Professor Keorapetse Willie Kgositsile, considered one of South Africa’s most distinctive poetic voices since the l960s, is South Africa’s National Poet Laureate.

Gwendolyn Brooks, the late poet laureate of Illinois, said of Kgositsile’s work almost forty years ago:

I would say that he is a ‘master’, if it were not for my belief that no one ‘masters’ anything, that each finds or makes his candle, then tries to see by the guttering light. Willie has made a good candle. And Willie has good eyes.



Kgositsile left South Africa in 1961 as one of the first young cadres of the African National Congress (ANC) instructed to do so by the leadership of the national liberation movement. While doing his MFA at Columbia University in 1969 he started teaching literature and creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. He has also taught at a number of other universities and colleges in the USA, including: Queens College, Bennett College, State University of New York at Stonybrook, University of Denver, Wayne State University, New School for Social Research, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). In 1975 he returned to Africa and taught at a number of universities, including: the universities of Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Fort Hare.

Professor Kgositsile has worked in various departments and structures of the ANC, both above and underground. He was one of the founding members of the ANC’s Education Department (1977), and the Department of Arts and Culture (1982). He was also a founding member of the ANC Veterans League in 2009 and was a member of the ANC National Centenary Task Team.

He was Special Adviser to former Ministers of Arts and Culture, Mr. Z. Pallo Jordan and Mr. Paul Mashatile.

Kgositsile is one of the most widely published South African poets. His work has been translated into many languages. He has been the recipient of a number of literary awards, among them: the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize; the Harlem Cultural Council Poetry Award; the Conrad Kent Rivers Memorial Poetry Award; the Herman Charles Bosman Prize. In 2008 he was awarded the National Order of Ikhamanga: Silver (OIS).


  • THIS WAY I SALUTE YOU, Kwela Books & Snailpress, Cape Town, 2004
  • IF I COULD SING, Kwela Books & Snailpress, Cape Town, 2002
  • TO THE BITTER END, Third World Press, Chicago, 1995
  • APPROACHES TO POETRY WRITING, Third World Press, Chicago, 1994
  • THE PRESENT IS A DANGEROUS PLACE TO LIVE, Third World Press, Chicago, 1993
  • WHEN THE CLOUDS CLEAR, COSAW Publications, Johannesburg, 1990
  • FREEWORD (with Katiyo, Davis, & Rydstrom,eds.) Writers’ Bookmachine, Stockholm, 1983
  • HEARTPRINTS, Schwifstinger Galerie-Verlag, 1980
  • PLACES AND BLOODSTAINS, Achebe Publications, San Francisco,1976
  • A CAPSULE COURSE IN BLACK POETRY WRITING (with G. Brooks, H. Madhubuti, D. Randall, eds.) Broadside Press, Detroit, 1975
  • THE WORD IS HERE (ed.), Doubleday, New York, 1973
  • MY NAME IS AFRIKA, Doubleday, New York, 1971
  • FOR MELBA, Third World Press, Chicago, 1970
  • SPIRITS UNCHAINED, Broadside Press, Detroit, 1969