Rethabile Masilo


Rethabile is a Mosotho poet who enjoys reading and writing. He lives in Paris, France, with his wife and two children. Rethabile is self-employed and works in language-teaching. He says he has been writing for a good while, learning through trial and error and picking up lots of sounds by reading and re-reading the poems that he likes. His work has been published in various magazines and online.

Rethabile was born in 1961 in Lesotho and left his country with his parents and siblings to go into exile in 1980. He moved through The Republic of South Africa (very short stay, on account of the weight of Apartheid), Kenya and The United States of America, before settling in France in 1987.

He blogs at Poéfrika and co-edits the literary magazine Canopic Jar.

Please join us for the launch of Things That Are Silent at The Phoenix Artist Club, 1 Phoenix Street (off Charing Cross Road), London on Tuesday June 26th from 6.30 pm.

‘In his debut collection, Things That Are Silent, Rethabile Masilo has crafted poems that bear witness to seemingly unnoticed events. Whether it’s a tribute to Sharpeville or an indictment of apartheid from a lover’s tongue, Masilo’s lyrical voice attests the fervent need to preserve memory from the quotidian crush of collective amnesia.’

— Geoffrey Philp, author of Dub Wise (Peepal Tree Press)

‘This debut presents the assured voice of a writer who is also never complacent with certainty. It is as if Masilo moves across darkened territory – of the self and of society – with a flashlight and is surprised by what becomes illuminated. The art of the poetry lies in how this surprise is a mutual illumination for writer and reader. Or, the poems enact the writer’s surprise, making it available to the reader. Ranging from love lyrics to landscape poems to elegies, the poems constantly light upon central human dilemmas. In “Birds of Ill” there is the sense that death is an integral tragedy that makes our humanity – a tragedy, but part of us; our humanity, but a tragic part of it. The poetry never shies away from this kind of shadowland of our existence and it illuminates it with a subtle metaphoric and symbolic intelligence. In that sense, there is light throughout, but the book never loses its gravitas. It is also an enigmatic intelligence moving behind these poems, which ensures that the reader returns, again and again.’

— Rustum Kozain, Cape Town

‘Rethabile Masilo is a soulful citizen of the world whose poetry flows beyond the bounds of generations and continents. At once ancient and contemporary, Things That Are Silent is a marvellously crafted poetic offering for the ages.’

— Phil Rice, Canopic Publishing

From Things that are Silent:

Janice’s Poem

When you get there, the horses of dawn
before you, the furious wheels of drawn carts,
each distance hard-won with sweated salt,
the road flat between miles; tense; only hoof
and sound of wheel loud above the air,
proof that this is not just a bad dream,
who can say what’s best to do for our calm?
You sit like sculpted ivory among jaded colours,
something in the face you wear, hung like a mask
on walls of inner rooms, something in the sound
whose echo names you, the morning of which
rose out from the gold of you, flaring nostrils
at the world. How can we say who is to blame?
Halfway into destiny, the sun lost all hope,
and shone into itself across the great Smokies.
A slow descent home. The accurate death
of the first words ever spoken: let there be light.
What do we know about the meanings
of things that work against that kind of light?