Tag Archives: Dye Hard Press

Gail Dendy’s Closer Than That

Gail Dendy was first published by Harold Pinter in 1993, her subsequent collections of poetry appearing in South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America respectively. Her poetry and, more recently, short stories, are regularly published in journals and anthologies. An internationally trained dancer, Gail helped pioneer Contemporary Dance in SA between the late 1970s and the early ’90s. Other passions are environmental- and animal-rights issues. She lives in Johannesburg together with her husband, pets, a law library, and a huge collection of rock ’n roll.

“Gail Dendy is one of South Africa’s most unmistakable and unique literary voices. The singing quality of her poetry soars and swoops, transporting the reader into a world of glittering magical realism. In this book a moon ripens in the window ‘whole and lemony once more’, mothers express longing and love, the sun and moon argue, there are gypsy women and a fantasy piece with Shakespearean characters. This book is truly alive, presented in language that ‘rings like a gong from here to the far end of the world’.”
“Gail Dendy has grown in stature as a poet … Her poems are intriguing and at times playful, and she is in complete control of her subtle lyrical gift and delicate technique.”
– Gus Ferguson
“Gail Dendy moves across the landscape of a remembered past, and fictionalises into imagined other lives … An important voice in South African poetry, Dendy’s words are delicately polished jewels.”
– Arja Salafranca
Peopling the Isle
          ‘Might I but through my prison once a day
          Behold this maid.’ – Ferdinand (The Tempest I, ii, 351–2)
You took your books and wound an island
as a silver ring about your finger.
I was there in the inlet, tussling
with a tide that had seen the moon
sleep badly one night, shoring wild, unholy dreams,
awakening with eyes spewing a milky pus
and a throat dry as thunder. I saw
your daughter, a godsend of perfunctoriness.
I didn’t bow. I didn’t kiss her hand
or make small talk. She lit a corner of the room
by shouldering its dank mustiness
and heaving it like logs on to a flame.
No one could hear her, though a night-jay
alighted in the pink dimple of her shoulder
and snatched at her ear before diving
through watery forests in search of
daybreak. It was then the hills
clawed backwards, snorted as though submerged
and with them the flotsam our ship had placed
on a luckless, unmarked spot. The sea blanched and stiffened.
We were trapped in ice the entire season.
After the thaw I sought her in impossible places,
laid feed for the birds, and took to kneeling
at each well to watch the moon in its stony berth.
Little good it did me. And so I cut
the pages of your books to use as canvas,
took matchsticks for rigging, icicles for wind-chimes,
and always the suspicion that she far preferred
the heat and stench of that brutish Caliban
who straddled the island like a bedded lover,
lifted his coin at the sight of her,
swore and cursed, filched her father’s goods,
and on heaven and hell loudly proclaimed
his sweaty oaths to sire some dozen like him,
cripple the pyramid of state, up-end the isle,
and so rinse this place in sore democracy.
The Search
And my mother would search for her hairpins
on my father’s side of the bed,
and in the morning would light the fire,
and we would break bread, and eat.
And she would search for us
in the damp forests, between
the owl’s call and the deer scent,
and when we came home, she would light a fire.
And she would light a fire
at bath time, and slip off her robe,
and soap her legs and her belly
and pin up her tresses, and braid them,
and I saw how she would light a fire
in my father’s eyes, and search in the mirror
for his approval, and he would stop
writing with his slim pencil,
and his eyes would search for the pins
in the grey snow of her hair,
and the deer were far away,
further than the owl’s call.
The Terrible Quest for Size Zero
Fashion photographers vaporise inside their own glare,
models’ legs appear never to be joined at the hips,
my hair is cinnamon coloured and braided to the hilt.
My daughter is aghast at her own weight,
stands at the mirror, towel across her shoulders,
cries. I can tell her she’s beautiful and attractive,
I can tell her she’s perfect for her size. I can tell her
she should take none of this to heart. She’s searching
for Size Zero while two doors away her father
is cutting down tree stumps, her grandmother is lost
in the woods, her brother is gambling away a fortune,
and her unborn sister knows neither breaststroke nor crawl.

My children have pulled the rain
thickly around their feet.
They have slept in the small cave
of an oak, have wrapped themselves
in nuts, and bark, and become green.
My children never speak.
I feed them honey and raisins
and make bird-sounds against the windows.
I sew little blankets for mice to amuse them.
The sky drifts and is still,
and I plug its leaking teats
with all the words I can think of.
I darn its blue blouse with consonants
and pick off the fluff of vowels
as white as sheep in the fields.
The oak tree is solid and my children
cling to its silence.
I have done with sleep.
In my dreams a prayer
fells the tree like an axe.

from Closer Than That (Dye Hard Press, 2011).
Closer Than That is soon to be available from Exclusive Books branches at an  estimated retail price of R105 or you can contact dyehardpress@iafrica.com.
Visit Dye Hard Press.

Five short excerpts from The Edge of Things

The Edge of Things (Dye Hard Press, 2011) consists of 24 South African short stories selected by Arja Salafranca. The contributors are Jayne Bauling, Arja Salafranca, Liesl Jobson, Gillian Schutte, Karina Magdalena Szczurek, Jenna Mervis, Jennifer Lean, Fred de Vries, Margie Orford, Aryan Kaganof, Bernard Levinson, Hamilton Wende, Pravasan Pillay, Beatrice Lamwaka, Hans Pienaar, Rosemund Handler, Tiah Beautement, Angelina N Sithebe, Jeanne Hromnik, David wa Maahlamela, Perd Booysen, Gail Dendy, Silke Heiss and Dan Wylie.
Arja Salafranca’s debut collection of short stories, The Thin Line, was published by Modjaji Books in 2010. She has published two collections of poetry, A life Stripped of Illusions, and The Fire in Which we Burn. Her poetry is also collected in Isis X (Botsotso). She received the 2010 Dalro Award for poetry and has twice received the Sanlam Award, for fiction and poetry. She edits the Life supplement in The Sunday Independent and is studying toward an MA in Creative Writing at Wits University.  
“The Edge of Things is an eclectic collection of short stories traversing a vast distance emotionally and intellectually. For example, Arja Salafranca’s moving story about a woman forced to live in a restrictive apparatus in ‘Iron Lung’ is a million miles away stylistically from Aryan Kaganof’s tale of decadence and debauchery on a night out in Durban in ‘Same Difference’. … Liesl Jobson’s ‘You Pay for The View: Twenty Tips for Super Pics’ is a series of verbal snapshots of pivotal moments of a mother trying to find a connection with her children. It is written with poignancy and deep longing. ‘Doubt’ by Gillian Schutte is an examination of how passion can seep out of a marriage once the chase is over and when feelings of irrelevance grow due to being part of a couple.”

– Janet Van Eeden, LitNet
“There are 24 pieces here, some of which qualify as short stories, others more like prose poems and descriptions of emotional experiences. Relationships are central, aloneness integral and fictional reality flexible. The collection displays a variety of writing styles. It includes pieces by some of South Africa’s well-known writers, but also some gems from lesser knowns, including Beatrice Lamwaka’s prize-worthy ‘Trophy’ and Dan Wylie’s tour-de-force, ‘Solitude’.”

Cape Times
You Pay For The View: Twenty Tips For Super Pics
Liesl Jobson
3.  Kill the flash
1998 – Bryanston, Sandton, Alexandra
Behind the lens I was possessed. I stood between the cars on Jan Smuts Avenue at sunset for a feature on traffic for the weekly community paper where I’d landed my first job. I composed drivers’ faces that squinted in the low light, homeward bound.
To catch the taillights, red as the sky, I turned my back to the drivers for their silhouette, impervious to danger. When the circus came to town, the elephant enclosure caught my eye. I unclipped the flash and edged in slowly to avoid startling the beast. The deep creases in its skin, the bright circle of its eye drew me in. A group of children gathered at the gate, keen for adventure. The elephant looked primal, flapped its ears, but I had super powers. The right shot would make front page. I worked the angle, pulling in closer. Disengaging eventually from the viewfinder to put in a new roll of film I snapped from my trance. The children had followed me in. We were all too close.
Gillian Schutte
She is walking on the side path of her married life – as she has been doing for a few years now. She has created this well-worn path out of necessity because the central path is cluttered up with ‘ifs’ and ‘whys’ and ‘maybes’. After years of clearing up others’ paths she is just too tired to bend down and pick up her own doubts. Besides there are very few empty spaces left to pack them. This circumvented pathway has led her to many possible encounters – mainly with men in white shoes. So far she has sidestepped them all – only slightly grateful for the amorous glint in the eyes of the wearers.
One day she collides with a tall man in tasteful black leathers. She, prudent by habit, looks into the horizon, for she has in her memory bank the knowledge that the heave she feels in her bosom could only mean trouble. In such circumstances any response could cause a hasty and astonished retreat, and this hardly seems right to her because if someone appears on her pathway, it is unfair that a natural chemistry should compel her to feel like the intruder. She sidesteps the man in the knowledge that it is already too late to steel herself against the onslaught of previously repressed passions and that this is sure to establish a penitentiary of emotional incoherence rather than her usual free will and forthrightness.
Telephoning The Enemy
Hans Pienaar
Pretoria, January, 1983
Victim number two: Johnny had to go all the way to Pretoria North to fetch his big box of slides because none of us had a photograph of Suzy. Now people hang around the dining room table and look at the slides of her, which Johnny took when she was on holiday with us. Most slides did not come out good, something about melting in the sun, but you can still see that she was a sexy woman, long tanned legs without any varicose veins, not a single one, although she was 36 already.
That’s why Johnny took so many slides of her. That’s why she didn’t last: she was too sexy. Her lover did not pitch up here. He never will, the pig. When the bomb exploded, he went off like he saw the green flag on Kyalami, instead of trying to help people.
I mean, can you believe this guy! It was him who got her to play hide and seek and always meet him on the other side of the block so that the people at work would not see them together. She would never have walked past the bomb otherwise.
Angelina N Sithebe
Two months later Jean received an unsigned email: I was terrified. I felt I was on an express train to an unknown destination. Before you were a shadow, now you have a face. I still dream about you.
Jean’s answer was brief: I long for you more. Where and when? What changed?
Sanele replied: I thought we might not have even three hundred and fifty hours to live; we don’t have the luxury of waiting three hundred and fifty years while we equalise the past to at least try to discover each other. Tell me where the contaminated beach is.
It took another two weeks before they made it to the bungalow in Vilankulo in Mozambique. ‘Is this the place of your dreams?’
Jean asked as he led her on the beach.
Sanele nodded. ‘I’m Judas.’
‘You’ll deceive nobody except us.’
‘I’ll disgrace all black people and future generations for four centuries of conquest and oppression.’
‘You can’t reverse history.’

Bus From Cape Town
David wa Maahlamela
When I told my friend I had made love to a stranger, with tons of arrogance he was like: ‘Yeah dude, I also did that before.’ ‘Inside the bus,’ I added. ‘Was it standing?’ ‘No, it was on the road’. I started seeing a storm of questions blustering from his face, his eyes gleaming enthusiasm. ‘Were there passengers inside?’ ‘Of course, yes!’ I replied. ‘Tell me you’re joking. How did you do it? How did it happen? Where? I mean …’ He curiously confused me with questions. I didn’t even know which one to answer first. ‘Hooooh, relax broer. I will explain everything.’
He moved his chair closer to mine and sat directly opposite to me, with eyes that said: ‘Go on. I’m all ears.’ Even though Aryan Kaganof says that writing about a nasty event is a lot less nasty than the event itself, with my friend I knew I had to try and tell it as it was.
To be honest, writers do not write everything about themselves. There’s a certain locked shelf which is always untouched, hence they know exactly the impression they are intending to give their readers. My birthday holiday to Cape Town ended up being filed in this do-not-touch shelf, but after seeing how thrilled and fascinated my friend was when I was sharing with him about this adventurous trip, I thought … why don’t I hide this little secret of mine in a book despite how earthly saints will judge me? After all, blessed are those who admit their sins, right?
The Edge of Things is available from Exclusive Books countrywide,
retail price R185.
Visit Arja’s blog here.
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Alan Finlay’s pushing from the riverbank

Alan Finlay lives in Johannesburg, where he works as a writer, researcher and editor. Previous collections of poetry including Burning Aloes (Dye Hard Press, 1994), No Free Sleeping with Donald Parenzee and Vonani Bila (Botsotso Publishing, 1998) and The Red Laughter of Guns in Green Summer Rain – chainpoems with Philip Zhuwao (Dye Hard Press, 2002). He started the literary publications Bleksem in the 1990s and later donga, an online poetry journal from 2003 to 2007. In 1994, with Robert Berold, he co-edited a collection of Eastern Cape school poetry called Parking Space (Institute for the Study of English in Africa). He has also co-edited a collection of new South African prose and poetry with Arja Salafranca called glass jars among trees (Jacana, 2003). Alan’s recent collection, pushing from the riverbank, was published by Dye Hard Press in 2010.

pushing from the riverbank
why do i wake up at four
in the morning and think:
“Now is the time to work
to finish the day before
it starts”? what day is it
just night sweeping over
us: as my little boy climbs
into bed beside me says
daddy i can’t sleep i want to
talk, and i’m lifting my eyes
heavy as doughnuts from
my own thoughts. Ok,
so what about? about
sharks and monsters when
i flush the toilet — remember
those? — and about you,
i’m thinking: my nightmare
smoking, thinking, smoking
what am i going to
do about that, the encroachment
of the neighbour’s wall the
inbox choking with e-mails
everywhere the world tilting
towards me the day so i
get up at night, four in the
morning, get it
started so i can push back
begin with a letter to the
neighbour, polite, legitimate
and underneath a growl i
don’t know if i have the
courage to carry through
not that i have to; but you
see the way things swing
while my kid worries about
monsters behind him vultures
descending as he runs
in his dreams and
i lie exposed on the
grass, waiting for death
what kind of life
is that, my chest
open like a lantern to insects
what kind of birth is that
they’ve got books at school
he says, where dinosaurs
really rip your flesh out
i saw it dad, in their mouths
bits of flesh struggling
while the neighbour hoists
a delicate strand of string
across the boundary
and gets it wrong. Again.
maybe i should tell him
that he’s got it wrong; her
that: you’ve got the boundary
          night capsizes into day
like a rowboat tilting from the
weight of light, deepening
     to one side.
i spear the fish, my child
says murky water he’s afraid
of things that move like the
cookiecutter at kei mouth
flashing past him with its
sand, past his leg, real
as anything. and what shark leers
towards me through my
murky dark that i’m up at four
click on the light, tea
cigarette, respond to
e-mails, it’s ok, i love
you, i say i say as if
to repeat myself: and feel the
pull as i push back with my
legs, from the riverbank
let go gently
so you might understand 
into the day.
from pushing from the riverbank (Dye Hard Press, 2010).
pushing from the riverbank is available at Exclusive Books outlets at an estimated retail price of R90. It can also be ordered directly from Dye Hard Press for R65, including postage, or R80 for overseas purchases. Contact dyehardpress@iafrica.com.
Visit Dye Hard Press online.