Tag Archives: South African poet

Joan Metelerkamp’s Burnt Offering

Body of work
Joan Metelerkamp

As coming upon
a puff-adder coiled on the carpet
under the desk
or a boomslang
slithered off out of its tracks
then its skin and later even
its bones …
perhaps they didn’t even know it
was done when it was done,
those alchemists,
perhaps it felt too easy –
like waking drugged out of sleep still
sloughing it off –
maybe they didn’t even feel better
for a while, if at all
after all
they didn’t know what they were doing
when they started
nor how terrible they’d feel
nor for how long –
they were dead scared
was it the fear itself or was it the fear
of mercury poisoning or the poisoning itself
god’s truth they must have got sick of it –
right arms aching down to the little finger
right side of the head aching
right down the back aching
sick of it sick of that vocation that exhaustion that compulsion
to make something of something as nothing
as love making matter what mattered
so little to anyone else if at all –
ridicule, poverty, social ostracism
they weren’t worried about those they worried
about their work
not working their fear not resolving
what they knew: what they were
working on
their material, their metal, to make
come like the mysterious body
they didn’t want to end up with
the same stuff they started with
the residue of the time before
all they knew they were
burning thickening melting
into air finding wanting
all they could ever hope for
From Burnt Offering (Modjaji Books, 2009).
Read my interview with Joan on Litnet.
To purchase Burnt Offering, contact Colleen Higgs at Modjaji Books: cdhiggs@gmail.com.

You are cordially invited to Burnt Offering’s launch – Joan will be reading – at the Cape Town Book Fair on 14 June 2009 from 17h30 to 18h30 at the DALRO Stage in the CTICC exhibition halls.

Why I Write

Poet and activist, Dustin Brookshire, invited me to contribute to his Why Do I Write series.
Why do I write?  Author, naturalist and environmental activist, Terry Tempest Williams, covers it all in one of my favourite writing quotes.  It’s from her prose piece entitled “Why I Write” in Writing Creative Nonfiction, edited by Carolyn Forché and Philip Gerard (Writer’s Digest Books, 2001).
This year’s contributors to the Why Do I Write series are Mary Jo Bang, Robert Pinsky, Ellen Steinbaum, Paul Lisicky, Virgil Suárez, D A Powell and Didi Menendez.  Last year’s line up included Charles Jensen, Erin Murphy, Dorianne Laux, Matthew Hittinger, Christopher Hennessy, Paul Hostovsky, Courtney Queeney, Julianna Baggott, Ellen Bass, Sandra Beasley, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Kurt Brown, Cecilia Woloch, Denise Duhamel and Dara Wier.
I think there’s something for everyone.

An interview on Poéfrika

I have an interview on Rethabile Masilo’s Poéfrika, an interesting and informative site for Africa-inspired writing. 
Rethabile, a Lesotho national living in France, asked me some challenging questions and I’ve contributed a line to an ongoing poem here.
This is the first in a series of poet interviews on Poéfrika, so stay connected to the site.

Isobel Dixon’s ‘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.

Hazel Frankel’s ‘Revelations’

Hazel Frankel
In the beginning we created
bone, blood, skin, breath,
as we surged, rose, touched, kissed,
and it was morning
and it was evening,
our first days,
and together we saw that it was good.
In the beginning were our words,
and they were yes, now, tomorrow, joy,
and it was green and golden,
it was wind and fire,
it was man and woman,
and together we thought we would last forever,
for we knew that it was good.
In the beginning
we were sand and ocean and heaven on earth.
Our light carved out the darkness
with the stars’ brightness
and the moon shone forever
as we were born over and over,
and the sun in your eyes told me it was good.
But as our love filled the darkness of our deep,
the waters of the firmament filled with our tears.
In the beginning we feared no end.
In the beginning
was our end.
from Drawing from Memory (Cinnamon Press, 2007)

Copies of Drawing from Memory may be purchased through the Cinnamon Press website, Amazon (UK) or directly from Hazel (franks@iafrica.com).
Drawing from Memory’s cover artwork is Hazel Frankel’s Red Painting.

Fiona Zerbst’s Time and again

Fiona Zerbst was born in Cape Town in 1969.  She has lived in Johannesburg and Cape Town and spent six months in Ukraine and Russia in 1995.  She published two books of poetry, Parting Shots (Carrefour Press) in 1991 and The Small Zone (Snailpress) in 1995.  “Soliloquy” and “Calendar” are from Fiona’s third collection, Time and again (UCT Younger Poets Series in association with Snailpress, 2002).

Fiona Zerbst

I listen. Everything that used to be
invades my room and silence in the air
that nurtures me, contains the sullen care
I feed on, sucks the future out of me.
In all this time, a memory would be
too sad; an inappropriate goodbye
might slip from me, or silence, with a sigh,
become some dubious poetry.

Protect me from the wordlessness of lips.
Come back and be the talk that can sustain
my breath, and be the one thing to remain
intact in every solitude that grips
my mind.  The darkness forming on the stair
could be my last, my greatest, love affair.

Fiona Zerbst

Tonight you’re struck
by miniature things.

A prickle of light,
a shadow of wings:

the shimmer a moth
gives off as it flutters

over the grass
away from the gutter

covered with leaves.
By saying his name,

you, too, fly dumbly
into a flame.

You’ve heard him leave.
The hunger within

dies down a while,
forgets its own din.

You look at the clock:
it mirrors your face

and all alterations
made in this place –

your social agenda
tacked to the wall,

the calendar picture
silent and small

beside the black numbers,
lovingly penned.

That picture: distraction.
Those numbers:  the end

Canopic Jar #22

I am pleased to have two poems (“The Art of Awakening” and
“The Blue Door Opens”) included in Canopic Jar #22.

This issue features:

Poetry by
Arlene Ang, Corey Mesler, Gabeba Baderoon, Isobel Dixon, John McCullough, Kay McKenzie Cooke, Lee Ann Pickrell, Lee Stern, Matthew Gillis, Michelle McGrane, Myesha Jenkins, Patrick Sullivan, Phillippa Yaa De Villiers, Rethabile Masilo, Rose Dewy Knickers, Ruth Sabath Rosenthal and Santiago De Dardano Turann.

Prose by
Amanda Lawrence Auverigne, Ash Hibbert, Bill Green, Liam Leddy, Polly Tuckett, Rick Nes Smith, Tom Sheehan and William Alexander.

Visual artwork by
Didi Menendez and Sarah Hasty Williams.

“Poetry is the language of the soul, the lingua franca of dreams”: An interview with Angifi Dladla

Angifi Dladla is a poet, playwright, writing teacher and coach based on the East Rand, South Africa.  His poetry has been published in many anthologies and journals locally and abroad.  In 2003 he was a playwright-in-residence in Geneva, where he wrote Kgodumodumo, a play about the protection of biodiversity and traditional knowledge.  His poetry collection, The Girl Who Then Feared To Sleep, was published in 2001.  In 1988 he founded the Community Life Network, a cultural organisation focusing on community building.  In 1987 he co-founded Bachaki Theatre in Johannesburg.  Their debut play Top Down – The Law of Nature, was the first in the history of South Africa to look into the belly of Bantu Education in the classroom, staff room and the headmaster’s office.

Read the full interview here.

Read more about Angifi here.

Read Angifi’s poems, “Flowers” and “Gathering Pieces”, here.

And more poems here.

Rustum Kozain’s ‘February harvest: Boland’

February harvest: Boland
Rustum Kozain

1. The grape picker

Her calves hard as stumps of vine
an old woman heaves a basket
like a hump to her back and hacks
a pearl of phlegm from her throat.

Daybreak. She yearns to taste
that warm and sweet sulphuric wine
and dreams of empty rows of vine:
one tot for each tenth load of grapes.

But the rows hang full and wait.
One foot in front of another
she stoops, bends knees and waist.
Soon, her brown and stick-gnarled arms

alternate to pluck and toss
          pluck and toss fat grapes
from vine to back-borne basket:
her limbs akimbo, like broken swastikas,

like vine barbing the still, persistent land.

2. Wine’s estate

The early sun bloats the long drop to such glut
odours clamour over the bluebottles’ buzz.

In the distance, a slit-eyed cock tries to crow
chokes on a crackling phrase, heaves for air.

At ten, the sun slows, hangs just there
like God’s diamond brooch to robes thinned by wear.

Under her fifth basket of grapes, the woman
bends so low over shrivelling leaf
she hears her sweat seep into the ground.

Thirsty, she lifts some grapes to her mouth
and feels them burst like a flush of blood
against her palate

her blood that’s fed the sand.
from This Carting Life (Kwela/Snailpress, 2005)
This Carting Life can be ordered here and here.
Read Rustum’s blog, Groundwork, here.

Marí Peté’s ‘Turning Six’

Durban poet Marí Peté grew up on the Eastern Highveld and has worked in e-learning at the Durban University of Technology since 1994.  Over a period of twenty years her poems have appeared in a number of literary journals.  Her first volume of poetry, Begin, was published by umSinsi Press in 2002.  Her second collection, Amytis (umSinsi Press), was published in 2007.

Turning Six
Marí Peté

For Megan

Tonight the sea births a grapefruit moon.
Vanilla lilies bloom.  The ceiling
goes see-through in her room.

She rises in a wispy gown.
Floats to the pond,
dips in her foot …

then, for the first time,
ever so slow
between her toes.

She draws her breath, glides in –
strange words pour
through the gap in her teeth
into liquid night.

The earth rumbles.
Koi bellies glow.
Geckoes on the wall
turn into rainbows.
Sleeping monkeys stir in trees.
Moles mumble in holes.
Stars tumble through indigo.

In the morning she wakes
back in bed, slips on a uniform,
shakes silver sprinkles from her hair.

At breakfast her dad grins,
her mom winks like the morning star:

‘You’re old enough now to know.
Remember, though, out there
you’re an ordinary girl …’