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National Poetry Competition: Commended Poets


Lindy Barbour was born in Kirkwall then moved to Tayport in Fife. She read English at Oxford, and teaches Counselling and Psychotherapy at the University of Edinburgh. She has two children, and lives in rural Lanarkshire, near the Pentland Hills.
White Basin
It came to the point that she was weak
past climbing stairs and in the mornings
had to wash using the kitchen sink.
I went down Castle Street to Wallace Hughes,
Electrical and Hardware, to buy a bowl. The dark shop
smelled as always of paraffin and bare boards.
The bowl was cheap; a simple hemisphere
of thin white plastic with a rolled rim,
as white and round as the full moon.
Each morning I held her upright as her white hands
swam like little fishes through the warm water. The garden
was still flowering strongly that November. I watched her
gaze at the roses through two layers of glass.
I kept the bowl and use it now for ordinary things,
handwashing and catching drips. It’s as beautiful
as the moon or as a marble basin of clear water
with fish swimming in moonlight in a dark garden.
Liz Berry was born in the Black Country. She received an Eric Gregory Award in 2009. Her pamphlet, The Patron Saint of Schoolgirls, was published by tall-lighthouse in 2010. She is a visiting writer at Kingston University and a 2011/12 Arvon/Jerwood Mentee.
Birmingham Roller
     We spent our lives down in the blackness … those birds
     brought us
up to the light.
     – Jim Showell
, Tumbling Pigeons and the Black Country
Wench, yowm the colour of ower town:
concrete, steel, oily rainbow of the cut.
Ower streets am in yer wings,
ower factory chimdeys plumes on yer chest,
yer heart’s the china ower owd girls dust
in their tranklement cabinets.
Bred to dazzlin in backyards by men
whose onds grew soft as feathers
just to touch you, cradle you from egg
through each jeth-defying tumble.
Little acrobat of the terraces,
we’m winged when we gaze at you
jimmucking the breeze, somersaulting through
the white breathed prayer of January
and rolling back up like a babby’s yo-yo
caught by the open donny of the clouds.
Black Country/ Standard
wench/ affectionate name for a female
yowm/ you are
cut/ canal
owd/ old
tranklement/ bits & bobs or ornaments
onds/ hands
jeth/ death
jimmucking/ shaking
babby/ little chld
donny/ hand
Antony Dunn has published three collections of poems, Pilots and Navigators (Oxford University Press, 1998), Flying Fish (Carcanet OxfordPoets, 2002) and Bugs (Carcanet OxfordPoets, 2009). He is working towards completion of a fourth.
In Vitro
We found a moment’s break between champagne
and seating-plan to bolt into the dark
and dusty mop-cupboard we’d clocked before
and though it had no lock you turned your back
then lifted up your dress and suffered me
to thumb your nicest pants aside and pop
the needle through your skin and push it in.
And this is what I’m thinking of up here:
the Best Man, dazzled, running out of speech,
rooting for the groom and bride, the fruiting
of their marriage bed. I cannot make you
out among the guests. You’ve been gone too long,
all undone in a too-bright cubicle.
Gentlemen and Ladies, raise your glasses.
If you are back and standing at the back,
your glass high, I can guess the tenderness
with which you lift the brittle thing and watch
its little bubbles making themselves out
of nothing, climbing the strings of themselves,
bursting infinitesimally and
becoming, nothing after nothing, air.
Rosalind Hudis is an emerging poet from Ceredigion. She has always written, but decided to go full-time in 2009, beginning an MA in Creative Writing at Trinity St David’s. Since then, she has had poems published and won the Wilfred Owen Bursary.
This is my daughter asleep in the morning,
one hand between the silvery poles
of her cot, that remind me of birch trees.
She’s going to theatre soon:
the surgeon will snap her ribs
to reach a heart which can’t wake
itself properly inside its blue forest.
She mustn’t eat. So when she stirs and calls
my arms down for the first feed, I turn
to the wall. She beats a fist,
the size of a large bee, into air.
Her feet swim faster as if racing
a blind snow flood,
and I am the snow. Later
it’s I who can’t reach
my child so far under,
her face a locked, white egg
in the thicket of tubes.
Helen Klein Ross, a former copywriter, has written hundreds of ads for household products. She lives in New York where she works on the Poetry Society of America’s campaign to restore Poetry in Motion to New York City’s subways. 
How to Furnish an American House
     How to furnish old American houses (Pellegrini & Cudahy, 1949)
Our first problem is how to hide
as much as possible. We want nothing
distressed. Snakes on walls create
a restless feeling. Red is rarely suitable
in large doses. After dark, a panelled room
seems to close in upon us, but it is not
an oppressive sort of enfolding. Housekeeping
can be somewhat simplified by small rugs.
Do not make the mistake of painting
old hinges black. Oil portraits are effective
but little damage is done by simple pastorals.
Rooms should be friendly without abandoning
reserve. Insincerity often manifests
in over-ornamentation. The most elusive
quality is what we call charm. It cannot
be planned for deliberately.
S.J. Litherland, born and bred in Warwickshire, became an honorary Northerner after moving to Durham City in 1965. She has published six collections of poetry, of which the most recent is The Absolute Bonus of Rain (Flambard Press, 2010).
Springtime of the Nations
A sympathiser advises a friend
The lilacs were in flower, heavy, drowsy,
boulevards suddenly pleasant. And
I suspect the sun was out. You must
understand there was nothing we could
do. In the square hung the conspirators,
dangling effigies—the partying over—
how they caroused our masters,
the hubbub was like the explosions
of military battle to deafened soldiers,
we the defeated drank deeply while
the victors were clinking glasses. All
we could hear was the chink, chink,
like raindrops in gutters, of their toasts,
and vowed never to let glass touch glass
again in Hungary. And so my friend—
I remove my drink from your pleasure
in my health—in due homage
to the twelve—the silence between us
heavy, ominous. In my hearing, glasses
will never chime. All through the night
they were pushing the boat out, the oars
of a thousand hurrahs dipped into water,
chink, chink, chink, chink, chink,
came the replies of the tiny waves.
It was terrible music to the demented.
The boulevards next day were ashen
with pollen. The twelve hung in the sun.
You must understand there was nothing
we could do but shun the moment,
to turn our backs on all that merriment.
Ian McEwan is a charity trustee, philosophy tutor and treasurer of Magma Poetry. Many magazines have published his poems and The Stammering Man was a winner in the Templar pamphlet competition 2010. Ian has four children and lives in Bedford.
Our Lady of the Pylons 
When she is re-designed, will we
still know she stands for us – that repeated
shape potato-printed, lino-cut, repeated
through the hills?
She gives herself away and away,
the aching weight of power hung
from each shoulder: her prayers hung
to each light switch. Grey paint
elides her figure to a burr
of cloud. She is waiting for the birds
to trust her. Lip-level with the birds,
their pointed banter all
the company she gets. Her shadow
laid on corn, on tar, on earth,
is levering the sun around the earth,
to explain the hollow landscape,
and her faint construction-lines
are the gateways to a sky. Hum for us
Our Lady of the Pylons, hum for us
or hum
Jon Stone is the co-creator of small press Sidekick Books and arts journal Fuselit. His pamphlet, Scarecrows, was published by Happenstance in 2010 and a debut full collection, School of Forgery, is due from Salt imminently.
Blue Poison Dart Frog
Little gas flame sparking in the mulch
Cog-tooth of a Scandanavian iris
Micro-totem to a god of shyness
Petrol bubble birthed from earthy belch
Tree kingfisher chink, shorn off mid-brawl
Driblet-beast from thirty fathoms down
Half-exploded teardrop of a clown
Alien seedling, sown amidst a squall
Blot made by a buggered cartridge pen
Bubblegum in Violet’s champion gob
Goblin bleach got worryingly smart
The genitalia of a very ill man
Lightning caught and boiled down to its nub
An arrowhead that’s softened to a heart
Read more about The National Poetry Competition.

Read more about The Poetry Society.

Allison McVety wins the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition

Allison McVety has become the 35th winner of the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition, with her multi-layered poem, ‘To the Lighthouse’.
The year I gave the book another go,
[the year my mother died], I learned
Everything big happens in parenthesis –
marriage, birth, the War, poetry. Is it the full
manuscript or just the bits in the middle
that count. Is it the woman at the window,
marking the hours, from cover to cover –
or these few lines …
               from ‘To the Lighthouse’, by Allison McVety
Read ‘To the Lighthouse’ on the Poetry Society’s website.
Allison said she found winning the competition “unfeasible and thrilling”. She said, “In the context of the poem, winning the National is like being the most unlikely candidate for head girl and suddenly, in assembly, hearing your name called out”.
The judges – Jackie Kay, John Glenday, and Colette Bryce – read 11,663 new poems from 4,498 poets to arrive at their decisions. All the entries were anonymous.
“We admired the way this poem achieves several things at once. It makes you remember that strange sensation of returning to a book to find it altered only to realise the book hasn’t changed: you have … In three stanzas, this poem captures not just the movement of time (that so obsessed Woolf) but also the passing of time in the poet’s life, the journey from the girl in her exams, to the motherless woman at the end. It is a tour de force. It takes huge leaps and yet is shimmering with small details.”
– Jackie Kay
Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch won second prize with her poem ‘Ponting’, inspired by the centenary of Captain Scott’s trip to the Antarctic, and third prize went to Zaffar Kunial for his poem ‘Hill Speak’, about his father’s native language.

© Image by Derek Adams

Allison McVety won the Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet competition 2006 with The Night Trotsky Came to Stay (Smith/Doorstop, 2007), and her second collection, Miming Happiness, followed in 2010. For many years an engineer, technical trainer and ITIL service manager at Microsoft, Allison left to manage a digital forensics company. She now works part-time for Smith/Doorstop and is writing her third collection.
Peony Moon was lucky to have a brief chat with Allison.
Congratulations! What’s the best thing so far about winning the National?
Thank you, Michelle.

For most of us, winning the National is one of those career milestones that is both wished for and unachievable in equal measure. So the realisation that my poem had indeed won and would appear on the Poetry Society website, in Poetry Review and The Guardian was a perfect joy!
For ‘To the Lighthouse’ to have been under the eyes of a panel of judges whose own work I’ve read and admired and for it to be liked enough is like a dream. And, since I’ve had to keep the secret for a number of weeks, it’s been great to have the lovely team at The Poetry Society there to pinch me!
Back in the day, would that girl in the examination hall have been very surprised to hear that she would grow up into a poet?
Difficult question. Although I was writing poems at seventeen and would’ve liked a career in writing, my parents were keen on academic success. They saw a degree and a secure career as the only way for me to have a life that was markedly different from theirs. But don’t write this off as a sob story because they really did give me the wherewithal to have my cake and eat it!
As the winning poem is about an exam – what have you learned from writing poetry?
I’ve learned to look and see, listen and hear, much more acutely than I ever did. I know that may sound glib, a little obvious even, but if, as Andrew Motion says, a poem is one idea leaning against the next, then writers have to be receptive to the extraordinary that is everywhere in the ordinariness of their own lives – the good and the bad. After all, how else can we ‘Write it’?
And if I could tell my seventeen year old self anything, it would be that all the mistakes, all the things that seem end-of-the world huge at the time, are just the drafts that make life better. But then, would my seventeen year old self have listened to my advice? Probably not.

© Image by Keith Morris

Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch
‘s two collections are Rockclimbing in Silk (Seren, 2001) and Not in These Shoes (Picador, 2008), which was shortlisted for Wales book of the Year 2009. Her third collection, Banjo, celebrates the centenary of Captain Scott’s trip to the Anarctic, and will be published by Picador in June 2012.
In the end we turned him into a verb:
to pont meaning to pose in ice and snow
until frozen. On the voyage south he’d be
tilting plates in the darkroom, in one hand
the developing dish, in the other a basin
of vomit. One minute he’d arrange us
in groups for the cinematograph, then rush
to the ship’s side. Once Ponco roped up
his JA Prestwich over Terra Nova’s bow,
balanced on three planks. He lost the tip
of his tongue when it stuck to the camera
at thirty below. Corneas can freeze
to peep-sight. At one hundred degrees
of frost the film’s ribbon will split.
To pont would also mean pontificate. He’d insist
on reeling the film slowly to prevent
sparks. We’d rehearse the Pole Picture:
mount the camera on the theodolite tripod,
wind twine over the trigger and guide it
round a ski stick to get the direction right.
He’d instruct us on setting the shutter, how to
use a flash in the tent with quarter of an inch of powder
and F11. En route to the Pole I sent back
negatives with the support teams, a sheet
torn from my sledging log detailing exposure
data; how composed we were, how cold.


Zaffar Kunial has been writing poetry for years, and studied in London with Michael Donaghy. He is part of a writing group in Leeds that includes both the poet Ian Duhig and last year’s National Poetry Competition winner, Paul Adrian. He writes greeting cards, and wrote a rhyming children’s book for M&S. ‘Hill Speak’ is the first poem he has submitted anywhere for publication.
Hill Speak
There is no dictionary for my father’s language.
His dialect, for a start, is difficult to name.
Even this taxi driver, who talks it, lacks the knowledge.
Some say it’s Pahari – ‘hill speak’ –
others, Potwari, or Pahari-Potwari –
too earthy and scriptless to find a home in books.
This mountain speech is a low language. Ours. “No good.
You should learn speak Urdu.” I’m getting the runaround.
Whatever it is, this talk, going back, did once have a script:
Landa, in the reign of the Buddhists.
… So was Dad’s speech some kind of Dogri?
Is it Kashmiri? Mirpuri? The differences are lost on me.
I’m told it’s part way towards Punjabi,
but what that tongue would call tuvarda,
Dad would agree was tusaana
‘yours’ –
truly, though there are many dictionaries for the tongue I speak,
it’s the close-by things I’m lost to say;
things as pulsed and present as the back of this hand,
never mind stumbling towards some higher plane.
And, either way, even at the rare moment I get towards –
or, thank God, even getting to –
my point, I can’t put into words
where I’ve arrived.
The eight commended poets are:
Lindy Barbour for her poem ‘White Basin’
Liz Berry for her poem ‘Birmingham Roller’
Antony Dunn for his poem ‘In Vitro’
Rosalind Hudis for her poem ‘Photograph’
Helen Klein Ross for her poem ‘How to Furnish an American House’
SJ Litherland for her poem ‘Springtime of the Nations’
Ian McEwen for his poem ‘Our Lady of the Pylons’
Jon Stone for his poem ‘Blue Poison Dart Frog’
National Poetry Competition Judges

Jackie Kay MBE was born in 1961 in Edinburgh to a Scottish mother and a Nigerian father, and raised by adoptive parents. Her first poetry collection, The Adoption Papers, won the Scottish Arts Council Book Award and a Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year Award. She has written numerous collections of poetry as well as fiction, drama and memoir, and appears regularly on the radio. Maw Broon Monologues (2009) was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, and Red Dust Road (2010), a memoir about meeting her Nigerian birth father, was shortlisted for the 2011 PEN/Ackerley Prize. She was awarded an MBE in 2006.
John Glenday‘s poetry collections are The Apple Ghost (1989) and Undark (1995), both published by Peterloo Poets, and Grain (2010), published by Picador. He was awarded a Scottish Arts Council Book Prize for The Apple Ghost, and Undark and Grain both received Poetry Book Society Recommendations. In 2010 he was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Prize for Excellence in New Poetry, and for the Griffin Poetry Prize 2010 for Grain. He lives in Drumnadrochit, and works for NHS Highland as an addictions counsellor.
Colette Bryce A previous winner of the National Poetry Competition (2003), Colette Bryce has been North East Literary Fellow at the universities of Newcastle and Durham, and is currently poetry editor at Poetry London magazine. Her three collections, all published by Picador, are The Heel of Bernadette (2000), The Full Indian Rope Trick (2004), and Self-Portrait in the Dark (2008), which was short-listed for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award. Her pamphlet, The Observations of Aleksandr Svetlov, was published by Donut Press in 2007. She received the Cholmondeley Award in 2010.
Read more about The National Poetry Competition.

Read more about The Poetry Society.

PEN Expresses Concern over Secrecy Bill Passed in South African National Assembly

“Cape Town and London, November 23, 2011 — South African PEN and PEN International today expressed alarm over the passage of the Protection of Information Bill by the National Assembly, saying that the bill, if enacted into law, represents ‘a retreat towards the secrecy that characterised South Africa before its democratic transition’.

‘The Protection of Information Bill’, said Margie Orford, executive vice-president of South African PEN, ‘will make it both difficult and dangerous for writers and journalists to do their work. The bill contains extreme penalties – up to 25 years in prison – for anyone who holds or publishes classified information. This has grave implications for writers and journalists, as much as it does for social justice activists and ordinary citizens, because of the absence of a public interest defence clause. The powers of classification remain too broad. We are deeply concerned that this bill will be used to cover up corruption and abuses of power, both of which are rife in South Africa, and that critical voices will once more be targeted and silenced.’

The Protection of Information Bill, popularly called the Secrecy Bill, would eliminate whistleblower protections, force journalists to reveal their sources, and criminalise the withholding of classifed information. The bill does not allow for a “public interest defence”, meaning that journalists would not be protected for leaking information even when exposing government corruption or misconduct. Sentences may be as high as 25 years. The bill was introduced in 2008 and has met with strong civil society and media opposition. Pressure from Sanef (SA National Editors’ Forum), PMSA (Print Media South Africa), lawyers, other civil society organisations and the Right2Know campaign – a broad coalition of organisations – forced the ruling African National Congress (ANC) to withdraw earlier text and narrow the scope of “organs of state” that could classify information. However, the most restrictive provisions remain in place.

Last week, the ANC leaked that it would reintroduce the bill in parliament, despite assurances that the party would seek civil society input. The bill was quickly debated and passed by a significant margin. It now has to pass through the National Council of Provinces, among other procedures, and to be signed into law by President Zuma.

‘Respect for freedom of expression and a free press makes for a stronger society and often improves the work of government’, said Laura McVeigh, director of PEN International. ‘This secrecy bill denies that freedom of expression and is a step backwards for South Africa.’

PEN International celebrates literature and promotes freedom of expression. Founded in 1921, our global community of writers now comprises 144 Centres spanning more than 100 countries. Our programmes, campaigns, events and publications connect writers and readers for global solidarity and cooperation. PEN International is a non-political organisation and holds consultative status at the United Nations and UNESCO.”

For more information contact: Margie Orford of South African PEN,
t.+27 21 465 2496, m.+27 83 556 9168

Visit PEN International’s website.

Visit South African PEN’s website.


Congratulations to Kona Macphee: Perfect Blue wins the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize

Kona Macphee was born in London in 1969 but grew up in Australia, where she experimented with a range of occupations including composer, violinist, waitress and motorcycle mechanic.
Eventually she took up robotics and computer science, which brought her to Cambridge as a graduate student in 1995.
She now lives in Perthshire, where she works as a freelance writer and tutor, and moonlights as the co-director of a software and consultancy company.
Kona received an Eric Gregory Award in 1998. Her first collection, Tails, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2004, and her second collection, Perfect Blue, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2010. 

In Perfect Blue, Kona Macphee applies her versatile and polished technique to a characteristic diversity of themes – from the natural world to war and politics, from memories of childhood to bittersweet snapshots of everyday life, from wry asides to fantastical flights of narrative fantasy.
Her eclecticism is never more apparent than in the ‘Book of Diseases’ sequence, which launches from its simple premise into a delirious medley of forms and subjects.
The meticulously crafted lyrical poems of Perfect Blue reflect the growing power of a distinctively original, musical and compassionate voice that laments the transience and fragility of life while celebrating the joy of truly living it.
The invention of the electric chair
All the slow purposes that make a tree
were in you once – to grow; to gauge
in every measured angle of your leaves
that moving target, light; to hold
through winter like an indrawn breath; to feel
the buzz of resurrection borne on spring.
As neutral wood suborns to dark intents
of blame, in icons hewn and nailed –
the scaffold and the catherine wheel,
the cross and gallows: symbols of
a skill that’s more than carpentry,
and deeply less than human – so, lost tree,
this timber rictus of your supple green
has made a foursquare chair. Now history
awaits in thrall the painted scene
that might beatify your sacrifice –
those drooping limbs surrendered to your arms;
that smoking moment held: a Pietà.
This poem was first published in New Welsh Review,
Issue 86, Winter 2009.
These conflicts always stem from faith or race.
(Subtitle: Leading Academic’s views.)
[Now cut to close-up; linger on ravaged face.]
There’s fear the growing violence might displace
the farmers, with their yearly crop to lose.
These conflicts always stem from faith or race.
Another bombing struck the marketplace
this morning, near the long employment queues.
[Now cut to close-up; linger on ravaged face.]
The children here have vanished without trace.
[Slow pan across a blood-stained pile of shoes.]
These conflicts always stem from faith or race.
The overflowing camps have no more space
for victims trickling back in ones and twos.
[Now cut to close-up; linger on ravaged face.]
The ceasefire holds, but nothing can erase
the painful memories. More in tomorrow’s news.
These conflicts always stem from faith or race.
[Now cut to close-up; linger on ravaged face.]
This poem was first published in Magma, Issue 43, 2009.

Pheasant and astronomers
Burnished, finicky, picking his headbob way
across the asphalt path, into the leafy scrub
behind the twelve-pane window of our office,
we can’t not watch his colours in the sunlight.
Our measures and projections fall aside
as coarsest calculus to his most perfect curve;
so we observe.
                         Can such a day-star brave
the midnight sky whose glaring spectral eyes
seethe down the invert shrinkage of a telescope,
or does he sleep all clouded in the hedgerows’
straight-line rays of green restraint to roads
that sling his slow kin cockeyed in the gutter?
On foot and unconcerned, he patters out of view,
out of our world again; the sunlit room
falls just a lumen dimmer with his passing.
This poem also appears in the Identity Parade anthology
from Bloodaxe Books.
Marchmont Road
Above the tarmacked voids that breach
the ranks of tenements, a reach
of sky to which the day has lent
a calibrated gradient
of northern blue. Along the road
the pelt of antlike cars is slowed:
a hearse in mirror-faultless gloss
precedes its cavalcade of loss,
and while this dark skein passes, I
cast out for where its gist might lie …
Stop it. No moment must encore
itself in some pert metaphor.
Suspend that distanced commentary.
Take a deep breath. Now be here. Be.
This poem was first published in Northwords Now,
Issue 13, December 2009.

Order Perfect Blue here or here.
Visit Kona’s website.
Visit Kona’s blog, that elusive clarity.

A trip to beautiful Cape Town

'The Tavern of the Seas'

Next Sunday I’ll be flying to Cape Town, the Mother City, the Tavern of the Seas. I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends, meeting new poetry friends, reading at Off the Wall in Observatory on Monday, 27 June, and launching The Suitable Girl (co-published by Pindrop Press and Modjaji Books) at The Book Lounge on Tuesday, 28 June.
If you’re in the area I’d love to see you on Monday or Tuesday evening – or both! 

Reading at Off the Wall

A Touch of Madness, the Victorian Quaffery in Observatory

Hosted by Karin Schimke and Huge Hodge, Off the Wall is a well established weekly event held at A Touch of Madness (love the name!), a Victorian Quaffery, ‘in the heart of bohemian Observatory’.
Date: Monday, 27 June 2011
Time: 20h00 – 22h00
Venue: A Touch of Madness Restaurant, 12 Nuttall Road,
Tel: 021 448 2266
Google map directions.
After the reading there will an open mike session so come along and share your work.

Bohemian dining

Launch at The Book Lounge

The Book Lounge, Cape Town

The Suitable Girl is being launched at The Book Lounge, an independent bookshop in the Eastern Precinct of Cape Town City Centre. I’ve heard so many great things about Mervyn Sloman, the Loungers and the wide range of local and international books available on The Book Lounge’s shelves. I hope to have at least fifteen minutes to browse and buy …
I’m thrilled that Helen Moffett will be introducing me at the launch and can’t wait to see Colleen Higgs again. Colleen is the inspiration behind Modjaji Books and the last time we saw each other was at the Cape Town Book Fair in 2006. It’s been far too long.
Date: Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Time: 18h00 – 19h30
Venue: The Book Lounge, corner of Roeland and Buitenkant Streets
Tel: 021 462 2425
Google map directions.
There’ll be wine sponsored by Leopard’s Leap, soul food and books – lots and lots of books.
Please RSVP.

The Suitable Girl (co-published by Modjaji Books)

News and a special offer

The Suitable Girl in Atlanta with a Californian Cabernet © Christine Swint

Some good news.
Independent publisher Modjaji Books will be bringing out a South African edition of The Suitable Girl in April.
You can see from the photograph that she’s made her way to Atlanta in the United States. Thank you, Christine Swint.
And Julie Buffaloe-Yoder writes about the collection at
The Buffaloe Pen:
The Suitable Girl has many faces. Sometimes she whispers her stories. Sometimes she speaks with her tongue in her cheek. Sometimes she screams.”
If you’re interested, The Suitable Girl can be ordered via Paypal from the Pindrop Press website (see details at the bottom of my author page).
And, if you’re in South Africa, Modjaji Books is offering a fabulous deal:
R300 – Any 3 poetry books – if they have to be posted – add R20, will wait till the last one is out before posting
R50 – Whiplash, add R30 for postage
Any 5 Modjaji Books for R500, add R30 for postage
All of these amount to huge savings for you, compared to regular prices of between R135 and R190
For more information about Modjaji Titles:
Modjaji Books 2010 Catalogue  
Recent and soon to be released books can also be bought as part of this offer.
Wame Molefhe Go Tell the Sun (short stories) (Feb 2011)
Modjaji Books
Colleen Higgs Lava Lamp Poems (Jan 2011) Hands-On Books
Alleyn Diesel (ed) Reclaiming the L-Word
(stories by different authors)(pub date March 2011) Modjaji Books
Sarah Frost Conduit (poems) (pub date March 2011)
Modjaji Books
Dawn Garisch Difficult Gifts (poems) (pub date April 2011)
Modjaji Books
Michelle McGrane The Suitable Girl (poems)
(pub date April 2011) co-pub Modjaji Books/Pindrop Press (UK)
Robin Winkel-Mellish Leading the Lioness (pub date April 2011)
Hands-On Books
Email Colleen Higgs at if you want to take up this offer.

Storytelling festival and auction

I Am Somebody! is a youth organisation that uses storytelling to bring together 18 to 21 year olds from all races, cultures and classes in Cape Town. Using life and archetypal storytelling, the organisers run a two-year mentorship programme with young people to develop their self-awareness, get them to connect across the invisible barriers of race, culture and class to understand one another and build relationships based on compassion and trust. They help young people develop their innate gifts and then use these to address needs and issues in their own communities.
The mentees will research issues in their own communities and identify one area they would like to tackle. The group will then bring their individual research together and using the skills, knowledge and resources of all the communities represented, they will develop creative solutions to their problems. The organisation’s aim is to use the talents of all communities to start developing solutions to Cape Town’s problems from the ground up.
“Storytelling, you know, has a real function. The process of storytelling itself is a healing process, partly because you have someone there who is taking the time to tell you a story that has great meaning for them. Stories differ from advice, in that once you get them; they become a fabric of your whole soul. That is why they heal you.” 
– Alice Walker
Visit Warren T Te Brugge’s blog to read a short article and watch a video clip.
RSVP to Toni Stuart on 071 5733 597 or by Wednesday, 21 July 2010.

Lost Voices: A Tribute

Dr. Graham Ellis writes:
“Many have songs but are silenced before they can sing. Many of the voices lost to HIV/AIDS will never be heard. The talent lost cannot be calculated. Many of those who are lost never ‘hit the Big Time’. The language of their hearts never reached their lips. I don’t know how many or who they were.
Mzwandile Matiwane was one and I knew him briefly.
He wrote poetry while in St. Albans jail where he spent about 14 years. He told me that poetry saved his life there. In 2006 he sometimes appeared at ‘Off-The-Wall’ poetry evenings in Observatory, where he masqueraded as ‘the Hobo Poet’. In the harsh Cape winter of that year he lived under cardboard beneath a bridge near Cape Town Castle.
On one of my trips to drop him off at his ‘home’ he asked me to take care of some of his handwritten pages of poetry. The first page opened with a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche: ‘One always hears in the writings of a hermit something of the echo of the desert, something of the whisper and the shy vigilance of solitude’. His health deteriorated and in 2008 he moved back to his mother’s home in Port Elizabeth. He passed away shortly thereafter. In a phone call to him a few days before he died, he said: “It feels as if I am walking against the wind”.
Lost Voices is an attempt, not only to honour Mzwandile’s tragic life, but also the many unknown voices that we have lost to HIV/AIDS.
I have been joined in this project by the remarkable playwright and performer, Monty Jola.
Monty was Mzwandile’s friend and mentor. His acclaimed play, A New Struggle, will form the centrepiece of our short evening of poetry, music, dance and performance. Our collaboration became possible when we teamed up with Dr. Ashraf Mohammed and the Peer Group Educators of the HIV/AIDS Unit of Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
Proceeds from the evening will go to Mzwandile’s mother and to Monty Jola’s Township Theatre Performance Group.
We look forward to a memorable evening.
Thanks for your support!”