Ingrid Andersen’s Piece Work

Ingrid Andersen

Ingrid Andersen was born in Johannesburg, read for a degree in English literature and film and theatre criticism at Wits and is presently completing her Masters. Her work has been published in poetry journals for 16 years. Excision, her first volume of poetry, was published in 2004 and her second, Piece Work, was published by Modjaji Books in September this year.
Her influences include the French Romantic poets, Imagism, Ted Hughes and the writings of Bashō. She is the founding editor of Incwadi, a South African journal that explores the interaction between poetry and image. An Anglican priest, she works in human rights, healing and reconciliation.
Andersen’s work has been published in local literary journals including Imprint, Slugnews, Carapace, Green Dragon, Botsotso, Incwadi and New Coin, as well as internationally. Her work has been anthologised. She presented her work at WordFest at the National Arts Festival in 2004 and 2005, as well as at the Hilton Arts Festival in 2009. She contributed the libretto for a musical which was produced twice in the early ’90s. Her creative writing workshops focus on allowing creativity to overcome disabling self-critique.
She worked as a theatre publicist in the 1980s, the days of political protest theatre, at the Market Theatre and PACT, amongst others, working with some fascinating people.
As South Africa began to rebuild after the first democratic elections, she became active in community activism and development, at The Salvation Army Territorial Headquarters, as CEO of the Rosebank Homeless Association and then as Community Engagement Manager at Rhodes University. She works presently at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in human rights, peace building and reconciliation, with a particular focus on the Alternatives to Violence Project. Ingrid was nominated for Rhodes University Amnesty International ‘Woman of the Year’, and was awarded Honorary Membership of the Golden Key Society.
Ingrid has lived most of her life in Johannesburg, worked in Grahamstown for five years and relocated to the KwaZulu–Natal Midlands in 2007. She lives with a cherished Persian-Siamese cat called Dickens.
“Andersen’s poems fuse the best of Imagism with a heartfelt compassion; with a few well-chosen words, she can turn the rawness and imprecision of emotion into poems that reach simultaneously for clarity and for the reader’s heart. She is generous, careful, passionate – all these qualities make her work profound and accessible. Each poem is a self-contained loveliness.”
– Fiona Zerbst
“Ingrid Andersen writes poems for an ‘age of loneliness’. With words of powerful simplicity, this book cuts open the heart and mind of the reader, stitches and sometimes mends. Darting lightly in and out of life’s small and lonely spaces and places, her quiet truths offer respite from the world’s noise.”
– Tania van Schalkwyk

Amongst the whirled cones of small shells
and fractures of molluscs and pieces of stone
between my young fingers,
a tiny fragment
of china:
startling blue on clean white,
thrown up on the beach by a storm.
There were more over time,
fragile pieces
of clarity,
gathered and treasured,
kept together.
Some rounded, worn,
others new-broken.
Once, the whole
bottom of a bowl.
As a child, I’d imagine the sea drawing
back from the shipwreck.
Risking the water’s return,
I would glean what I could.
I haven’t been back
for more than ten years.
I still have them. Now
I know how
to pattern my own.
Good Friday

Meditation – First hour
I began the Good Friday meditation:
“Imagine Jesus walked into this church today.
What would he look like? How would you respond to him?”
Heads bowed, they didn’t see Monica,
church cleaner back at work
her CD4 count up,
slip quietly in and take
her seat.
Eucharist – Second hour
You’d known that your
burgeoning plan
would need blood and pain
for fruition.
Your time must have drawn inexorably near:
the suffering, then the triumph.
Easter bells – Third hour
Good Friday’s solemnity
draws to a close.
And the sacred
solid silence
of the stone cathedral
is suddenly broken, from the back
by peals of bells
and laughter
as an acolyte swings into the air,
flying, helpless,
at the end of the rope.
Burning the Fire Break
I’m called from my books,
this peaceful space
away from you.
The wind has whipped
the fire out
of control, it threatens the farmhouse:
all hands are needed.
I stand, armed with beater,
upon the border of veld and garden.
I think of National Geographic,
of fires in Australia, California –
I’ve not done this before.
Smoke burns bitter in my throat.
There. In the haze,
flames at the base
of the khakibos
in the close-grazed stubble
five strides ahead of me.
The wind behind them
suddenly shoves.
The fire flings up,
reaches into
longer grass nearby:
an angry wall that
spits and roars
towards me.
I face the flame,
stand firm.
You shall not pass.
from Piece Work (Modjaji Books, 2010)
Visit Ingrid’s blog at Book SA.
Visit Modjaji’s blog at Book SA.

1 thought on “Ingrid Andersen’s Piece Work

  1. Pingback: Lynette Paterson on Lava Lamp Poems at the Grahamstown launch | Colleen Higgs

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