My Zulu post

Hi everyone,

Longtime visitors to my blog will remember my good friend in South Africa, Silindile Ntuli. She began contributing poems in 2010 but eventually put her pen down as her health continued to worsen and the nearly constant companion of pain made rest difficult. I am delighted to say that lately Silindile has found new determination to write.

Silindile is a brave young woman, witty and loving. Her malady has not been fully diagnosed but somehow she finds the strength and emotional courage to deal with what life has dealt her.

Sometimes her poetry deals with dark subjects but her conversations are always upbeat even though she must spend much of her life in bed or sitting in a chair outside. Here’s an example of her poem posted here in October 2010 and which received the most votes (we used to vote each month on our favorite W.O.M. efforts).

This Change, Wishing It Away

I’ve seen the devil’s eyes,
Filled with hatred and hungry for torment.
I looked into those eyes; I was just a little girl.
Each touch, no each yank left a bruise on my skin,
Each drag made me scream out loud,
But my heart was suffering the most,
In a fog I could not understand.

A slap across my face followed by harsh words,
The smell of his body suffocated me,
That alone brought him to a smile.
I looked in the eyes of hatred,
Wondering what my crime was.
Till I found myself facing a knife,
I was not even five.
This sudden change was new to me,
But I knew it was evil at its best.

Send me down my angel,
Fling him down, throw him down.
I need help, because my soul is dying.
They told me about angels,
I need mine by my side.
Just a few minutes ago,
I was playing with my teddy.
Now my head is pinned to the dirty ground,
I am only a little girl.

Minutes later I’m sleeping on the ground,
Tightly holding my teddy.
My clothes are dirty from the dragging,
My body is in pain,
The kind I never knew existed.
My soul is filled with hatred,
And burning with anger.
Traumatized little girl,
Heart shattered into pieces.
I cry myself to sleep on the floor,
Clutching my brown bear.
— Silindile Ntuli

Silindile is a Zulu and a natural teacher. Her notes to me are often sprinkled with Zulu words and expressions (with clear explanations) and I’ve kept a list over the years. Today I’m going to give you some examples. Here goes.

Sawubona (hello) othandekayo (beloved) izmngani (friends) wami (my).

Often I think of you as isbhuti (brothers) wami (my) and izdadewethu (little sisters) wami (my).

Unjani (How are you)?

Inhlobo (summer) is passing so I hope you have not isikhathi esilahekile (lost time) when you could be writing an inkondlo (poem) or reading a good incwadi (book) or keeping up with the iphephandaba (newspaper).

Have you gone riding in the imoto (car), in an isikebha (boat), or on an ibhayisekili (bicycle)?

Kade ngakugcina (It’s been a long time) since some of you have commented. Ngihyakukhumbula! (I miss you!)

Ungakhathazeki (Don’t worry) izmngani (friends) wami (my). There is plenty of isikhathi (time) to share your izindaba (news).

Time for me to go. Salakahle (Goodbye) izmngani (friends) othandekayo (beloved). I am happy that my blog is blessed with woza woza (the power to bring you back).

As for you, Silindile, dadewethu (little sister) wami (my), thank you for all the lessons. Thank you for being so courageous. Thank you for being you.


Woza Woza, Poetry Tag, and WOM Poems

Hi everyone,

I’m home for a while and have a lot of catching up to do. Here are three cases in point.


I haven’t kicked off a Woza Woza Poem for this month. This suggestion came from Silindile Ntuli. The idea is that someone begin with a first line and others add a line (or more) each day to see how the poem develops and where it takes us. We tried the first poem in November but somewhere along the line we got bogged down and never finished it. I’ll go first again this month. Here is my line to get us started:

She came to me, a stranger, and climbed on my lap.
She is so cute, I smiled and knew we would be friends
(2nd line just now added, thanks to Janet Kay Gallagher.)
I stroked her fur; felt the scar upon her floppy ear
(Thanks, Cory Corrado.)

Thanks and keep the lines coming. Let’s keep this poem free verse. It needs no meter or rhyme.


On December 1, we started a game of poetry tag, which was suggested by Jane Heitman Healy. She started with a poem about orthopedic shoes and was quickly followed by Corry Corrado, Scarred Poet, and Ken Slesarik. Each poet picked up some element of the preceding poem to relate to. Ken left us with a hippo and no notion of what it migh eat. That’s how poetry tag works. We started with shoes and wound up with a hippo with a mystery diet after only three new poems.

In the spirit of keeping the game of tag going, here’s my contribution. My poem is connected by the idea of diet. The poem is previously published in the book THE BOY WHO COUNTED STARS.

The Perfect Diet

Mrs. LaPlump weighed 300 pounds,
Her husband weighed 202.
“I’ve got to lose some weight,” she said,
“I’ll give up potatoes and pizza and bread.”
Mr. LaPlump said, “I will, too.
My darling, I’ll do it for you.”

When each of them lost 100 pounds,
He weighed only 102.
“I’ve got to lose more weight,” she said.
“This next 100,” said he, “I dread
For when we are finished I’ll only weight 2,
But darling, I’ll do it for you.”

They lost another 100 pounds,
Her figure was perfect and trim,
But there is a lesson here I think,
Mr. LaPlump continued to shrink
And one day disappeared down the sink,
And you may find this grim, my dears,
But it was the end for him.

I hope this poem will inspire some new directions with your poems that somehow relate. Think humor, weight, diet, sink, food, pizza, etc. There are lots of ways to tie in.


I’m glad to see that we already have two poems posted for this month’s Word of the Month Challenge. From Steven Withrow we have “Climate Change in Faeryland” and in the WOM Young Poets, Grades 8-12, Omar Teran has posted his poem, “Weather.”

I look forward to December, as busy as it is, to see what will come from your creative spirits during the month.

Thanks everyone,

A good idea from Jane Heitman Healy

BULLETIN: Check out the comments below to see that we are already having some players in the new poetry tag game!

Hi everyone,

A while back I had a note from Jane Heitman Healy, who is a very welcome and regular participant here. Jane was wondering if we could play a poetry game along the lines of Sylvia Vardell’s poetry jams. Sylvia assembles a panel of poets. One leads off by reading a poem. Everyone else on the panel starts scrambling to find one of their own poems that connects in some way to the first. If more than one poet has a poem to read, that’s fine. Someone must then find a new poem that relates to the previous one, and so on.

These poetic romps are great fun and the connections may be quite tenuous at times. Just about anything goes. Match humor with humor, short with short, shoe with boot, bird with seed, flowers with butterflies. You get the idea.

Jane and I decided to introduce the new game today and Jane leads off with the following poem. Read, enjoy, and start your engines. Post a new poem or one from your files. All is fair and the result should be entertaining. You must tell us in what way your poem relates to the one you’re matching. Frankly, I expect some real groaners.

Orthopedic Shoes Don’t Flamenco
by Jane Heitman Healy

Orthopedic shoes don’t flamenco.
They don’t tango, fandango, or romp.
They don’t cha-cha or foxtrot or two-step.
Their only dance is the stomp.

Orthopedic shoes help my feet grow
Into the shape they should.
Someday I’ll swirl, twirl and pivot
And give up orthopedics for good.

In case you think I’ve forgotten about Silindile Ntuli’s Woza Woza Poem, I have not. I’m afraid I got us off to a poor start last month but I intend to try it again this month, unless someone else beats me to it. Does anyone have a suggestion on how to keep it going? Maybe I butted in too much? Maybe we tell the December Woza Woza in couplets?

Onward and upward!


NEW THING: Woza Woza Poem!

ANNOUNCEMENT: My thanks to Mimi Cross for writing such a lovely article about her experience in my three-hour poetry intensive session at the New Jersey SCBWI state conference in June. I just received a copy of Sprouts, Issue 3, 2010, which carries Mimi’s article. Thanks to Editor-in-Chief Kathy Temean, Executive Editor Anita Nolan, and especially to Mimi. Here is the link to the journal: .

Hello Everyone,

I’m pleased to show you another of those marvelous videos that Jana Smith and her students have created. This one, by Hope, is a real delight. If you like it, please let her know in your comments.
Here is the poem link:

If you are among those who indicated on the survey that you enjoy writing poetry, here’s another challenge. This one comes from South Africa and from none other than our friend Silindile Ntuli, who goes by Soul Dose on her site ( ).

Silindile suggested this new poetry challenge, which is open to adults and students, and shall be known as a Woza Woza Poem. Woza woza is a Zula term for something that has such strong appeal that we find ourselves returning to it again and again. At least I think that’s the definition. If I’m not quite accurate, I trust Silindile to correct me. Little by little she has been teaching me a few words and terms of Zulu.

Here’s the proposition.

1) Today I give you the first line of a poem.
2) After tomorrow’s post is up, someone else must add a line.
3) Post your suggested next line in the comments box.
4) I’ll choose one of your suggested lines to add to the poem.
5) Each day I’ll repeat the process of selecting one of the new proposed lines to add to the growing poem.
6) We’ll do this all month until the final poem is 30 lines long.

That’s it. Sound interesting? Are you hooked?

I think a Woza Woza poem can be composed in verse or in free verse. It can even be a combination of both over the course of the 30 days of November. However, I propose to start this first poem in free verse. Here is my first line.

Today I saw something I’ve never seen before.

Got it? Okay, be thinking about a second line. Tomorrow I’ll expect to see some killer ideas!

My thanks to Silindile for suggesting this new fun challenge. Let’s try our first Woza Woza Poem and see where it leads.