October 1994 was the first time I had a glimpse of Langa. From the air, as the domestic plane which brought me from Johannesburg descended toward Cape Town International, Langa looked like a massive quilt with uneven stitching.
Each time I leave and return to Cape Town I would see that imposing landscape. Yet I never set foot there, not until last Thursday, 17 May 2018. I drove to Langa for an event organised by the Jacana Literary Foundation to meet with local aspiring poets. It was a hastily put together affair, and despite the initial awkwardness it turned out into an eye-opening impromptu performance/sharing/workshop with all participants ending up laughing together as though we’d known each other for years.
Fellow poets Moses Seletisha (First Prize winner of the 2017 Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Award) and Rabbie Serumula were also there to share their thoughts and amazing words.
I read two poems by other poets and then one of my own (one of the three that was included in The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology VII).
Today I’ll share the one called “Lament for a Dead Cow” which I discovered by accident in the anthology Sunburst.
Last year I was invited to participate at the 2017 Franschhoek Literary Festival. Acclaimed poet Karin Schimke interviewed highly respected bilingual author Antjie Krog and myself. Antjie was promoting her book, Lady Anne (translated from the original Afrikaans) and I was presenting work from Wings of Smoke.
The engaging discussion was so wonderful and relaxed that we went a bit over the allotted time. Karin gave us more than enough room to read our poetry before an appreciative audience.
You may listen to the podcast on the FLF website under the title (28) I READ WHAT I LIKE.
I’m fortunate to share the news that I’ll be at the Franschhoek Literary Festival again this year!
The event, WINNING WORKS ALOUD, is sponsored by Jacana Media and will feature the three winners of the most recent Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award.
René Bohnen, Moses Shimo Seletisha and myself will be in conversation with Rabbie Serumula. It promises to be an exciting discussion as we tackle the challenges of writing in South Africa with special note of the various languages employed by the three poets.
More details to follow. Please join us! Here is the LINK to the FLF website.
A new South African website for poetry went up a few months ago called AVBOB POETRY. I wasn’t quite sold to the idea, but in the end I submitted 26 poems (I think) and a handful got accepted. Not sure if that’s a good rate or not, but a foot in the door is better than being completely shut out, right?
The poems had to deal with themes of love, birth, death and hope.
I’m still finding it tricky navigating the site, but my poems are up and free to read.
You have to search by title. So here they are (I can’t give links to each poem, you need to enter the title in the search box):
Window of Days
My Brother Lives on the Other Side
Falling in Reverse
Would You Hate Birds for Crossing Borders?
Song for Liesl
I don’t like talking about myself. I prefer sharing thoughts about other things – literary, or otherwise. You can chat to me about movies, music, the ant climbing up the side of a wall, or just about anything else.
Don’t ask me how to read my writing. Unless we’re in a workshop environment, don’t ask me to explain what I’m trying to say in my writing at all.
But every now and again I get asked to respond to particular questions for an interview that will be made public. I only agree to interviews if I think they would help me find more readers. Please don’t see it as a marketing ploy. I would hate that.
Read the interview, consider giving my work a chance to be discovered by new readers. Tell your friends about the interview. Tell them that you read my blog regularly – or have just discovered it today. I want people to adopt my paper children. They need warm homes.
So… here’s the link to Fixional where my latest interview appears.
Fixional recently published my trilogy of poems that were based on the cinematic masterpiece trilogy by Krzysztof Kieslowski, Three Colors: Blue, White, Red.
Forget me. Read my work. Please. Maraming salamat.
PS – I haven’t read he final version of the interview, was too excited to. If you find typos or errors, please tell me. Fixional used to be NoiseMedium, which awarded my poem “To be an Orc” the Grand Prize last year.
I’ll be participating on a panel discussion at the Franschhoek Literary Festival this Friday, 1430-1530, with highly respected poet Antjie Krog. We will be interviewed by Sue de Groot of the Sunday Times.
Here is a LINK TO THE PROGRAMME. The main website of FLF2017 has links to author profiles as well.
Wish me luck. Not sure I’ll know anyone there. Or them me. Haha.
PROMOTIONAL MATERIAL for Wings of Smoke
Please send me a request if you wish to read this sampler.
Wings of Smoke is available worldwide through The Onslaught Press website, on Amazon and, for South African readers, through me (leave a message here).
I also put up an audio recording of the set on Soundcloud.com.
More Wax than Human Remains
The late dictator’s image rendered
in wax, displayed in a Quiapo-quality
glass box, is what his family would love
to drag down from the North
all the way to sweltering Manila.
Only those who have lived
through the darkness might ask:
How many candles could they carve
out of his non-human remains?
Will his greatest admirer simply
mow us down with curses and bullets,
deaf as he is to any protest?
The above is the first draft. Here is the new version which I hope is a bit of an improvement, thanks to the generous members of my secret online poetry discussion group, The Boathouse:
More Wax than Human
The late dictator’s image
rendered in wax, displayed
in a Quiapo-quality glass box,
what his family and most touched
admirer would love to haul
all the way from the North
down to sweltering Manila.
Only those who have lived
through the darkness might ask:
How many candles
could they carve out
of his non-human remains?
THE NARRATIVE has always been that the body in the glass coffin in Batac, Ilocos Norte, lying there since 1993, is yet to be buried because the state refuses burial. As a result, the body lies embalmed until God knows when. There is an irreverent twist to it, sacrilegious even, that appeals to most cultural norms barring the desecration of the dead. In short, the message is: The state is cruel to disallow proper burial.
I have had two opportunities to visit the crypt of Ferdinand Marcos. The tourist gazer is usually led to an inner chamber inside the mausoleum just beside the family’s “ancestral house.” I enclose that in quotation marks because the house is anything but old; it is a new building designed to have fake, exposed “paletadas” so as to conjure antiquity; this is also part of the narrative. This first visit had an Imeldific air to it—the sound of choral cantatas filled the chamber.
The second visit some years later was unexpectedly and surprisingly revealing. A close Marcos family friend escorted us to the crypt. There in the stillness of the chamber (no choral cantata this time), looking down on the finely chiseled body of the deposed president—you could clearly see the veins on his hands, or so I thought—the family friend whispered: This body is just a wax replica, the real corpse had already been buried underneath. End of the narrative.