Posted on Friday, April 15th, 2016

My conviction is that every writer should be an activist and every activist a poet, someone who tries to use words to shape a new imaginary.

Excerpts from an article by Mark Heywood, titled Democracy and the writer, as published by the Daily Maverick, Opinionistas, on 30 March. The article is based on a speech delivered to the PEN Africa Network meeting, Johannesburg, 9 March 2016. Heywood is Executive Director of SECTION27 and the co-founder and an executive member of the Treatment Action Campaign.

Throughout the ages politicians and elites have always feared writers. One of South Africa’s poets, Don Mattera, captured it well. He dedicated a poem titled The Poet Must Die to the anti-apartheid poets James Matthews and Gladys Thomas “after their poems were executed”:

The poet must die
Her murmuring threatens their survival
Her breath could start the revolution
She must be destroyed
Ban her
Send her to the Island
Call the firing-squad
But remember to wipe her blood
From the wall,
Then destroy the wall
Crush the house
Kill the neighbours
If their lives are to survive
The poet must die