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Everything is a Deathly Flower Poems by Maneo Mohale

‘in ink, as it is in rhetoric war is a metaphor for women, drugs and terror mistakenly defanged invoked on anniversaries of violence as if it’s only danger is on the page or in the air spat at us like teeth war hides in the tendril..’



I am thrilled to be back from the short break that I had taken from reviewing books. Best believe, while I was on the break, I was doing some reading! I came across this poet’s book on social media and I thought it was a book that I needed to read. Maneo Mohale invites the reader into their world through verses filled with pain, rage, longing, questions and in some way rays of hope. Rightfully so, ‘Everything is a Deathly Flower’ is a collection of poems stemming from the poet’s traumatic experience in the form of sexual abuse. In the inner cover they ask ‘dear reader are you still there? take a second, now. breathe // with me.’ This is an apt introduction to the collection and preparation for what the reader is about to experience. Maneo Mohale is a radical poet, they have decided to take control of their journey and in these poems their power rooted in experiences, language (which at sometimes is insufficient), truth and just being (the power of existing as one is) is clear. Their radicalism should not be seen as a fight against the world, it is for their survival in a world made to break them. Some of the themes in the collection are power, survival, religion, love and memory.

The power that is a major theme and inspiration for the tone in the book has not always been easily recognizable to the poet. The poems then become a source and sign of reclamation of power in the face of that violence that persists in a society that views queer people, self aware women as social deviants. The memory of the violation percolates through the pages, yet the power that the poet has retained bravely confronts the reader. They write in a manner which asks you to stay with them as they go through the motions, and that is their strength. Sexual assault being an exercise of violent power, this book could be a trigger for so many people who have suffered at the hands of such violation. Maneo Mohale is strong in their voice and strides as they show that healing is hard work.

In a refreshing tone while confronting the past, they create their present and future which is conducive for their healing. They say healing is possible, not easy but possible. The title poem ‘Everything is a Deathly Flower’ is haunting and I read it as a chant! ‘…ensnaring you and suddenly I am safe. Everything is different in the dream, I am safe forever. I leave my moss bed with bare feet.’ The poem is a painful read yet it is grounded in something liberating. In the dream they are safe but in the world they are not but that does not stop them from chanting for survival, with every petal falling from their mouth taking the character of a survivor. Survival can also look like this, ‘I am unskilled in departure. after injury, I’d rather leave the door ajar than evict. let yourself out.’ Opening doors for what needs to leave to leave.

Maneo Mohale does not stick to a particular style of writing which made me enjoy the book. I also liked how the poems were titled, most of them named after flowers and trees. What I found striking in the book, which is not often used in the poetry collections that I have read lately are glosas. I greatly appreciate this because it introduced me to writers and poets previously unknown to me. ‘Everything is a Deathly Flower’ uses the first four lines of Saeed Jones’ “Closet of Red.” “Diphylleia Grayi” borrows four lines from Kopano Maroga’s “disappearing act #3.” The epigrapghs used in this collection also had the same effect as the glosas, I have now added some of the cited writers onto my reading list. I am happy that I got a chance to experience Maneo Mohale’s powerful and unapologetic writing. This collection says to me sometimes words are not enough, or there is no perfect language in some situations; when language and words fail or when they are insufficient, just be.


Book Details

Title: Everything is a Deathly Flower

Author: Maneo Mohale

Genre: Poetry

Pages: 66

Publisher: uHlanga Press (2019)

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