Tag Archives: South African writers

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).

Soliloquy
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.

Calendar
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

An interview with Christopher Hope

Born in 1944 in Johannesburg, Christopher Hope was educated at Wits University and the University of Natal. He worked as a journalist in South Africa before moving to Paris and then London in 1975.

Hope has published four poetry collections: Whitewashes (1971), Cape Drives (1974), In the Country of the Black Pig (1981) and English Men (1985). He has also written nine works of fiction. His first novel, A Separate Development (1980), was banned in South Africa, but won Britain’s David Higham Prize for Best First Novel. Kruger’s Alp (1984) won the Whitbread Novel Award; Serenity House (1992) was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He has published four volumes of non-fiction: the autobiographical White Boy Running (1988), Moscow! Moscow! (1990), Signs of the Heart: Love and Death in Languedoc (1999) and Brothers Under the Skin: Travels in Tyranny (2003).

A playwright, broadcaster and journalist, Hope has travelled widely in Russia, Yugoslavia and Southeast Asia. He has written for The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The New Yorker and Le Monde. He lives in France and visits South Africa regularly.

Read my interview with Christopher here.