Tell us about yourself. Who is Sizakele? Where are you from?
My name is Siza, 30 years old. Half Xhosa and half Zulu. I spend half of my life in the Eastern Cape with my mother, and then when I was around standard five, I moved up to Joburg in 1999.

I have two older sisters who are twins and a younger brother who is four years younger than me. My mother stays in Soweto now.

Poetry, where did it start for you?
I’ve always felt alone, so I used poetry to write and to speak to myself, my twin sisters were always together and my younger brother had no time. I’d come back from school and do what needs to be done and then I’d go behind the house and sit there, write there and sing, and later when my mom got back from work I would go back in. My sisters would not be aware that I have not been in the house, because they were always encroached in each other. I remember my writing proper in high school, that’s when I decided I needed to speak more and it has not stopped ever since.

How does a poem begin for you, with an image, or an idea? What do you draw inspiration from?
(Shakes head) poetry for me is speaking, there is no image that I associate with poetry for me. Whenever I feel like talking, whenever I feel like I don’t understand something, whenever I feel sad, whenever I feel happy I write it down. So much that I can actually write about a funeral when at a wedding because poetry for me has never been a specific time or thing. I’ve written because I have to write because it gets me through the day and because it is the only way I can fluently speak. Poetry is one thing I have done consciously, it is the only way I have learnt how to speak and I am very conscious in how I speak when I write.

Poetry is your voice?
Yes, it’s who I am, it is walking, and it is breathing. Everything that I am is poetry. It took me a while to actually think my writing is poetry, because it’s my speaking, it’s my voice. And because its art, people had to box it into poetry.

Cinnamon! How did it come about? Is Cinnamon a person?
Cinnamon isn’t a person. Cinnamon is literally everyone. Even the response to the book everyone finds themselves in Cinnamon. There is no specific face to cinnamon. So how it happened, so I had a blog gaykindalove on Facebook, I’d put up something every day and I used to write long poems and I was going through proper writers block, people kept saying ‘why aren’t you putting something up?’ When you blog you are feeding something and when you stop feeding it, it runs away from you.

One September, I started to write short things, but I wanted to separate from what I’ve always written and what this thing is now. I decided I was going to call it letters to cinnamon, there was this couple and they used to call themselves ginger and cinnamon, and I liked the sound of cinnamon. So now because cinnamon was different, it got a different following and I had to start feeding it again. I met Bontle, in 2014 and she’s a graphic designer. I told her that I wanted to write a book. One Saturday after running, she’s like: ‘why can’t we do this together?’ Then again now there is no one to publish us. I had savings and she had some savings, let’s use our money and find a publisher and do the book ourselves. Then it happened.

If you were to convince someone that’s never read cinnamon, to read it, what would you tell them?
Number one, cinnamon is different. We divided her into four sections; bitter, sweet, chilli and salt. Those are the phases of love and phases of a person, the things you go through. When you read bitter, it’s like part of the relationship when you decide that ‘I’m done with you’ but at the same time it’s not just purely love, its coming to terms with yourself, in sweet that’s where the love comes in- honeymoon phase, chilli its neither here nor there and salt is when you come to terms with yourself. I feel like life is like that, we all go through things and we don’t know how to deal with that. For me, cinnamon is therapy. People have come to me and said: ‘your book has saved me’ or ‘your book has gotten me married’ You will find yourself in cinnamon. It speaks to you as much as you speak to it.

What scares you the most? In writing and in general?
Writing has always been my voice, I don’t know how to tame myself, and I don’t know how to filter myself. Even with the way my Instagram is set up, I’m too honest, and other people are not ready for the truth and when you speak the truth you are going to lose people and I’ve lost a group of people in my life because of the way I speak and the way that I write, and I’ve made friends because of the that I speak and the way that I write. Iqiniso leya thusa (the truth is scary) however you dress it, truth is never really a nice thing to deal with. Being a writer, I know that im exposed because as much as I write about peoples experiences, 60 percent of the things I write about are me and you don’t want people to say ‘yoh uweak lomtwana (this child is weak)’. For me writing is like an emptying process, I am constantly undressing myself through writing and you don’t know how another person is going to receive it.

Generally, I am scared of snakes (laughs). Other than that, it’s just that my writing is a bit too confrontational and it heals other people, but then what happens to the other people it does not heal? It reminds them so much of the things that they don’t want to remember and I hope that as open as I am that people can actually find healing and actually see the intention of my work. Dealing with yourself is important and other people are not ready and I always hope that in the end of their crying that they can see that they can actually get out of it. In the end, you cannot move on from a situation without dealing with the truth so until you have come to terms with the reality, you can never heal. Deal with yourself then deal with other people.

What would you want the world to know about you?
Not even about me, if anyone were to remember me, I want them to remember me by how much I’ve contributed to their healing. I don’t want to be there healing because when you are attached to healing someone, what happens when that someone is gone. I want people to say to me, ‘I’ve gotten through this because you helped me through it’. If anyone were to remember for anything else, would be that, my work-poetry. I want people to say ‘I don’t necessarily have to go to church every day because I get that from you’ and people say that that ‘I find so much healing from your work’ and I’m happy. And when people say that, I’m like, I am also learning about myself, I’m also learning to see myself the way other people see me. I preach that people need to see themselves the way they would want to be seen and people have been helping me see myself better. I want people to remember me by having helped them break through from themselves and their own demons.

Is there a measure of success for a poet? What is the measure?
Speaking your truth. My work. With Cinnamon, when we planned Cinnamon Bontle said ‘I want you to tell Cinnamon the way you see Cinnamon, and if you go to the media houses they will try and change it’. I want my work to be my work, even if you don’t like it; it’s fully Siza, I do not compromise. I don’t want people to tell a story that is not mine, if at the end of the day my following has increased because I’ve been authentic to myself, then I’ve done well and if at the end of each poem people are saying ‘thank you for getting me through this’ for me that is success. Maybe that poem was for me but someone else got it in another way, maybe I may not have been healed from my own things but someone else may have gotten healed from it. That’s what success is for me.

From all of your poems, do you have any three from the top of your head that you cannot forget?
I was going through something about a month ago (January) I was a bit down on Facebook, and some said to me ‘we see you’re going through this, here is your work’ and it said: YOU’VE GONE TOO FAR TO CRUMBLE TO NOTHINGNESS NOW and I fell apart because I’d never seen my work as that and that’s literally one of my favorite poems right now. THERES A KIND OF HAPPY ONLY YOU CAN GIVE YOURSELF.

Advice for young aspiring poets
Number one, you must write for yourself. If you don’t understand your poetry, if you don’t understand how you speak no one is going to understand. Also, write in simple English, don’t try complicate things and speak to your truth. Write because it’s the only way you know how to speak. If you are a new writer, start with two lines, and after two days add another two lines, and also it’s a story have it make sense to you. People don’t understand poetry and it is easy to get demotivated because people don’t understand what you are trying to say but if you understand what you are saying that’s fine. Try to be a simple in your writing as possible and authentic as possible. Also, don’t swear in your writing.

Have you gone on any writing and personal pilgrimage?
I went to Mozambique in December and it actually improved my writing it’s so strange what solitary does for you. It was a solo trip, I was away for almost 20 days and my writing has improved from just that trip but I also go to a lot of poetry sessions. Traveling is what helps my writing, traveling with friends, and hiking, running even driving from work I can stop on the side of the road and write. There is no specific place that inspires me, I am inspired all the time.

What would you tell your younger writing self?
YOU DID IT! I’d honestly never thought I’d be here but it’s grown and I have been so patient with myself. My work is doing what I have always wanted my work to do for other people and it is doing it for me.

Are you working on releasing a second book?
Yes, in December. It’s a 2019 book but it has to be done this year.

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