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A snapshot of American poet Aja Monet during the live event

South African collaborators Hear My VoiceImphepho Pressand Bridges Pan Afrikan Arts Movement watched in dismay as the Covid-19 outbreak disrupted events planned worldwide for World Poetry Day on 21 March, and decided to do something about it. Together they collected funding for a Zoom event, roped in 16 of the best poets around the globe and managed to livestream a 3-hour gathering of souls to 4 900 eager attendees on Facebook. Since then, the video has been viewed 8 500 times. The stellar line-up featured local poets Busi Mahlangu, Sarah Godsell, Mandi Vundla, Mak Manaka, Lebo Mashile and Toni Giselle Stuart, while the international guest list consisted of Aja Monet (USA), Claire Trevien (France/UK), Tolu Abgelusi (Nigeria/UK), Elisangela Rita (Angola), Q Malewezi (Malawi), Holly Bass (USA), Crystal Kwadkwa Tetty (Ghana), Raya Wambul (Kenya), Des Lee (USA) and Danai Mupotsa (Zimbabwe).

Ishmael Sibiya of Hear My Voicebelieves digital can never fully replace the experience of being in the same room as a poet, but sees the two formats co-existing comfortably in the future: ‘Digital allows those who can’t attend, because of reasons such as distance, to also experience the event, not only the “live” version but also after.’ In terms of payment to participants, he reckons virtual events can be made sustainable through options such as charging an entry fee to enter a livestream. ‘This platform will only get more popular, especially since it tends to allow more people access to the art, across borders.’Readers interested in donating to this cause can use the pay platforms below.

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