Hailing from Mamelodi, Pretoria, 27-year-old Busisiwe Mahlangu has made her mark in the world with the power of her words. Her work is hard-hitting and raw, holding space for conversations around poverty, mental health, education, violence, and healing. Busisiwe won the Tshwane Speak Out Loud Youth Poetry Competition 2016/2017 and the National Library of South Africa Poetry 2017. Her work has been published in different anthologies.  Her debut collection ‘Surviving Loss’ was published in late 2018 (Impepho Press) and adapted and produced for theatre as part of the South African State Theatre’s incubator programme 2018/2019. She has shared poetry across South Africa. Mahlangu has toured and shared her work internationally, including Washington DC, Sweden and Mozambique.

  1. What got you into poetry? How did that curiosity start for you compared to other forms of writing? 

 I was first introduced to poetry in Primary School; my English teacher encouraged us to submit our poems to Love Life Magazine. She would go on to encourage me to perform my poems at the school’s assembly. I used to keep a journal but I was always scared someone would read it. I felt safer writing out my thoughts in poetry.

  1. In your poetry book Surviving Loss, you touch on themes of family, trauma and such. How has poetry been a space of healing for you? 

Yes, poetry is a space of healing for me. Whenever I write a poem, I think no one would ever read it. That allows me to be honest in my writing and helps me process my thoughts.

  1. Where do you draw inspiration from in your writing? 

I think my work is mostly driven by feeling and storytelling. I draw inspiration from life and all that surrounds me. I am inspired by other works of art as well; music, visual arts, and dance.


  1. What advice would you give to any young woman or man wanting to try poetry but are too scared to try it out? 

Read with clear eyes, and find out which poems you enjoy and why. Do the same for poems you don’t like. Why don’t you like them? Write. And write. And write. Then share your work with friends and fellow writers. Read your work at open mics, send the work out to literary journals and Magazines. Send your work out into the world. Over and over again. Do not let rejection discourage you, it’s part of the process.


Here is one of her poems to give you a taste:

Safe House

the old chair is pushed against the door

the windows are closed

the gate is locked

the fence has barbed wire to peal the flesh

a good sleep is bought with caution:

pull the keys out of the doors

do not switch off the lights in all the rooms

hide the welcome mat

tell the dog to start barking

since they can steal from a body too

i sat in the old chair behind the door,

i built the windows with bricks

the handle of the gate is barbed

the fence is four layers of steel

each breath comes with caution:

swallow the keys after locking

keep all the lights on

pretend to be awake

burn the welcome mat

teach the dog how to bite

we spent our lives waiting for thieves to come

but they live in our house

For more of her work, follow her here: 

Twitter: @busimahlangu_

Instagram: @busimahlangu_

Tell us: do you enjoy reading or hearing poetry? If so, what are your favourite poems or poets? 

Read about a popular Fundza writer here