To be a writer, read, read and read

11 May 2002

Poets at the podium: Keorapetse "Willie" Kgositsile at the CAS poetry readings.

THE UCT Creative Writing Centre has just bid farewell to its first writer-in-residence, South African-born poet Willie Kgositsile.

Kgositsile's is the first of four writers who will visit UCT in 2002 to assist students in the Creative Writing Masters programme. His departure ushers in prolific playwright and novelist Zakes Mda, as UCT's next writer-in-residence.

The writer-in-residence programme is an attempt by the Creative Writing Centre to expose undergraduate and Masters students to published writers who can assist them with their work. The programme also offers the writers a month to concentrate solely on any of their writing projects.

Professor Stephen Watson, co-ordinator of the English Masters Creative Writing Programme, said that Kgositsile was an obvious choice. "He has a good reputation as a writer and the added bonus of teaching experience that fits in with what we require of our writers-in-residence, which is to be of use to our Masters writing students," said Watson.

Often billed as a protest poet, Kgositsile himself is evasive on the themes his work encompasses. "I write what I feel, it depends, I write about life," he said. He lights up when asked what methods he uses to teach students how to write poetry. His philosophy, it seems, is simple. "You can teach someone how to put the words together but you cannot teach someone how to be a poet. Until you have acquired the skills to write you do not know what kind of a writer you will be."

He is a firm believer that to be a good writer you have to be well read. "I think we [South Africans] have a big problem when it comes to reading. There are a lot of people who think they can become writers without reading. You have to read, everything and anything."

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