a lecturer and graphic designer.

Questions for the Sea is set to be released in June 2016.

uHlanga signs up with African Books Collective

uHlanga is proud to announce a deal with African Books Collective, in order to make our books available in territories outside of South Africa.

Based in Oxford, England, the African Books Collective is a non-profit distribution co-operative, which represents "149 independent publishers, including university presses, research institutes, NGOs, and commercial publishers, large and small, women and men. They come from 24 African countries, publishing with a focus on African issues and cultural and literary heritage."

This will make all of our books available on a print-on-demand basis in all countries and territories outside of South Africa, and as e-books on a variety of different platforms. According to ABC, this includes Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Apple’s iBookstore, "along with thousands of other eBook retailers worldwide including Kalahari in South Africa."

We hope this partnership with ABC will allow our books to find new readerships in Northern markets, and to make it easier for our readers and supporters worldwide to easily and affordably buy our books.

Find about more about ABC here.

Jijana, Gardini and Mulgrew receive great reviews in City Press

uHlanga New Poets Thabo Jijana (★★★☆☆) and Genna Gardini (★★★★☆), along with uHlanga publisher Nick Mulgrew (★★★☆☆), all got positive reviews in last week's City Press.

See the review below!

A clutch of promising new poets

City Press, 17 Jan 2016
by Charles Cilliers

You can only be one of the uHlanga New Poets once, it seems. Published by Nick Mulgrew, who offers his own poems here, the series is intended to collect and publish the first collections of South Africa’s most promising young talents, who will hopefully go on to greater things.

That makes little books like these a precious record and a tacit encouragement of thoughtful verse in a world in which poetry (and increasingly literature itself) struggles to matter as much as it once did.

I’m told there was once a halcyon time when poets were more famous than people who make badly lit sex tapes and marry rappers who never let you finish your acceptance speech. But such a time is hard to imagine now.

Hopefully, uHlanga continues and helps to support a culture of poetry among a generation of introspecting youth. There’s a lot to like about the collections by Genna Gardini, Thabo Jijana and the 25-year-old publisher Mulgrew.

Gardini pulls you in with confessional accounts of her experiences (or vicarious imaginings) of body-shaming, homosexuality, depression, abuse, desire and a potpourri of memories from different stages of her life. Much of it is heartbreaking and discomfiting, and will haunt you afterwards.

Jijana, too, gets under your skin, particularly the poem The thing about Manto and beetroot, where the narrator is waiting for a man, presumably his father, to walk in the door “stinking of engine fumes, the/ sleeves of his corduroy shirt/ rolled up to the elbow, his hands/ caked with oil”. In the end, you realise that’s not going to happen because, beside the kraal, “there is now a dune/ of red soil and a white cross;/ the black paint washed away, nothing as clean as a name”.

Jijana offers a mix of small observations of township life with deeper meditations on history, culture and personal angst. In his poem about the murder of Steve Biko in police custody, he keeps the free verse minimalistic – because he knows the event has already been sermonised upon countless times. By simply ending with “alone/ he lay on/ the stone floor/ alone”, he locates the personal tragedy of it better than a more grandiose or sweeping verse might have done (and it ties in with “a black man, he/ was on his own”, a play on some of Biko’s own, famous words).

Mulgrew’s poems are more quirky and playful, charmingly often at his own expense, such as his admission at the discomfort he felt at being assumed gay by a stranger, when he isn’t. In many ways, his poems are diary entries about experiences, thoughts, small lessons and wry satire at the absurdity of contemporary society.

He pokes fun at things like armchair activism, self-deprecates his own relative privilege and, in the title poem, pokes holes in the idea that all of humanity is somehow complicit in its own destruction. No, he points out, “some of us are more/ at fault than others” … because “some people don’t/ drive V8s in cities or comment on News24/ or racially abuse people at beer festivals or/ picket gay marriages obviously”.

On the strictly technical side, there’s a part of me that’s still a bit old school when it comes to poems. I want them to feel like poetry, to have more rhythm, metre and clearly discernible structure; to use more figures of speech, more imagery and more metaphor (and yes, horror of horrors, maybe even the occasional rhyme).

Gardini does this most often, and Jijana is also at his best when his poems fall into a discernible rhythm. At times, some of the verse can come across more like prose broken up into lines and labelled poetry. All the same, the collections seem to work. These young poets should have bright futures as writers in whichever form they turn their hands to. On a day when a 70-year-old version of one of them wins a Nobel prize, people will start to look frantically for first editions of little books like these from decades before.

Listen and look: Port Elizabeth launch of Failing Maths and My Other Crimes by Thabo Jijana


uHlanga Press launched Thabo Jijana's stunning Failing Maths and My Other Crimes at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum in Port Elizabeth on 2 November.

The launch was attended by a small crowd, who listened to Thabo and uHlanga's publisher Nick Mulgrew talk about the genesis of the book, the politics of writing in English, dealing with loss through literature, and a host of other things. Thabo also read a number of his poems from the collection, including "You Have No Power Here", "Biko", and "Visitations".

Listen to their discussion online here:

The printing of Failing Maths and My Other Crimes was funded in part by a grant from the Arts & Culture Trust and Nedbank Arts Affinity.

The book is out now from good bookstores, and via e-mail order here.

jijana - 2 of 12.png
jijana - 4 of 12.png

uHlanga distributes with Xavier Nagel Agencies

NOTE: As of 1 September 2018, uHlanga now distributes with Protea Boekhuis.

uHlanga is proud to announce a partnership with Xavier Nagel Agencies, an independent books sales and distribution company based in Cape Town.

Xavier Nagel Agencies will represent, sell and distribute all uHlanga titles to the book trade in South Africa. This means that bookstores can pre-order and buy uHlanga books directly from XNA.

For more information, visit XNA's website at

uHlanga New Poets series launches

uHlanga is proud to announce the launch of the uHlanga New Poets series, a platform for the publication of debut collections from South Africa’s most promising young voices.

Supported by a grant from the Arts and Culture Trust, uHlanga New Poets will publish two debut collections in 2015: Matric Rage by Genna Gardini, and Failing Maths and My Other Crimes by Thabo Jijana. 

uHlanga was founded in 2014 as an annual magazine of poetry from and about KwaZulu-Natal, but has since re-focused their attentions on helping launch the careers of young poets.

"Poetry magazines and anthologies are hugely important," says uHlanga's publisher Nick Mulgrew, who is also the associate editor of literary magazine Prufrock and Deputy Chair of Short Story Day Africa. "But a focused collection is the mark of a serious poet. There, however, aren't enough opportunities for poets – young or more experienced – to take that step. So that's where uHlanga comes in."

"In Gardini and Jijana we have two of South Africa's brightest young poets," he adds. "I could scarcely think of two stronger books with which someone could launch a new poetry press, so I feel very fortunate indeed."

Genna Gardini, based in Cape Town, is one of South Africa’s most decorated young poets and playwrights. She is the winner of the 2012 DALRO/New Coin Award, and a 2013 Mail & Guardian Young South African. Her two plays, WinterSweet (2012) and Scrape (2013), have both won Standard Bank Ovation Awards at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Thabo Jijana, based in Port Elizabeth, is a rising star in South African literature. In 2011, he won the Anthony Sampson Foundation Award. In 2014, he won the Sol Plaatje/European Union Poetry Award. That same year, he also published his first book, the memoir Nobody’s Business

The collections will be designed and published in print, and distributed throughout South Africa by Xavier Nagel Distribution. Copies will also be made available for sale on the uHlanga website. There are no plans for e-books, Mulgrew says, because "the returns on poetry e-books suck terribly".

The expected date of publication for both collections is end-October/early-November 2015.


The Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) is South Africa’s premier independent arts funding and development agency. The primary aim of ACT is to increase the amount of funding available for arts and culture initiatives, and to apply these funds to innovative, sustainable projects that make a meaningful contribution to society. Through structured funding programmes, ACT provides support for all expressions of arts and culture, including literature, music, visual art, theatre and dance, and the support extends to festivals, community arts initiatives, arts management, arts education and arts administration.

To receive updates follow ACT on Twitter at!/actorgza or like the Trust’s Facebook page at


The Nedbank Arts Affinity is a proud supporter of the Arts & Culture Trust (ACT). Since the inception of ACT in 1994, Nedbank has raised and distributed nearly R15 million through our Arts Affinity Programme, in support of more than 800 South African arts, culture and heritage development projects, at no cost to our clients. To open a Nedbank Arts Affinity account please visit any Nedbank branch or call 0860 DO GOOD (36 4663). For more information please visit