We're temporarily suspending mail orders

In February this year, we started offering books via mail order through the Post Office. While this has been extremely popular so far, we regrettably have to suspend this for now. The reasons for this are below.

In the build-up to the release of Koleka Putuma's breakout (and fast-selling) debut Collective Amnesia, I thought I would try offer books via a pre-order mail order campaign. This was so we could be able to offer this important book to places that don't necessarily have bookstores, and to get around South Africa's lacklustre bookselling and distribution networks (no fault, of course, of our awesome distributors at XNA).

In order to keep the book affordable, at R100 per copy, we decided to use the vast infrastructure already put in place by the South African Post Office. Normal postage, without tracking numbers or anything special, is, throughout the vast majority of the country, reliable and surprisingly fast. It seemed a no-brainer, and fell in line with uHlanga's broader philosophy of making books more accessible to South Africans, and to expand this country's reading population.

While this campaign has worked tremendously, with over 200 mail orders of Koleka's book – many of which going to towns and city areas without good bookstores – the vast majority of books going to Gauteng (which in turn constitutes the bulk of our orders) are being seriously delayed or even lost by the South African Post Office.

While a book posted to the rural Eastern Cape might take only five days to arrive, our orders posted to Gauteng addresses are taking upwards of two months. I am currently receiving at least two mails per day from Gauteng customers asking where their books are. It's frustrating for me to have to write to all of them and say, honestly, I don't know – it has everything to do with the Post Office in Gauteng, and they'll just have to wait. But this is an unacceptable answer for many, and it doesn't particularly increase trust in my work.

The plan is clearly not working for one of the main provinces of the country, and as such, it is unacceptable for me to continue giving a unequal service (and in some cases, a disservice) to readers. So I've made the decision to stop offering mail order for our books countrywide until I find a solution to the issue that won't greatly drive up the cost of our books.

If you have ordered already, don't worry – I'll honour your order, and make sure your books get to you. If you are in Gauteng and your book has not arrived, don't worry – I will find ways to get your book or books to you. I apologise for the disappointment, even though, frustratingly, it's completely out of my hands.

For now, regrettably, our books are only available in bookstores and at our events. If your local bookstore does not stock our books, then i) ask them what's wrong with them and why they don't stock poetry and ii) make the order. The more bookstores are asked where our books are, the more they have to listen.

I will make an update to this post once our new online store and mail order service is up and running.

Nick Mulgrew

An open letter about our open submissions period

Earlier this year, uHlanga hosted its first-ever open submissions period for original manuscripts of poetry in South African languages. We received far more submissions that we could have ever imagined, with over 100 poets sending in eligible work.

While we're still reading everything that has been sent in, I thought that, as uHlanga's publisher, I would share some insights that we can take from the submissions period, as well as offering advice to new writers, as well as many of the writers who weren't successful with their submissions.

Amount of submissions received during uHlanga's 2017 open submissions period.   Generated by meta-chart.com

Amount of submissions received during uHlanga's 2017 open submissions period. Generated by meta-chart.com

1) What we might learn about SA poetry

We received, in total, 119 eligible manuscripts for our consideration. This presented a massive challenge for us. As it stands, uHlanga is solely my personal concern. I hire one intern to help me with some tasks, including the reading of these manuscripts. We have also hired readers in languages in which neither I nor my intern are sufficiently proficient (or knowledgeable about their poetic contexts) to judge for publication. As it stands, I judge it will take our team about four or five months to give each manuscript the attention it deserves.

At first, the fact that 119 writers (more, if you count ineligible submissions, such as submissions of single poems or manuscripts that had been badly formatted) had sent in their work to us seems encouraging for the health of poetry writing in South Africa. Analysing these submissions, though, paints a more complicated picture. The vast majority of submissions were made in English, or predominantly in English. Although we were open to submissions in certain African languages, very few submissions in Zulu and Xhosa (and none in Sotho) were sent in. A small amount of submissions in Afrikaans, or predominantly in Afrikaans, were also sent in.

For me, these facts point to a couple things. First, uHlanga likely does not have a reputation for quality publishing in languages other than English. Afrikaans writers will most likely go for Afrikaans presses. This is understandable -- the Afrikaans literary industry is relatively healthy in this regard.

"Although many writers are reticent to write in African languages, much of this reticence is down to a perceived lack of opportunities for publication or appreciation."

More important (and worrying), however, is our inability to attract more writers in African languages. The lack of African language submissions suggests one of two things: either there are few writers in African languages, or uHlanga failed to engage and make accessible our opportunity to people who write or would like to write in African languages. Given my experience working at Paperight and Prufrock, and conversing with writers at poetry events around the country, I think it's more the latter than the former.

Although many writers are reticent to write in African languages, much of this reticence is down to a perceived lack of opportunities for publication or appreciation. The point, then, is to make more opportunities available, and to be consistent with offering them. And although it is unlikely that we will publish a book in an African language from this round of submissions, it is important in future that we do find books to publish in African languages, so that there is a visible and tangible sense that opportunity is still being created.

I must also be frank about my possible failure to engage more with African language writing groups, and to advertise opportunities in more places, and in more places in which more writers are able to find them. Social media is powerful, but can only do so much.

2) What writers must learn

Still, the fact that 119 writers sent in their manuscripts for us to read and consider is a huge vindication of my beliefs that i) people love to write poetry; and ii) we can build a stronger industry and appreciation around poetry in South Africa.

The vast majority (in fact, almost all) of these manuscripts, however, will be rejected. Ten or so will receive letters saying that we enjoyed reading their work, and that they're good poets, but that their manuscript isn't just quite right for our publication needs at this point. This is not a nice letter to receive, often because a near-miss is often more painful than a long shot missing its mark. This, however, is a common letter for any writer to receive. It's an encouragement, and should be taken as such. Running a poetry press (especially one as small as uHlanga) is a highly subjective affair. I will only publish something if I love it. If I just kind-of sort-of like it, the book will have no chance, either in the market or in the critical realm. I have to be fair with people's dreams and ambitions. Their work might be better off with another small press.

That said, people's dreams and ambitions can be discouraging.

Aspiring poets want people to read their poems without reading other people's poems.

Gus Ferguson, the legendary publisher and editor of Snailpress and Carapace, was known for his editorials that were sometimes poems, and poems that were sometimes editorials. One such poem-itorial opined that if he had as many subscribers as he did submitters to his magazine, Carapace would have been a going and growing concern.

The fact remains: Aspiring poets want people to read their poems without reading other people's poems. How do I know this? Two reasons. First, sales numbers don't add up. Second, aspiring poets aren't reading contemporary poetry.

The vast majority of manuscripts that we will reject this period show little to no engagement with South African poetry. The average South African poetry book sells anything between 50 and 200 copies. Magazine subscriptions are also in this realm. We had around 200 writers register their interest in submitting their work to us. I have my reservations about whether the 200 people who submitted their work constitute the poetry book-buying public of Southern Africa.

It's easy to read when someone doesn't read. The same ideas and idioms, cliches and tropes, subjects and experiences, replay themselves over and over across many of the manuscripts we received. If some of these writers engaged with those who were writing in their close proximity, they would know that the poems that they write have already been written. They would know that the best writing often comes from a place of exact and specific context and subjectivity. They would know that poetic forms and techniques have specific uses; that some are old hat, and some are aching to be transformed in new ways.

Many writers and scholars opine that we need to change the poetic canon, to make it more representative of our concerns, our politics, our images. Creating a new canon, however, is a deliberate thing. It requires writers engaging with other writers, and using the spirit of other writing in their own writing. Kafka isn't canonical because people say so; it's because writers transmute the spirit of his work in their own work. Adichie isn't becoming canonical because the Twitterati say so; it's because the images and subjects of her writing are being deliberately carried into, transformed, commented on, and criticised in the creative work of other writers. If you do not engage with your contemporaries, you cannot influence anything.

This is why I would say -- and this might be an unpopular opinion -- that the work of transforming poetry publishing and appreciation in South Africa isn't the sole domain of publishers. It's the task of readers, and readers who are writers.

3) OK, you've pontificated enough; what can I change?

I am very happy to acknowledge that many dozens of people who submitted to our open submissions period write solely for themselves, and thought that they'd send us their work on a whim. I think that's awesome, and should be encouraged. If you write solely for yourself, or your loved ones, and that's your ambition, then don't let anything I say discourage you or stop you from doing that. I play guitar. Sometimes I share my music with people. I don't expect to be signed to Universal Music, though. Likewise, you probably don't expect someone to make a book of your work. If that's your experience, then I only have love for you. Continue to write and share to your heart's content.

If you do, however, want to be more engaged with poetry as a living cultural process, though, there are a couple things you should do. First, read poetry and subscribe to local and international literary magazines. If this is out of your budget, then read online. Then, join writing groups or submit to literary magazines that you have read and like. Start a blog. Share. But most of all, read.

If you don't know of any literary magazines in South Africa, here's a list of the ones I like best: PrufrockAerodromeNew ContrastStanzasNew CoinThe Kalahari ReviewType/CastItchThere are many more, however. If your ambition is to have a book published, then you should try to have individual poems published in magazines and anthologies first.

4) In conclusion

I know this post might have seemed a little over-critical. That's not my intention. My intention is to speak frankly about how I read the poetry landscape of this country from my limited vantage point, and to give frank advice to people who want to write seriously.

I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to every single poet who submitted to this year's open submissions. Despite my criticism, I want you to know that I have read (and enjoyed reading) all of your work, and that I appreciate the time, love, concern and hard work you pour into your poems. Sharing is scary -- I know this from my own writing career -- and I hope that you don't take any negative feedback or rejection too much to heart. As with all things, we grow more and know more. That applies to me, as much as you.

Happy reading!

Nick Mulgrew
Publisher, uHlanga

Announcing: Collective Amnesia by Koleka Putuma

Cover photograph by Andiswa Mkhosi

Cover photograph by Andiswa Mkhosi

We at uHlanga are wildly excited to announce the upcoming publication of Collective Amnesia, the eagerly-anticipated debut collection from award-winning page and stage poet Koleka Putuma.


Pre-order Collective Amnesia for only R100 by clicking here.


How many abortions have fallen out of your mouth
while counting the men in your life?

Madness sits at the dinner table, too, 
saying grace with one eye open.


This highly-anticipated debut collection from one of the country’s most acclaimed young voices marks a massive shift in South African poetry. Koleka Putuma’s exploration of blackness, womxnhood and history in Collective Amnesia is fearless and unwavering. Her incendiary poems demand justice, insist on visibility and offer healing. In them, Putuma explodes the idea of authority in various spaces – academia, religion, politics, relationships – to ask what has been learnt and what must be unlearnt.

Through grief and memory, pain and joy, sex and self-care, Collective Amnesia is a powerful appraisal, reminder and revelation of all that has been forgotten and ignored, both in South African society, and within ourselves.



Koleka Putuma was born in Port Elizabeth in 1993. An award-winning performance poet, facilitator and theatre-maker, her plays include UHM and Mbuzeni, as well as two two plays for children, Ekhaya and Scoop. Her work has travelled around the world, with her poetry garnering her national prizes, such as the 2014 National Poetry Slam Championship and the 2016 PEN South Africa Student Writing Prize. Koleka currently lives and works in Cape Town.


Collective Amnesia will be released early-April 2017, with launches around the country. Please join our mailing list, Like uHlanga on Facebook, or follow Koleka on Twitter to stay up-to-date!

Find out how to pre-order Collective Amnesia for only R100 by clicking here!

Announcing: Thungachi, by Francine Simon

uHlanga is proud to announce the upcoming publication of Thungachi, the debut collection of Durban-born poet Francine Simon.

Knead me down
divide me thirty
palms of dough
your fingers sting
yet you know:
take your time

With expert, elegant and economical verse, Thungachi blends ancestral Catholic mysticism and ancient folk Hinduism to create new and essential portraits of modern South African-Indian identity and womanhood.

Unflinching and meditative, the collection tracks the journeys, migrations and maturations of peoples, families and the self,  all the while deftly innovating with form, language and style – ultimately marking Simon out as one of South Africa's most unexpectedly excellent poetic debutantes.

"An ambitious and sophisticated collection that blends formal invention with deeply felt experience." – Kobus Moolman


Francine Simon was born in Durban in 1990 to Indian Catholic parents. Her poems have been published widely in South African literary journals, such as New Contrast, New Coin, Aerodrome and Type/Cast, as well as three volumes of the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award Anthology

Currently, she is a PhD candidate in the English department of Stellenbosch University.

Thungachi will be released in late February 2017. Click here to find out more information about the book.

Like uHlanga on Facebook to keep up-to-date with launch events and dates.

Announcing an open submissions period in February 2017

uHlanga are excited to announce our first open submissions period for original chapbooks and collections of poetry from South African poets, or poets living in South Africa. This is the first time we are announcing an open reading period, and we are looking forward to reading exciting new work! Please take note the following important information.

Submissions will be open from 1 February to 28 February 2017. Manuscripts must be predominantly written in English, Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans, or a combination of those languages. Every manuscript will be read, and all will be considered for publication.

There is no indicated length for manuscripts, although most books published by uHlanga contain 20-40 poems. (Manuscripts envisioned as chapbooks, for example, may be shorter, while epic poetry may contain very few poems.) The more coherent, structured and economical your manuscript is, the higher the chance of it being published – so do not simply include every poem you have ever written. Successful manuscripts will be published in the manner and format – e.g. full collection, chapbook – that uHlanga deems most appropriate for the content.

Please note that anthologies or retrospective collections will not be accepted. Manuscripts containing poems previously published in magazines, anthologies, journals, or online will be accepted, as long as each previously-published poem is acknowledged in the manuscript, and as long as the writer has the rights to reprint such poems. Manuscripts that have already been published previously as a whole will not be accepted.

We accept manuscripts from writers of any experience, whether they have published a collection of poetry before or not. The only criterium for eligibility is that writers either be South African, or a permanent resident of South Africa. 

Only writers of successful submissions will be replied to, and will be offered our standard contract. Please note that this is not a competition: we reserve the right to publish none of the manuscripts received during this submissions period.

Submissions will only be accepted through our email address, submissions@uhlangapress.co.za, as either .doc or .pdf attachments, with all text in Times New Roman. Include your name and contact information on a cover letter attached alongside the manuscript. Being familiar with our books is essential: feel free to mention to us why you think your manuscript will be a good fit for uHlanga.

There is no reading fee. Agented submissions are discouraged, but not strictly disallowed.

Do not submit your manuscript before 1 February 2017 or after 28 February 2017 – it will be discarded without being read. Good luck!

Announcing: Imbewu Yesini, an anthology of young Cape poets!


uHlanga, Lingua Franca Spoken Word Movement and the Cape Youth Poetry Hub for Expression and Rhythm (CYPHER) are proud to announce the upcoming publication of Imbewu Yesini, an anthology of poetry, predominantly in Xhosa, written by young Cape poets.

Imbewu Yesini – compiled of work by various members of CYPHER aged between 15 and 19 – presents a journey through the gendered experiences of young poets, bearing witness to the wounds and the narratives that have come to separate women and men, and celebrating our power to shed worn petals and plant new seeds.

This marks the first of many upcoming collaborations between uHlanga, CYPHER and Lingua Franca, helping to bridge the gap between page and stage, and to promote publication of more poetry in African languages. CYPHER's youth poets represent a diversity and breadth of communities in the greater Cape Town area and beyond, including Fish Hoek, Khayelitsha, Delft, Mfuleni, Stellenbosch, Gugulethu, Knysna, Kraaifontein, Philippi, Simon’s Town and many more.

Featured poets include Lesego Mkhize, Sethu “Qhawekazi” Phekelela, Molupi Lepedi, Aviwe Gwele, Palesa Mohlala, Vusumuzi Mpofu, Genevieve Zongolo, Phelisa Sikwata and Sisipho Makambi. The cover art is by Danny Mose Modiba. The collection also includes a foreword by uHlanga poet Koleka Putuma, whose debut collection, Collective Amnesia, will be published by uHlanga in April 2017.

Imbewu Yesini is to marked for release at the end of November. For launch details, follow both uHlanga and Lingua Franca on Facebook.

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.

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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 http://xaviernagelagencies.co.za/

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.


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