Digital Voices: Negotiating Global Forms & Local Identity in Performance Poetry from Cape Town

Susanna L. Sacks


Over the past two decades, an increasing number of African writers have turned to digital media – particularly social media platforms – to publish, circulate, and discuss their work, developing new aesthetic networks and forms. In this essay, I analyze two site-specific performance poems pieces from Cape Town: Antjie Krog and Peter Odendaal’s “Rondeau in Four Parts” and Lwanda Sindaphi’s “State of the Nation’s Undress.” Each of these poems was originally performed in major theaters and each has since been published on YouTube making it a site of global consumption as well as a memorial to the original event. By examining the shift in reception between local and digital sites of performance, I demonstrate the influence of broader digital aesthetics – specifically the digital’s emphasis on popularity and spontaneity – in contemporary poetry styles from Cape Town as poets manage the dispersal of authority that comes with digital publication. Bringing sound studies critique of digital media to South African poetry, I argue that the voice – simultaneously a physical manifestation and symbolic representation of the self – carries heightened influence in digital settlings where the depth of sound is otherwise flattened.


Video poems, YouTube poetry, performance poetry

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