Emmah Mabye, tax consultant by profession and poetess born from passion, recently launched her first anthology of poems titled Clocking In. Bold, descriptive and moving, her poems explore themes categorised according to body, spirit and soul. Emmah is championing not only the written but the spoken word through her performances of the poems she pens and won third place at the Tshwane Speak Out Loud 2016/2017 finale with her poem Motherless. Emmah has embarked on a nation-wide launch which kicked off in Pretoria on the 3rd of August and so far she has received orders from Malawi, the USA and even Canada. She hopes to inspire audiences from across the globe with her art and has shared with Aybia some insight into her world of poetry.
How were you introduced to the world of poetry?
I was introduced to poetry at high school through the academic curriculum. I fell in love with South African poetry because I found it relatable. Performance poetry, however, was cultivated at varsity while I was studying at the University of Pretoria via poetry sessions and various other events which took place on campus.
What has been your experience of the poetry scene around Pretoria and Johannesburg?
Poetry in Pretoria, when I started, was rather chilled. People were welcoming of whatever it is you had to offer. For a while there were not enough spaces to regularly share one’s work or hear poetry, but poetry houses like Spoken Sessions, U R What U Spit and Tshwane Speak Out Loud are doing a lot of great work in getting poetry actively in motion.
Johannesburg is abuzz with activity! There’s something poetry-related happening almost every week. I love it. We’re not waiting for some or other big festival to witness awesome poetry. In terms of the performance side of things, for Jo’burg I have one word: fierce (dependant on the spaces you enter). You will need to learn to find your own voice fast. It does, however, provide one with a plethora of spaces in which to grow. Growth is simply inevitable in such an environment. Audiences and poetry houses are very supportive of growing the art beyond it being just a mere pass time to an art to be reckoned with.
What is your full-time job and how do you see poetry slotting into your life career-wise, especially after the release of your first anthology?
I am a Tax Consultant by profession. Poetry, on the other hand, has always been a passion and source of solace for me. It’s also a great way of maintaining a balance between the left-brain, right-brain dynamics. It has been rather hectic trying to fully maintain stability with the poetry collection now released but I must say I thoroughly enjoy this kind of “busy” which is productive. It’s a joy to be able to say I can escape corporate and jump into the arts freely, albeit not at any time I wish to due to occasional job constraints.
What inspired the name of your anthology, Clocking In?
The name was inspired by both my profession and this passion. I’m sure many people are familiar with a clocking in system at work, i.e. registering your arrival at work by means of an automatic recording clock. I’ve had to do that at work. On the flip side I’m now doing the same by registering my arrival into the world of publishing through this book.
What can people expect from Clocking In?
People can expect to be taken on an enlightening poetic journey that taps into man as a tripartite being – clocking into spirit, soul and body. One will also be able to see my journey as a writer from my salad days to where I am now in my writing.
What are your hopes for Clocking In? How far would you like to distribute it and what do you hope it will accomplish?
I would for love for it to go international and enter spaces many would not have thought feasible. It would be absolutely amazing if it could also reach schools as I hope to inspire young people through this. Apart from wanting Clocking In to be an enjoyable poetic journey, it would mean a lot to know that this book was a source of inspiration in whatever capacity to whoever reads.
Since its release, how has Clocking In been received?
The book has been so well received, so much so that I’ve even had orders from Malawi, the USA and Canada. I’ve never been to these places, but just the knowledge that the book will be “clocking in” to these countries is immeasurably exciting and fills me with so much gratitude. People of different races, backgrounds and professions have bought the book so far and that on its own is testament that this book is really for everyone.
Where have you been performing and plan to perform as part of Clocking In’s release?
I have been performing every week since the launch on the 3rd of August in Pretoria; events have ranged from community to church events. The most prominent has to be performing at #Demologues Democracy Dialogues hosted by the Thuli Madonsela Foundation in partnership with Constitution Hill. What an honour that truly was.
I am also planning on a doing a book tour as part of Clocking In’s release. So far this will cover Johannesburg, Durban, the Free State and Cape Town. The details are available on my social media platforms.
What is the process of publishing an anthology and how did you go about it?
For a first timer who was just eager to get a book out, I found that the process of publishing is long and requires patience and through this I have gained more respect for publishers. It was imperative for me to have people review my body of work objectively, so I chose some acquaintances who were not poets. Once I’d decided on a publisher they assisted with the necessary publishing administration and management. Many consultations took place to get to the final product. The real work, however, starts when it’s time to get the book out there and make people aware of it.
If you had to choose, what is your favourite poem in the anthology?
Without a doubt my favourite poem is “My Diepsloot Baby”. It’s based on a real life encounter, my first time in Diepsloot (a South African township). Every time I perform this poem, imagery from that day becomes so vividly clear to me and audience members have been able to capture and relive that moment with me.
How are people able to purchase a copy of Clocking In?
Follow Emmah at:
Facebook: Emmah Mabye (Miss)