Category Archives: poetry

Langa, for the first time

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.

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Winning Works Aloud – my event at the 2018 Franschhoek Literary Festival

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.

banners for flf

 


Don’t be tricked into following the herd

Sometimes free means free. No strings attached. Here’s an early Christmas gift.

Fixional has made available my special trilogy of poems based on Krzystof Kieslowski’s Three Colours Trilogy of films.

While I’m at it, I’d like to thank the editors of the following websites and journals for publishing my work in the past. I have posted links to some of them previously.

Modern Poetry in Translation

 Aerodrome

Canopic Jar 

Houseboat

Black Friday Sales are being promoted extensively even here in South Africa. If you pause and think, it’s nothing but a way for shops and online retailers to offload old stock before the Christmas rush of new products to entice consumers. But really, they’re just material things you already have, perhaps newer versions with a few new bells and whistles. How soon after the feelgood rush of the purchase will you be made to crave for the next new iteration?

I don’t see the same when it comes to books, good books that aren’t designed to be replaced in a season. Or at least that’s the hope. So forgive my little sales pitch.

If you are outside of the Philippines, please consider ordering my new book, WINGS OF SMOKE, online via the following (or other decent retailers):

The Onslaught Press

The Book Depository

Amazon

But if you are in Manila, you’re in luck as https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FUSTPublishingHouse%2Fposts%2F1683897564963264&width=500” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>UST Publishing House has a sale of all my books they’ve published. Get all of them at a great discount!

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Brief Bio for an Anthology

I stare at it like the beginning of a flatline,
that dash next to my year of birth.
Two lines down, a paragraph with nothing
but blurry snapshots of a life
unwillingly summarised for imagined readers,
strangers, for posterity.

Then that uncontrollable laughter kicks in.
It is shrill, like the wailing of an ambulance,
and drowns out all dramatic gestures
I have conjured for myself
on that page. Delusions of grandeur
stripped naked on a stretcher.

Sometimes oneself can be the cruelest critic,
the first to hold the blade
against such tender skin.

June 2008
-o-

(from Alien to Any Skin, UST Publishing House, Manila 2011)

This poem came to mind when a good friend, SA poet Raphael d’Abdon shared his bionote poem with his friends on Facebook. I hope I haven’t posted this before here. The book where this poem first appeared, Alien to Any Skin, was published around August six years ago (if memory serves me right).

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Wings of Smoke gets reviewed on Eclectica Magazine

ECLETICA MAGAZINE wings of smoke

I’m always thankful for every reader who spends some time with my work – whether it’s a haiku attempt, an essay,  a story, a poem. Then there’s that completely different kind of high when someone not only reads a whole book, but writes a review to share what s/he feels about it.

Wings of Smoke received very warm reviews from Aerodrome and The FilAm. And now this one from Ecletica Magazine! Lovers of poetry will find Jennifer Finstrom’s review engaging and, I hope, make readers consider getting a copy of the book.


“Like a Log” on SoundCloud to mark UN Refugee Day

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I am bothered by news from back home. Internal displacement in Mindanao due to the fighting between government forces and the Maute group comes to mind. Disturbing news of the growing number of dead from the fighting as well as in the dire situation at refugee centers.

And then, of course, there is the ever-increasing number of people fleeing their own countries in desperation due to war. They try to cross treacherous seas, and, even if they survive, they are rarely met with open arms. They face borders.

Borders, before they become fences and walls, are imagined. Applied to people, they can easily be turned into tools of abuse, tools of turning one human being against another, tools of forgetting what happens when those armed and more powerful impose their will on the vulnerable.

Listening to the radio this morning, I learned it was Refugee Day.

I have never been a refugee. I’m an immigrant by choice – by luck. Even as all of us can be struck with a longing for our place of birth, the place where we took our first breath, tasted water, touched mud, got blinded by dust on a hot day, we can only imagine the struggles of refugees.

I’m sharing my poem, “Like a Log,” which first appeared in The Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology VI. I’ve also posted a voice recording on SoundCloud. The link is HERE.

 

Like a Log

 

“I’m not going to tell you another story,
my boy. You laugh too loud,” grandfather said
as I begged. His voice sounded
like it was coming from the village well

before it was blasted. The stories he told
came from a time when the sky
was not yet something to be feared.
His eyes, clouded with cataract,
only saw white shadows.

But he could sense when someone
was stirring awake. He began to fade
into the damp wood. I whispered to him,
“I am afraid of the dark and the sound
of water splashing against the sides

of the boat.” Grandfather held
my small hands and then patted
the tied up bundle mother left me
before they threw her overboard.

-o-


This Friday at Franschhoek

FLF2017

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.