Tag Archives: poems

Sharks, Poets and other Endangered Species

 
 
On Thursday, 30 July 2009, the Two Oceans Aquarium, in collaboration with the UCT Writers Series, will present DEEP: A Night of Creative Currents featuring Sharks, Poets and other Endangered Species.  The event is in support of the Aquarium’s Adopt-a-School Programme.
   
Tickets cost R40.00 and include entrance to the Two Oceans Aquarium and a free glass of wine on arrival.  Fairview will present cheese and wine and a cash bar will be available. Art, and books from the Book Lounge, will be on sale.  Doors open at 18h30 with performances starting at 19h00.
   
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Writers and poets have been inspired to speak and write in celebration and defence of the oceans.  In today’s rushed world there are fewer and fewer places available for contemplation and creativity, especially in cities.  Just as our creative spaces and practitioners are under threat, so too are our oceans and their creatures.  DEEP is an opportunity to celebrate the oceans and some of South Africa’s most creative artists.
  
Central to DEEP is the launch of Hyphen, a debut collection of poems by Tania van Schalkwyk, which is published by the UCT Writers Series.  Included in this collection are a number of poems inspired by the sea including ‘Siren Song’, ‘Abyss’, ‘Lionfish’ and ‘Water’.  Lindsey Collen, author of The Rape of Sita, Mutiny and Boy, and twice winner of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, Africa, said, “Tania van Schalkwyk’s poems are warm, sensuous memories that often shock and surprise at the same time … They are not just on inner space, but are poems of place, as they move from islands to the veld, from cities to the desert”.  No stranger to the Aquarium, having assisted with the launch of Shoreline Café, van Schalkwyk also curated DEEP in collaboration with Michelle Matthews of Electric Book Works.
  
The launch of Hyphen will be supported by a collection of three minute sea-inspired flash readings and performances by select poets and writers, including Gus Ferguson, Justin Fox, Sarah Lotz, Helen Moffett, Malika Lueen Ndlovu, Henrietta Rose-Innes and a collaborative piece by Toni Stuart, Michael Mwila Mambwe & James Jamala Safari.  The MC for the evening is the inimitable Suzy Bell; writer, columnist and pop culture aficionado.
  
Ferguson has had seven collections of poems and two books of cartoons published; Fox is deputy editor and senior photographer at Getaway magazine; Lotz is a scriptwriter-cum-krimi author with an insatiable greed for the macabre; Moffett has recently published her first collection of poems; Ndlovu is dedicated to creating indigenous multi-media works in line with her personal motto ” healing through creativity”; Rose-Innes won the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2008; Stuart works with young people, using poetry as a means of self-expression; DRC born Mambwe’s has performed on various stages from the Cape Town Book Fair to the Africa Centre’s Badilisha Poetry Exchange and Jamala Safari’s earliest artistic exposure came in the form of theatre at a young age in Bukavu, South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  
These well-known word-artists have a wealth of performance experience and publications behind their names and will give voice to the ocean’s deepest secrets.
  
Word art by Gabeba Baderoon, Gus Ferguson, Tania van Schalkwyk and others in The Vinyl Collection, will come to life against the backdrop of smaller exhibits in the Aquarium.  Baderoon is the author of three collections of poetry and was the recipient of the DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Poetry in 2005.
  
The evening will also feature seven short films including three from the City Breath ProjectWaitless, The Electrician and Omdat ek die stadsrumoer (Because I chose the city noise).  The writer of the latter film was blinded at age four, but at sixty-nine, still has vivid memories of visiting an aquarium.  A film, alpha, by Kai Lossgott, curator of the City Breath Project, will also be shown.  City Breath is an urban oral history video project which seeks to interrogate the official understandings of South African cities conveyed in television, film and other mass media.
  
Other film pieces include Umbilical Cord by poet/filmmaker Shelley Barry and Sea Orchestra and The Tale of How by the Blackheart Gang.  Barry’s films have been screened at major festivals and events around the world and The Tale of How has won numerous international awards, including “Best Independent Film” at the Bradford Animation Festival in London in 2006.
  
Artists Rebecca Townsend and Colwyn Thomas will show their work which will be available for purchase. Townsend works predominantly with glass and creates sculptural glass vessels that reveal the magic of the ordinary things we live with every day.  ‘Kelp’ by Thomas is a 12-part light-box installation which, according to Thomas, “is a rumination on some of the changes that take place when we grow up.”. Thomas is influenced by traditional and modern Japanese art and his works often show both humans and fish or animals in dreamscapes animated by trailing clouds, plants or jellyfish tendrils.
  
Local band Benguela will take to the stage against the spectacular backdrop of the I&J Predator Exhibit.  The trio, including Ross Campbell, Alex Bozas and Brydon Bolton, has played at many of the festivals around South Africa.  According to James Garner, “Benguela’s sound is an atmospheric, uncompromisingly adventurous fusion of constantly shifting elements…”  The name ‘Benguela’ is taken from the cold current running up the West Coast of southern Africa and reflects both the flowing nature of the music as well as being geographically representative of where the band came together and the climate in which they live.
  
Proceeds from DEEP will go towards the Aquarium’s Adopt-a-School Programme.  This programme provides the opportunity for children from previously disadvantaged schools to visit the Aquarium and to discover the wonders and beauty of the ocean and its inhabitants.  Such an opportunity can be a life-changing experience for these children and instill a deep and long-lasting appreciation for the oceans.
  
Tickets cost R40.00 and include entrance to the Two Oceans Aquarium and a free glass of wine on arrival.  Fairview will present cheese and wine and a cash bar will be available.  Art, and books from the Book Lounge, will be on sale.  Doors open at 18h30 with performances starting at 19h00.  For more information contact:
  
Helen Lockhart
Communications & Sustainability Manager
Two Oceans Aquarium
Tel: 021-418 3823
Email: helen.lockhart@aquarium.co.za
Website: www.aquarium.co.za

Tania van Schalkwyk’s Hyphen

   
    
Our Father
Tania van Schalkwyk
  
When you plunge your arms into the heavens unseen,
red-robed and lean, veins straining
to reach your god with this wafer –
all the women gathered want to fall on their knees
and pleasure you.
  
We clamber to receive Christ’s body from your beautiful hands,
naked and trembling, fingers touching
our lips, we kneel –
all us women tilt our heads back and offer
our belief to you.
  
We confess our sins to your body, hidden in darkness,
attention hovering between your imagined form
and the very real smell of you –
all us women who thirst for your blood, your gaze, forgiveness,
but mostly for the sacred in you.
  
We ask you to marry us,
to another man, another body, another life
and you oblige our wish, bless our union –
all us women get married, have babies, baptise our children
for the love of god in you.
  
We invite you to dinner at our family tables,
drink in your tales of redemption and duty
as you sip our wine, nibble our food, taste our hunger –
all us women watch you eat – and later
dream of being eaten by you.
  
  
 
Previously published in New Contrast
and included in Hyphen (The UCT Writers Series, 2009).
  
Read about Tania and Hyphen here.
   
For queries regarding Hyphen, please email:
info@electricbookworks.com.
   
Hyphen will be available on Amazon from mid-August 2009.

Laurie Byro’s The Bird Artists

Thanks to Pascale Petit, I’ve been introduced to Laurie Byro’s
The Bird Artists
   
   
Jane Eyre’s Daughter
Laurie Byro
  
I kept thinking I was Jane Eyre’s daughter.
I suspected my mother really wanted a son.
 
Fascinated with attics I foraged through chests
with breakable locks filled with baptism gowns,
 
sniffed among moth-balls for matchboxes
from exotic pool halls, hints of adoption papers.
 
I kept thinking I was Jane Eyre’s daughter, trying
to find myself in the travel section of the library
 
searching for a honeymoon in Katmandu.
St John bristled when I wanted our first dance
 
to be to the tune of Sexual Healing. Every one
broke off the engagement before the tickets’
 
non-refundable fee kicked in. I kept thinking
I was Jane Eyre’s daughter. Weddings
 
were unpleasant since I would rush in late,
panting “I object” for the sheer joy of seeing
 
horrified expressions, maids tearfully ringing
hands and not bells. Today as I left another
 
thwarted nuptial, four fine blackbirds watched me
from the wires which connected my rubber ball
 
heart to my deeply anticipated “his”. My mother,
Aunt Reed, dear crazy Bertha, and daddy
 
in his mourning coat: the grim four posed perfectly
still like chessmen while I crossed my bosom
 
which throbbed like the July sun and waited
with little patience for mother to play her next card.
 
 
from The Bird Artists.

Luke Kennard’s The Migraine Hotel

The Forms of Despair
Luke Kennard
 
We returned from the war happier, arms around our shadows –
Who claimed to be older than us. They told great jokes
  
And lay around barefoot, hair precisely
Unkempt, cigarettes hissing and glowing like christmas lights.
  
Only our fiancées were tired and bothersome,
Having forgotten how to love, or vice versa.
  
Some had moved to factories in other cities,
Others, when pressed, said, ‘No-one’s forcing you to put up with
     me.’
  
We went skating with our shadows,
Huddled under fir trees drinking sausage tea.
  
Inquisitive sheep collected around our camp;
It was good to be among the ice storm and the believers.
  
We described the funny pages to Simon – who had lost both his
     eyes
But the jokes didn’t work so well in description.
   
   
 
First published in The Migraine Hotel (Salt Publishing, 2009).
 
Read about Luke and The Migraine Hotel here.

Susan Richardson in Horizon Review

  
The second issue of Salt Publishing magazine, Horizon Review, edited by Jane Holland, is online.
  
Published alongside Fiona Sampson, Daljit Nagra, Jane Draycott and other wonderful poets, Susan Richardson has not one, two, three, but four exquisite poems in the issue here.  You won’t regret taking the time to read them.  Susan, I love them.
  
Jane, congratulations on a fabulous issue.

Isobel Dixon’s ‘She Comes Swimming’

  
 
She Comes Swimming
Isobel Dixon
 
She comes swimming to you, following
da Gama’s wake. The twisting Nile
won’t take her halfway far enough.
 
No, don’t imagine sirens – mermaid
beauty is too delicate and quick.
Nor does she have that radiance,
 
Botticelli’s Venus glow. No golden
goddess, she’s a southern
selkie-sister, dusky otter-girl
 
who breasts the cold Benguela, rides
the rough Atlantic swell, its chilly
tides, for leagues and leagues.
 
Her pelt is salty, soaked. Worn out,
she floats, a dark Ophelia, thinking
what it feels like just to sink
 
caressed by seaweed, nibbled by
a school of jewel-plated fish.
But with her chin tipped skyward
 
she can’t miss the Southern Cross
which now looks newly down on her,
a buttress for the roof of her familiar
 
hemisphere. She’s nearly there.
With wrinkled fingertips, she strokes
her rosary of ivory, bone and horn
 
and some black seed or stone
she can’t recall the name of,
only knows its rubbed-down feel.
 
And then she thanks her stars,
the ones she’s always known,
and flips herself, to find her rhythm
 
and her course again. On, southwards,
yes, much further south than this.
This time she’ll pay attention
 
to the names – not just the English,
Portuguese and Dutch, the splicings
and accretions of the years. She’ll search
 
for first names in that Urworld, find
her heart-land’s mother tongue.
Perhaps there’s no such language,
 
only touch – but that’s at least a dialect
still spoken there. She knows when she
arrives she’ll have to learn again,
 
so much forgotten, lost. And when
they put her to the test she fears
she’ll be found wanting, out of step.

But now what she must do is swim,
stay focused for each stroke,
until she feels the landshelf
 
far beneath her rise, a gentle slope
up to the rock, the Cape,
the Fairest Cape, Her Mother City
 
and its mountain, waiting, wrapped
in veils of cloud and smoke.
Then she must concentrate, dodge
 
nets and wrack, a plastic bag afloat –
a flaccid, shrunk albino ray –
until she’s close enough to touch
 
down on the seabed, stumble
to the beach – the glistening sand
as great a treasure as her Milky Way –
 
fall on her knees and plant a kiss
and her old string of beads,
her own explorer’s cross
 
into the cruel, fruitful earth at last.
She’s at your feet. Her heart
is beating fast. Her limbs are weak.
 
Make her look up. Tell her she’s home.
Don’t send her on her way again.

Isobel Dixon’s ‘Gemini’


 
Gemini
Isobel Dixon
  
Below my heart hang two pale women,
ghostly, gelid, sea-horse girls.
Without my telling you would never
see them, tiny tapioca clumps suspended
in the silt between my bones.
  
So nearly motionless, they are both breathing,
dreaming their amoebic dreams,
and I swear when I wake before dawn, try
vainly to return to mine, I hear them, faintly,
murmuring. But my ribs make a shallow hull
  
and one of them must go. Duck, bail out,
flushed into the sewage and the wider sea.
I can’t endure them both, adrift
among my vital parts, sizing each other up
with tadpole eyes. I must decide
  
and feed the lucky one. Let the other shrink,
dissolve back to this body’s salty soup.
Look closely at them: soulmates, secret
sharers, not-quite-siamese. Who stays,
who goes, which one of them is history?
  
She kicks up an almighty storm, makes
waves, enormous, tidal; while her sister’s
calm, pacific, dull. Our oil-on-troubled-water-
pourer, keeper of the peace. You choose
mark one who should be squeezed out
  
of this narrow vessel; voided, spilled,
to lighten, buoy me, make some space.
Plain sailing then, I’ll forge ahead, forget
her spectral presence, and a lifetime’s
sly, subversive whispering. Learn
  
single-mindedness at last. But when it’s well
and truly done, how will I know? Will I feel
relief, release, how the balance shifts
and settles; then walk straight, unpuzzled,
sure  or limp and stumble, still
obscurely troubled, phantom-limbed?
   
 
 
 
from A Fold in the Map (Salt Publishing, 2007)
   
Read more about Isobel and A Fold in the Map here.
   
Visit Isobel’s website here.

Myesha Jenkins’s ‘Food’

   
Born in 1948, Myesha Jenkins spent most of her life in California.  She graduated from the University of California, Riverside, with a BA degree in Black Studies.  She moved to South Africa from the San Francisco Bay Area where she was active in progressive politics, the women’s movement and the anti-apartheid struggle.  Her collection, Breaking the surface, was published by Timbila Poetry Project in 2005.
  
Food
Myesha Jenkins
 
My experience of life
is through food
entwined and embedded
in my memories
 
Home is ham hocks and pinto beans
brownies and corn pudding
reflecting the origins
of my south mama
my root
 
Cuba will always be
strong black coffee
and seven kinds of pork
at the Palacio Nacional
waiting to meet Fidel
 
Sourdough bread across the bridges
to the jeweled city of my discovery
of carnitas tacos and burritos
pad thai, mushu pork and pupusas
walking away crab cocktails
searching for myself
 
Years of planning and assessing
my little corner of the revolution
in Miriam’s Kitchen
or Manila Beach
through jasmin tea, jung and kimchee
or the occasional delivery of
coconut bread and codfish cakes
from Linda’s last visit to Brooklyn
 
The beginning of my end to drinking
Flor de Cana in Nicaragua
and it’s deadly equivalent in Hawaii
staggering to the beach
running from my dreams
 
My first shaky month in a new life
buying dinner “R2 a plate, mama”
from the bus stop to home
finding umngqushu and phutu,
koeksisters and all the kinds of curries
 
When I go to Cape Town
the trip is useless
without the Mexican, Thai, Japanese food
I crave as much
as the magic sea mountain
 
There is more.
 
Love will always be litchis
Summer is pineapple and mangoes
Indulgence is brie and a ton of seafood
or a Magnum chocolate bar
 
I wonder how much more of this life
I could live
without the food
swallowing all of my energy
to grow.

Gaia Holmes’s ‘House Clearance’

  
House Clearance
Gaia Holmes
 
Slowly she’s started clearing things out
starting with the useless items:
chipped china cups,
trust shot-through with hairline cracks,
orphaned plugs and fuse wire,
cupboards full of arguments,
the broken stereos
he’d planned to resurrect.
 
And then there are the things
she’d like to keep
but knows she’ll never use:
those bright, rich nights
that no longer fit,
the creaking songs
of the bed frame
now dull and flat
and out of key,
the sugared lovers’ lingo
that has settled like cobwebs
in the corners of the room.

And love, what’s left of it,
she boils up the bones,
flavours the vapid broth
with stock and spice,
sets up a soup shack
on the ragged edge of town
and serves it to the homeless,
the hungry, the loveless creatures
of the night.

Gaia Holmes’s ‘When he comes’

  
When he comes
Gaia Holmes
  
So this is it.
This is the night.
Downstairs the sofa
doesn’t know me anymore,
my occasional china
is cracking with boredom,
the front door
is guarded by foxgloves
and throttled
with toad-flax
and this is it.
This is me;
mad woman in the attic
sifting the air for gold-dust,
a circle of crushed moths
patterning the carpet
around my feet,
cold coffee at my elbow,
logic in a hip-flask
and I’m drinking wine
that tastes of hay
and Salamanca in July
and we’re all waiting
for the storm, an answer,
a fag-burn in the sky,
words etched into
the slick streets,
the soft porn
of rain
on the skylight window.
We’re all waiting
for our dead dogs
to rattle up the stairs.
We’re all waiting
for our grandmothers
to polish our eyes
with spit
on the corner
of a vest.
We’re all waiting
for someone to say our name
with meaning.
We’re all waiting,
ears angled cat-like,
waiting,
for a car to pull up,
waiting,
for inspiration
to open the door
and enter
smelling of life,
of blood,
of little deaths,
of unspeakable notions
and say I’m yours.
Take me now.