He had forgotten how to walk,
the child they found roosting
upside down in the cave depths,
cauled in silence and darkness,
arms folded across his chest.
For years he had gleaned beetles
from the chamber floor, snaffled
moths and mosquitoes in mid-air,
lapped from the silted pool at twilight.
Startled by halogen beams,
spelunkers’ thudding boots,
his family, roused from torpor,
had abandoned its crevices, swarmed
above the harnessed men,
through the hibernaculum mouth
and disappeared into the woods.
Now, monitored by behaviourists
behind an observation pane,
the boy huddles on a cot, his head
against his knees, eyes closed,
squeaking as if echolocation
might guide him home.
Shortlisted for the Sol Plaatjie European Union Poetry Award 2012.
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
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.
Launch at The Book Lounge
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.
My collection, The Suitable Girl, is now available to purchase at the Pindrop Press website (see the bottom of the author page for the Paypal link).
A copy will cost you £7.99 plus £1.00 postage in the United Kingdom or £7.99 plus £2.00 postage if you live overseas.
Alternatively, if you are resident in the United Kingdom, you can send a cheque for £8.99 payable, in sterling, to Pindrop Press, Mallards, Steers Place, Hadlow, Tonbridge, TN11 0HA.
“Michelle McGrane’s lovely book, The Suitable Girl, shows both a sophisticated range of reference from European history and classical mythology, together with a powerful and moving emotional address. There is great technical range here as well, which includes prose poems alongside sinewy lyrics; elegy jostles with imaginative sci-fi, humour with horror in language which is often as gorgeous as it is precise. This is a collection to be celebrated by knowledgeable readers of contemporary poetry, who will keenly anticipate her next.”
– Ian Duhig
“In this, her third collection, Michelle McGrane uncovers that which is transitory and ephemeral and lays it before us in a poetry that is as assured as it is tentative, confident as it is exploratory. Images flash brightly, voices overlap and the world as we experience it is transformed by language into ‘something rich and strange’. Her ear is well-attuned to the natural rhythms of the speaking voice; her tone invariably delicate and highly charged. Here is a poet who is sensitive to the thin membrane that separates us from each other and from the past. These remarkable poems act as a touchstone, a way of reassessing and remaking our perceptions of the world. Whether concentrating her talents into short, beautifully-wrought lyrics or allowing them to expand into sequences and longer poems, McGrane exhibits the same sensitivity to the possibilities of poetry. My contention for a long time is that poetry should be doing more – as it has done in the past and is still capable of doing. This fine collection – by turns meditative, subtly erotic, ‘a conspiracy of gossip and innuendoes’ – is ample proof of its author’s trust in the power of suggestion and evidence that poetry can indeed do more.”
– Ian Parks
The Art of Awakening
Pale-faced and resolute,
the four women wait
to step out of their ink drawing
and walk into the world.
Any second, you will see
a blue vein pulse, an eyelid flutter,
the stretching of a stiff neck.
the quickening breath,
the rapid heartbeat
as blood blossoms through the body.
How one woman
might turn to another
and with untried muscles, smile
before straightening her shoulders
and moving forward, slowly,
to enter the strange, mercurial light.
Ipatiev House, July 1918
Some days, we’re allowed a quiet hour
in the garden. The girls and I sit on the grass,
pearls and diamonds stitched into our corsets.
Alyoshenka dozes, confined to his wheelchair
since the sledding accident on the stairs at Tobolsk.
Yevgeny says he will never walk again.
Beneath palsied poplars, birches and limes,
Nicholas paces the pine palisade, split planks
imprisoning the Voznessenski Street property.
My husband has aged, trim beard streaked grey.
He never wanted to be Tsar.
I search the sky for sun-grazing comets,
the pattern and movement of cumulus clouds,
some divine sign from Our Friend, Rasputin.
A murder of crows recedes on dark wings,
cleaving light, fleeing our fated daguerreotype,
a strangled screech taking seed in my throat.
Note: In April 1918, Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, their five children and four retainers were confined to Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg. On 17 July 1918, the Romanov family and their servants were murdered by Bolsheviks in the house’s basement and their corpses buried in an unmarked grave outside the Siberian town.