top of page

Poetry Briefly: Poets to Keep an Eye on in 2023

Updated: Jun 30

Aspirations and resolutions clog our minds and flood our timelines at the beginning of every year. We cut and paste our ideal lives on mood boards, hopeful for what the year has in store. The most fascinating thing to note about this time of the year is how we intend to watch our words. Poets, writers, and other creatives understand that their words build their worlds.

Because my tongue is split. It is forked and steel-tipped, and it will puncture and bleed you. And if you don't know, now you know - Yellow Rage (Listen Asshole).

Creative ambitions can feel inaccessible and unattainable without a remarkable role model. Successful writers and poets transform their talents from a hobby to a clever homage to love, life, and literature. Creative role models are game-changers in a world resistant to it, and their defiant spirits set fire to the hearts that share a similar purpose or appreciate their point of view.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - I took the road less travelled by, And that has made all the difference - Robert Frost (A Road Less Travelled).

Lebogang Mashile and Zakes Mda represent a generation of post-apartheid writers who communicated the new South African's frustration, honesty, and irony. Mda's debut novel, The Heart of Redness, and Mashile's debut poetry collection, In a Ribbon of Rhythm, symbolize the importance of immortalizing the present because it is history in the making. With a past polluted with preferential politics, it is exciting to anticipate how today's creatives imagine an inclusive future.

But you and I. Push the boundary of reason. You and I. Plot the mystery of seasons. You and I. Paint this history to free men. Nothing can be stopped like you and I - Lebogang Mashile (You and I).

South Africa is bursting with creative talent that holds a competitive edge on the global stage. If award-winning plays, influential poetry collections, and stunning spoken word performances are anything to go by, our artists are the perfect role models to help craft your creative journey in 2023 and beyond.

Here are 12 poets to look out for in 2023:

Koleka Putuma

An award-winning theatre practitioner, poet, and bestselling writer, Koleka Putuma is who many consider a superstar poet. Collective Amnesia, her debut collection of poems, is reportedly on its 12th print run since its publication in 2017. Putuma's words have clawed their way to international institutions like Gothenburg University in Sweden, where it is prescribed for study.

In 2022, Putuma was awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Poetry, the latest addition to her list of impressive accolades. She is a Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative finalist for theatre, and the 2019 Distell Playwriting Award winner for her play No Easter Sunday for Queers. Manyano Media, a creative company she founded, empowers black queer storytellers and produces stories that defend the reality of those considered a minority.

Koleka Putuma makes writing about your truth from the heart look inspiring and rewarding. She has her hands full with the upcoming Black Girl Live Lecture series, a collaborative event where black and queer women storytellers discuss shifting narratives. As a poetry community, we look forward to Koleka's future endeavors with childlike excitement and believe that she represents the capabilities of many South African creatives with excellence and grace.

Xabiso Vili

The persuasive and potent command of Xabiso Vili is admired locally and globally. The writer, activist, and speaker is a poetic powerhouse who exudes small-town humility. After establishing himself as a force in 2014 and 2015, Vili published his first poetry collection Laughing In My Father's Voice, inaugurating himself into the authoring world. Eating My Skin, his 11-track spoken word album illuminates the intention to share his truth through various digital mediums.

Xabiso is the 2022 World Poetry Slam Champion, defeating 19 international poets by 59 country votes. "Forget How To Die" is the 3-minute slam poem that made him the first South African to hold a World Poetry Slam championship title, setting a progressive, passionate standard for high-quality poetry. He is also listed as one of Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans making a positive impact on future generations.

Believe in your voice and its authenticity - Xabiso Vili

His creativity takes him up to and beyond technological boundaries that few poets have dared to traverse. Xabiso is currently working on a 360-degree visual poetry album that combines the mysteries of augmented reality and the intimacy of poetry. He represents the best South African poetry has to offer, and we intend to outline our work with the high-quality standard he has set.

Siphokazi Jonas

A three-dimensional storyteller with a robust national footprint, Siphokazi Jonas gives a voice to tales that transcend space, time, and age. Born in the rugged mountains of Komani in the Eastern Cape, Jonas is an acclaimed poet, performer, and producer whose captivating performances leave a lasting impression on her audience. Raised during the transitional years of South Africa's democracy, she takes great inspiration from the challenges and triumphs that the new South Africa brings. Today, she continues to imagine a country filled with possibilities for its young people.

#WeAreDyingHere, her critically-acclaimed theatre production, was adapted into a short film in partnership with executive producers Siya and Rachel Kolisi. In September 2022, after receiving a SAFTA nomination for Best Short Film, it was made available for streaming on ShowMax, South Africa's biggest online subscription video-on-demand service. She headlined a national poetry tour called Fresh Poetry Tour in 2019, performed a riveting poem at the 2021 South African State of the National Address, and continues to dedicate her life and art to speaking up against the threat that Gender-Based Violence poses on the lives of the women it affects.

With creative ties to South African legends like Thembi Mtshali-Jones, Hotstix Mabuse, and Freshlyground, Siphokazi seems to break through every ceiling she encounters. Her catalog is inspiring, held together by a powerful resilience and endurance that represents the spirit we would love to share with her. There is no limit to where Siphokazi cannot go, and we are thrilled to celebrate her wins and the next journey she decides to take.

Kwena Peu

An experimentalist and lover of ensembles, Kwena Peu takes his love for putting on a show to the next level with his out-of-the-ordinary approach to his poetry productions. Born and bred in Limpopo, Peu's spoken word artistry has always been in synergy with his love of music, making him stand out as a spellbinding performer. Kwena is based in Bloemfontein and has taken advantage of the Andre Huguenot Theatre of The Performance Arts Centre of the Free State (PACOFS) as his resident creative space since 2017.

Kwena Peu is the founder and leader of a 13-piece band complete with saxophonists, percussionists, and vocalists that provide his performances with angelic, orchestral elements. Kamara, his debut dance and puppetry production, was selected to partake in the 2018 Trade Fair Arts Festival, where it received its first award. His collaborative spirit culminated in a tour of his production, presenting poetic, dance, and visual art mediums as a backdrop for his musical poetry. Kwena's creative footprint stretches back to his showcases at the MACUFE festival in 2014, making him a seasoned professional in the poetic space.

Kwena Peu puts all his might into his collaborations and productions, making sure to join forces with those who care about the art as much as he does. As a participant in a poetry retreat hosted by Hear My Voice and The Nirox Foundation, it is comforting to see Kwena able to find partners and collaborators for his creative endeavors. We are thrilled to witness Kwena's afro-jazz, neo-soul, orchestra, and tribal sonics take over Africa and the world.

Ashley Moyo

Advocacy and integrity are Ashley Moyo's modus operandi in the poetry community. Moyo is a writer and spoken word performing artist whose work is grounded in conversations around healing and reflection. She shared her convictions about artists' mental health at the National Model United Nations conference in 2020, where poetry was proposed as a medium for policymaking. She is adamant about being a voice for change, intelligently pursuing this change using poetry.

Ashley Moyo's enthusiasm is engaging, allowing her to leave her mark on every corner that her poetry allows. In 2022 alone, Moyo achieved the reigning championship at the Night Embassy slam, TEWOP slam, and Narow_bi poetry events. She was a finalist of the City Voice Poetry Competition at the Mogale Festival and a TEDx Pretoria event speaker conducting a talk titled The Cheat Code to Living a Fulfilled Life. When she is not speaking about lasting change into existence, she contributes to ODD Magazine and Spoken Sessions, a shared collaborative space for poets.

Ashley is the ultimate patron of poetry, taking it with her wherever she goes and leaving it behind after she has left. Her emergence as an influential voice in the poetry space is compelling. Ashley's resilience and relentlessness are what every poet needs to thrive in the industry, and her journey is a blueprint from which we can all draw heaps of inspiration.

Masai Sepuru

Masai Sepuru is a performing and visual arts craftsman whose passion for poetry lies bare in his various forms of artistic expression. As a Performing Arts Technology graduate, Sepuru has a sharp appreciation for detail which inform his creative disciplines in writing, painting, set design, and directing. His name and work are well-respected across the country and are on the brink of being a household name in the ever-expanding reach of South Africa's poetic industry.

Theatre is an intense love for Masai, and his showcases are evidence of his progressing love story with the stage. As part of the South African State Theatre Incubator program, he has created numerous showcases to date, namely: It's All The Sane, Toxic, Poetoria showcases with neo-soul. He is also the Tshwane Speak Out Loud, Speak Child, and WordnSound Champion and the five-time winner of Word n Sound's King of the Mic.

Masai is an avid writer and performer whose appetite for expression through poetry is yet to be quenched. A persistent champion and a proud advocate of the arts, Masai gives new meaning to fighting for your dreams and succeeding by all means. We are itching to see where his technical understanding of performing arts will take him and how that will impact his audience over the course of his tenure as a young artistic voice.

Puno Selesho

Pretoria-based poet, writer, and thought-leader Puno Selesho is a sharer of hope and change using the possibilities of creativity. She is a law graduate and founder of Harvest House, a digital communication agency that presents transformative events that nurture wholesome communities. Selesho is a spoken-word artist whose themes center around God, women, love, and her blackness, about which she is unapologetic.

Selesho lends her poetic expertise wherever they are required, as long as they meet her standards of transformation and social change. She has published two books, According to Hope and Love Handles, that delicately explore identity as she discovers it as a young black woman. Selesho is also the proud wordsmith behind her seven-track 2020 spoken-word album titled Words That Grow. She has done voice-over work for brands like Lillets, SA Home Loans, and Shoprite on national campaigns to educate and motivate South Africans.

If you feel you are not skilled enough, own it. You can only get better - Puno Selesho

Puno Selesho is a true artist who believes in the light that creativity brings to unimaginative, lackluster spaces. On her 28th birthday, she will be hosting A Night of Music and Poetry with singer-songwriter Adelle Nqeto to celebrate life the best way she knows how. Puno is always finding new ways to expand her craft and creativity, and we believe that 2023 will be no different.

Torsten Clear Rybka

Hip-hop is one of the most influential movements in the world, and Torsten Rybka is a shining result of its captivating global coverage. Born in Ga-Rankuwa, Torsten embraced multiculturalism by learning to merge his biracial upbringing with his love of rap and poetry. His fearlessness is reminiscent of hip-hop legends like Common and Talib Kweli, from whom he draws a great deal of inspiration. Torsten is an experienced speaker and performer, changing minds and lives one word at a time.

In 2014, Torsten started "U R WHAT U SPIT," a poetry movement promoting social change through spoken word and music. He directed and performed in a poetry production called Speaking From Experience, which won a special merit award at the inaugural Trade Fair Festival at the Market Theatre. He has performed at the Oppikoppi Festival, hosted 2017 Speak Out Loud poetry competition finals, and was crowned the Word n Sound poet of the year in 2018. His poetry has reached communities in Washington DC, through the Sister Cities International Arts Grant under the mentorship of Jonathan B. Tucker.

Torsten is a change agent, eager to leave an impression on the ear that hears his words. When he is not traveling the world and performing, he is facilitating the Speak Child Poetry Movement. This is a mentorship program for the inner child that wants to speak and find their voice through poetry. His impulse to make a difference runs deep in his heart, and we are delighted to host the group of poets that will thrive under his capable leadership.

Grace Storm

"Everytime I write and perform, it's like taking a deep breath" - Grace Storm,

Grace Storm is a spoken word poet, writer, and choreographer who believes in movement as one of the ultimate forms of creative expression. She was bitten by the writing bug at a young age, and her radiant imagination has helped her author her life story passionately and intentionally.

Grace is the co-creator of a Triple Bill called Wait/Weight, a theatre production that presents three different perspectives on waiting and weight, grounded by a single object in space. She has published three poetry collections that circle around healing, grief, and loss themes. Love and Other Stuff is best experienced as a journey through moments that make and break us as people, and Grace captures the raw emotions of these moments beautifully. Grace represented South Africa at the Requiem for Justice, an international rally of artists and writers for social justice. Her performance at the rally was one of the standouts, and her words advocated proudly for a change of fortune for all who have suffered unnecessarily.

When she is not performing on world stages and publishing anthologies, Grace hosts dance classes in Johannesburg with Amava Movement. As a Drama teacher, Grace shares her love for art with the next generation, ensuring they receive the best foundation for their greatness. When people speak of those who are dedicating their lives to the advancement of the arts, they are talking about people like Grace Storm. Her elegance and acceptance of herself are admirable, and we are looking forward to cheering her on as her words spread to other parts of the world.

Mr. Poetivist

African storytellers are usually drawn to tell the history of their roots, and Mr. Poetivist prides himself on wearing and telling his story no matter how uncomfortable it may be to hear. Mr. Poetivist wears his patrimony with pride, dignifying the parts of Africa we have been taught to hate and forget. His debut spoken word album, Untitled Country, is a compassionate portrait of unspoken reflections, withdrawn from the uncomfortable unrest parading within the neighborhood. The body of work investigates the inescapable loop of political-nasty-nifty-tricks in which we are all caught, and Mr. Poetivist uses his voice to take a stand.

Born in Ghana, writer, poet, and theatre practitioner Mr. Poetivist is a country voice unearthing visuals of unsaid narratives. He has championed events like Poetic Justice, The Silhouette, and Earnest Silhouette, after which he aired his opinion about Ghana's creative space in a column by GUAP Magazine. Aside from performances at The Black Gala 2019 and debuting his radio playwright "The Village We Are" on Berlin-based radio Refuge Worldwide, his poem "Ode to Afrika" was the lead poem for TEDx Accra, 2021.

Mr. Poetivist is the voice of reason for the parts of ourselves that are misled by the lies the world tells the youth about the past and the future. An old soul living in a young man's body. Poetivist's art reminds us never to forget who we are because it plays a big role in who we will become.

Caryn Tiana

Creative entrepreneurship and passion are a dynamic pairing, and Caryn Tiana uses both to cement herself as a compelling emerging poet. Cape Town-based poet Caryn Tiana is a firm believer in the life-giving power of poetry, and hopes to shed light on its importance in all aspects of the creative industry in South Africa.

Caryn published her first book Cinnamon Smoke in 2022, counting it as a stressful yet rewarding experience. She is also the founder of The Stagebox, a media and marketing enterprise that supports entertainment and property industries with rebranding and customer retention services, which is part of her expertise.

As a participant in the Business and Arts South Africa Debut programme, Tiana has built a network that will support and structure the integrity of her poetry brand. Her passage through the South African poetry community has been tranquil. However, we have a feeling that she intends to make an everlasting impression on the poetry community for years to come.

Vuyelwa Maluleke

Poets never forget the power of words, and Vuyelwa's story is a delicate reminder to explore that power. She has a Master's degree in creative writing and a bachelor's degree in the dramatic arts from Rhodes University and the University of Witwatersrand, respectively. Motivated by her knowledge of the charming intricacies of the written word, she went on to pursue performance poetry and scriptwriting, paving a way for her creativity to thrive in the spaces where it is encouraged to stay alive.

Vuyelwa is the 2014 Brunel University African Poetry Prize winner, the 2015 Word n Sound Poetry League champion, and the author of the chapbook Things We Lost In The Fire. Her poetry is quoted as "cutting through the façade with a fierceness, with a tenderness, and, unapologetically" by spoken word educator and poet Toni Stuart. Vuyelwa was shortlisted for the 2019 Writivism Short Story Prize, and the co-creator of No One Wants A Black Woman With A Mouth, a choreopoem performed at the Market Theatre Lab in 2016. She performed her poetry for the TEDx Soweto audience, packing emotion in every word and every action.

Vuyelwa's talent is unmistakable and magical to watch. The way she talks about herself, her life, and her people is emotive and honorable. She speaks truth to power while living fearlessly in her own truth, which makes her work truly inspiring. As Vuyelwa continues to grow her creativity with her double-edged metaphors, we hope to leave an impression that is as riotous and healing as hers.

"A poet's name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it from going to sleep" - Salman Rushdie

We would love to encourage you to draw as much inspiration as you need from the poetic journies spotlighted in this article. May your stories preserve souls like Koleka's. May your words shatter barriers and borders like Xabiso's. May your artistry shapeshift like Siphokazi's? May your collaborations change lives like Kwena's. May your essence be full of energy like Ashley's. May your courage push you to greatness like Masai. Let your heart believe in change like Puno's. May you represent yourself and your people like Torsten. May your poetry go places you couldn't imagine, like Grace's? May your creativity build your legacy like Mr. Poetivist. May your inventiveness be like Caryn's and never die, and may you speak clearly from the heart like Vuyelwa.

If you know of a poet or creative artist making waves in their region, we would love to get to know them and their work so that we can celebrate and share their courageous story.

Any excuse to celebrate the progress that poetry is making worldwide is an excuse we are willing to make as often as we possibly can. We are proud to have young artists blazing the trail for those who will come after them, and we are looking forward to following in their footsteps.

45 views0 comments

Keep up with our vibrant community

  • Notepad Poetry - LinkedIn
  • @TheNotepadPoetry - Instagram
  • Notepad Poetry - Facebook
  • Notepad Poetry - Youtube

About us



Poetry Giants

Featured Scribble

"You speak...

And I begin to sprout mandalas in my aura.

Every atom in my body dances,

And my soul smiles...


Your words have inspired the sun to blossom yet again."

- Sprout by Prophetic Ink

© 2023 by Notepad Poetry - Love, Passion, Ubuntu, Poetry. 

bottom of page