Poetry on love and loss

Soneni Nokukhanya Mahlalela

Two residents of Stellenbosch were winners in the annual AVBOB Poetry Competition, which was launched in August 2017, in all 11 mother tongues, to give South Africans a way to speak about the experiences of birth and death, of loss and life, and to map out the milestones in their lives.

More than 29 000 poems were entered in this year’s competition.

Tom Dreyer won the Afrikaans language category, with his poem Slaap jy solank, dan hou ek die fort.

Based in Stellenbosch, Tom is a freelance journalist and owner of an IT company, who has been writing since his university days. He is the author of four novels and a collection of short stories.

His first published poems appeared in the anthology Nuwe Stemme in 1997, his novel Stinkafrikaners was awarded the Eugène Marais Prize in 2001, and his other novels have been shortlisted or longlisted for various Afrikaans literary prizes, as well as the Sunday Times Literary Award. He is excited about AVBOB’s contribution to promoting poetry across South Africa, and is keen to be part of this initiative.

Soneni Nokukhanya Mahlalela won the Siswati language category, with her poem Ngiyafisa kube ngasho.

Nokukhanya was born in Mpumalanga, but currently lives in Stellenbosch. She attended the University of the Orange Free State, where she obtained an agricultural science degree. She is now a final-year student at Stellenbosch University, where she’s completing her second degree.

She’s been writing poetry from a very young age, using it as a vehicle to express herself.

This is the first competition she has ever entered – to showcase her talent, but also because it provided her with the freedom and a rare opportunity to write in her mother tongue.