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Patricia Schonstein

@ Books LIVE

Love is winged bolts of fire

“Love is winged bolts of fire. Love is flame. Water in flood cannot quench love, nor rivers wash it away.”

Some time ago, in a second hand book shop in Salt River, I imagined myself reciting these words from King Solomon’s Song of Songs to a random, handsome stranger, and thereby opening a conversation.

We were the only two customers, both of us in the poetry section. Perhaps because the stranger was paging through Ingrid Jonker, I idly wondered how love expressed itself in his life and whether he navigated its highways and byways competently. How did his arms hold? His hands caress? His mouth touch? Did he buy flowers? Did he remember important dates?

I paid for my purchases while reflecting on Ethelwyn Rebelo’s poem “Who”: “Who holds you at night in soap-smelling sheets, and the following day prays you safely home? … Who hungrily inhales your day’s perspiration?”

Months later, by absolute coincidence, I saw the man in the audience at the launch of Heart of Africa! He was alone.

 In the course of the evening, Emeritus Professor Richard Whitaker, one of the contributing poets, read from his translation from the Septuagint Greek of King Solomon’s Song of Songs. So the words I might have uttered to the stranger in the book shop, were now heard in full and in context.

Our paths had crossed twice, both times in poetic milieux. If they cross once more, perhaps I should introduce myself.

The launch of Heart of Africa! was a great success.

Professor Leon de Kok, another of the contributing poets, described it as “Lovely – sweet and dark and gentle.”

 

Who
Ethelwyn Rebelo

watches you dress, laughing
at you standing before the mirror
in clean socks, crazy underpants
and ironed shirt;
adores you putting on shined shoes;
smooths your shampooed hair;
kisses your face, feeling
its shaved softness even softer
against her lips;
and then the smooth scent of your neck
ahead of her cheek against your chest?
Who makes your scrubbed flesh her fingers’
playground as up and down groin and thigh they slide,
tracking the grooves beside?
Who holds you at night in soap-smelling sheets,
and the following day prays you safely home?
Who greets you with interesting or funny tales?
Who hungrily inhales
your day’s perspiration?

Who by Ethelwyn Rebelo from Africa! My Africa! An anthology of poems

Ethelwyn Rebelo is a poet who works as a psychologist at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital.

Painting: The Beloved by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Heart of Africa! Poems of love, loss and Longing
ISBN 978 0 620 60850 3
African Sun Press Cape Town

Please order from afpress@iafrica.com

 

 

 

 

 

The Gin Trap Leopard at The Old Biscuit Mill

Robert Vaccaro has sculpted a magnificent leopard from used gin traps.

It was unveiled earlier this month at The Old Biscuit Mill in Cape Town by Justin Bonello and Francis Garrard of the Conservation Action Trust.

In creating the sculpture, Vaccaro used just some of the 220 gin traps collected from eleven farms in the Baviaanskloof area.

The sculpture is a monument to the thousands of leopards and other natural predators that suffer agonising deaths in gin traps.

It highlights that wild animals have a right to life and that the use of such traps by farmers is barbaric. There are more humane ways of protecting livestock from predators.

When I lived in Grahamstown, I was once called to the museum to see a leopard that had been brought in after being shot by farmers in Kasouga.

The leopard was newly dead.

I sat with him in the taxidermist’s workshop, filled with a sense of loss and deep mourning, in the way I would sit some time later with my father’s dead body.

The leopard still smelt of the bush and wildness.

His fur had the last of its gloss to it.

Later I wrote a song for him.

 

The last leopard of Kasouga

The last leopard of Kasouga
Came walking out one day
‘Where are my friends? Have they been banished?’
Is what the eagles heard him say.

‘Go back! Go back!’ cried the eagles
‘Go back into the hills!
If the farmers see you coming
It’s you they’re going to kill!’

That last leopard of Kasouga
Came down into the farms
And when the farmers saw him coming
They called their dogs and took up arms.

They found him hiding in the branches
Of an old mimosa tree
The dogs were barking and the farmers
Would not let that leopard free.

It was the Brothers Long who shot him
Who took his life away
The eagles flew away in sorrow
On Kasouga’s saddest day.

Kasouga was the place the Bushmen
Once knew and loved so well
They called it ‘Place of Many Leopards’
Now there’s nothing left to tell.

 

Robert Vaccaro’s sculpture ‘Gin Trap Leopard’ is currently on loan from the Conservation Action Trust to The Old Biscuit Mill. It will be displayed in a number of public places in and around Cape Town to create awareness of the perils facing leopards in the Cape mountains as well as the threat of their extinction.
www.conservationaction.co.za www.landmarkfoundation.org.za

Recent research by the Landmark Foundation shows that only between 350 and 700 leopards survive in the wildernesses in and around the Cape Folded Mountains.

See http://www.landmarkfoundation.org.za/gin-traps.html and reflect on the extreme cruelty of gin traps.

The leopard in this photo was caught in a gin trap on a farm in the Uniondale district, Western Cape. It died of agony, dehydration and sepsis, and was left to rot.

 

 

 

 

The last leopard of Kasouga by Patricia Schonstein
from Saturday in Africa – living history through poetry
African Sun Press Cape Town
ISBN 978 1874915-05-08

 

Listening to Douglas reading a poem at Oranjezicht Market

It was a glorious Saturday.

All about were the good aromas of raw produce, newly baked bread, cakes, coffee and delicious vegetarian fare.

Children and puppies were tumbling about. Couples were enjoying each other.

There was a flower seller, a basket weaver and a sky full of blue.

Douglas had just read a new poem, “Another Cup of Tea” (a follow-on poem from his “A Cup of Tea”) when a lady approached us.

“May I take a photo?” she asked in American accent, so we struck a nice pose on the bench.

“Where d’ya get yer Trader Joe? I guess ya’ll have been to the States?” she asked, and we realised it was my grocery bag that she was interested in, not us.

She told us that my Trader Joe bag had caught her attention immediately she saw it, and she wanted to capture it, here in this park, in Africa.

We laughed and saw the encounter as poetic, agreeing on how wonderful this thing called poetry is. It can be found in a grocery bag – full of good things like olives and cheese. It can arise from misunderstandings and can draw strangers towards one another, unselfconsciously, in the warmth of a Saturday market.

 

Another cup of tea
© Douglas Reid Skinner, 2014

The sun comes up and finds him lying
in his bed, then on his bed,
finds him trying, quietly trying
not to cough, trying instead

to let his chest now quietly settle
after hours in darkness spent,
up and down, wracked by spasms,
stuck inside a coughing tent,

unable to clear, clear his chest,
unable to sleep and find that rest
of dreams in which he can imagine
drinking tea, no longer anxious,

dreams in which he calmly sits
alone at night and listening to
a river flowing in plane tree leaves,
dreams in which it’s always true

he’s still alive and drinking tea,
consoled by heat and taste and sound,
kept in a life that’s understood,
the life that’s shared above the ground.

 

Another Cup of Tea is a follow-on poem from A Cup of Tea, which appeared in Heaven: New & Selected Poems by Douglas Reid Skinner (South African English Poetry Series, ISBN 978-0-620-60116-0); published by Left Field Poetry, Cape Town.

Douglas Reid Skinner has published five collections of poems and one collection of translations.

 

 

The Poem as Light at the McGregor Poetry Festival 2014

Can poetry improve the human condition in a time of moral darkness?

This was one of the provocative questions I was asked at the McGregor Poetry Festival last month.

I answered with an extract from my novel, The Master’s Ruse. This is a tale set in an apocalyptic time, in an unnamed country ruled by a military junta, where literature and freedom of speech have been banned.

In this novel, the two central characters, both banned authors, discuss the concept of messianic energy and determine the best way for such energy to get through to humanity.

The ruling Junta burns books, so it’s impossible for a printed Biblios to be used to carry any message of redemption. The two authors conclude that it will be through a single, oral poem that this energy will present itself.

Such a poem would be recited by one person to another, passed from heart to heart, where it would heal and empower towards goodwill, serving as a shaft of illumination through humanity’s moral decline.

After my reading, while walking through the Temenos garden and later sitting in quietude at The Well, I reflected on authorial conscience and the responsibility that rests with writers, especially with poets.

It occurred to me that the Festival is not just a gathering of poets and celebration of words. It is deeper than that and more essential. The poets who gave generously of their creative energies were kindling an extraordinary flame – one that could indeed contribute towards illuminating our dark times.

 

Extract from The Master’s Ruse: “I thought to say that although books were banned, recitation would never be abolished. How could the civil guard silence the whispered ode, or the ululated praise poem, or the strummed ballad or the gestured haiku? Would they cut out the tongue of every citizen who spoke in rhyming couplets? Sew up all lips that uttered a fable?

“I thought to say that we should make use of this oral possibility and with it stitch morality and ethics back into place for, if not we authors, then who would do it? And if not in a literary way, then how would it ever be done?

“We could set in motion the release of literature and create the absolute of beauty with which to open the collective unconscious and instil peace therein. Enough of it to extinguish ignorance and break the cycle of war. Enough to end regimes and their concurrent genocides. Enough for humankind to look upon the earth, not as a possession, but as a cathedral into which we have been permitted to enter, momentarily, in the hugeness of time, in order only to pay homage. We could facilitate the messianic voice. We authors and poets together.

“Garbed as a poem, the messiah would indeed travel from heart to heart, undetected by military and mafia, by arms dealers and mining houses, by the architects of regime and junta. Dressed in verse, enrobed in meter and rhyme, the messiah would, without hindrance, illuminate humanity’s bleakest chambers.”

The McGregor Poetry Festival is the vision of Billy Kennedy, of Temenos Retreat in McGregor. The 2014 Festival was run by him with David Magner, Marinda Oosthuizen, Michael McKenzie and Jennifer Johnson.

https://www.facebook.com/PoetryInMcGregor?fref=ts

The Master’s Ruse
ISBN 978-1-874915-16-4
African Sun Press Cape Town

Swedish: Mästarens list Translated by Aslög Pontara
ISBN 97 89186307 301
Bokförlaget Tranan

Afrikaans: Die Meester se Verdigsel
Translated by Willemien van der Walt
ISBN
African Sun Press Cape Town

 

Image: Horace, at the home of his patron Maecenas, reciting a poem to Virgil, Varius, and Maecenas, in a painting in the Luxembourg Gallery in Paris as rendered in an old textbook of Horace. www.minervaclassics.com

Poems falling from Heaven at 2nd McGregor Poetry Festival

The town of McGregor is fast establishing itself as South Africa’s primary ‘Place of Poetry.’

It hosted the second bilingual McGregor Poetry Festival last month and launched an excellent anthology of poems. Once again it facilitated a wall-to-wall and street-to-street celebration of the deep and wondrous creative matter of the human soul.

Everywhere one saw poets and lovers of poetry with their books and journals and in discussion with one another.

Printed poems were strung from trees in the beautiful Temenos garden where many a poet met their muse. There were installations, exhibitions, workshops, discussions, musical recitals, outdoor musicians, an open-microphone and live readings.

Poets of calibre, established poets and emerging poets shared their work. Hugh Hodge – he of Off the Wall fame – hosted the Open Mic events which allowed for a good number of new voices, not heard before, to come forward.

Altogether, there was an abundant list of readings. Audiences were captivated by the poetic feast of “love-protest-praise-rap-lament-freeverse-haiku-doggerel-sonnet-ode-epic-lyric-humorous and more”.

“Why, it’s as though poems are falling down from Heaven,” said someone sitting next to me after listening to readings by Finuala Dowling & Graham Dukas.

 

Authority
Finuala Dowling

She’s glad she didn’t inherit my curly hair
and that I don’t try to act young
that I’d never join her at happy hour
or make her a friend on Facebook
or be on Facebook at all
or gate-crash her parties.

She sighs when she has to help me with my phone
or when I wear two pairs of sunglasses at the same time;
laughs when I ask “So what’s this festival called
‘Burn it all up in the Karoo’?”

But when she sits by the kettle with her friend
and the two blonde heads talk in depth about life:
– How do we heal things? How do we solve things?
Is this love?  And who are we anyway? –
all I hear is:
My mom says my mom says my mom says my mom says

 

An Olympian effort at the Mugg & Bean
Graham Dukas

The woman at the table opposite mine
tells the waitress that she won’t tolerate paper
around her giant lemon and poppy seed muffin,
although that’s how they’re baked here.

Her companion, her husband I gather
from his weathered and acquiescent bearing,
seems less concerned about the muffin’s appearance,
but she makes the decision for both of them.

And so the muffins arrive, without paper skirts,
but generously adorned with grated cheese
and something that looks like jellied tongue
but is probably just a dollop of cheap raspberry jam.

To the sound of Kris Kristofferson and Dolly Parton
going on about islands in the stream, the two dive in
and although she spews words for the duration
and he remains as quiet as the chair he sits on,

they get the muffins, cheese and cheap jam down
in much the same time. And I get to thinking
that this could become an Olympic event for couples –
muffin speed-eating for the dull and sadly adrift.

 

Authority by Finuala Dowling and An Olympian effort at the Mugg & Bean by Graham Dukas published in:
The McGregor Poetry Festival 2013 Anthology
ISBN978-0-620-62302-5
African Sun Press Cape Town

The McGregor Poetry Festival is the vision of Billy Kennedy, of Temenos Retreat in McGregor. The 2014 Festival was run by him with David Magner, Marinda Oosthuizen, Michael McKenzie and Jennifer Johnson.

https://www.facebook.com/PoetryInMcGregor?fref=ts

 

Finuala Dowling is a poet, novelist and creative writing teacher. Her poetry has won the Ingrid Jonker Prize, the Sanlam Prize and the Olive Schreiner Prize. She has read at the Aldeburgh Festival, at Snape Maltings and at all major South African literary festivals.

Graham Dukas divides his time between business management and strategy consulting, executive coaching and as a part-time teaching assistant at UCT’s School of Architecture. He started writing at a young age but lost his way as the demands of parenting and earning a living took over as priorities. In recent years he has returned to the pen, inspired by the simple experiences of this peculiar thing called life.

Reading Rod MacKenzie & Tatamkhulu Afrika at Cape Town Stadium

I arrived early, long before the crowds, and had the vast empty stadium to myself, so could rehearse my reading.

I took advantage of being alone and quiet after weeks of intense work.

The sky was an extreme blue.

Two crows flew back and forth across the wide expanse with calm easy, languid wing movements.

Two men were cutting the lawn of the football pitch, pushing their mowers steadily and with measured paces, in straight lines.

There was a deep sense of tranquility.

I read Rod MacKenzie and Tatamkhulu’s poems. Each is a child’s view of adult love. Both are innocent. One is sad.

At the McGregor Poetry Festival this coming weekend there will be many poets sharing their works. The town will be festooned with words and the myriad emotions of the human heart.

If you missed my reading at the stadium, you can hear it again at the Festival.


Child and couple
Rod MacKenzie

As a child I found a vlei of willows and reeds,
And played in its imaginary forest.
A stick was a gun with which I ruined
Empires of blackjack stalks and ruled my world.
Then one day a man and a woman came,
Strolling hand in hand, and I stalked behind,
Knowing they were enemies who had come
to spy in my land. They entered a grove
Of willows, hoping to find me, but I
Had slid behind some shrubbery on a hill
With a marvellous view of them below.
As they held each other with their secrets,
I decided I wouldn’t let them find me,
So I raised my stick and fired. they slowly
Fell to their knees, arms around each other,
Then I rattled off a longer round,
And it threw the man across the woman.
I watched and waited for any movement,
While their faces were pressed together.
After a rustling silence they subtly,
Secretly, began to move, hoping I
Wouldn’t see their crafty fumbling at zips
And buttons, their search for secret weapons.
I must have encouraged them, not making
Any sound, for they began to hurry.
They seemed to be softly crying for help,
I realised they had to have two-way radios
Hidden in breasts and bellies into which
They were whispering for help to find me.
So I fired another round into them,
And they writhed and clenched and called out.
A final burst, and they lay silent.
Their silence lasted so long I began
To feel the strange enormity of it.
Perhaps my game had somehow been for keeps.
In the deepening shadows of the trees
I couldn’t see if they still were. I slid
Down the hill and crawled behind a willow
Near where they lay. And it was somehow real
After all. They were there, covered with sweat
And stillness, and the strangeness of being real.

 

The stepfather
Tatamkhulu Afrika

He never looked at us while he ate,
spoke only to her his bitten-off thrown-away
brown pennies of words.
And yet his eyes seemed always on me,
black and slitted under lowering lids,
watching fork to mouth and fork to plate,
self-conscious Adam’s apple’s audible gulp,
uncontrollable faint tremblings of my hands.

He would eat prodigiously but without haste,
cutting meat into precise, manageable shapes,
re-mashing potato with a deliberate fork,
chewing, seemingly, without haste,
swabbing his plate clean with a bread-crust,
sitting back to wait for his second helping
without so much as word or glance,
palms on either side of the plate, eyes
travelling round the table at the level of our laps,
the liver-spotted fingers of his right hand
strangling his serviette.

Save for the odd handshake or mandatory kiss,
we never touched, and yet his smell,
a strange compound of turpentine and old flesh,
hung about me as would the stench
of something rotting in a drain,
seemingly alongside me like a living thing
on the mornings when he was away at work,
and I could creep into his and her room,
and stand there, legs split
into two worlds at the same time,
reading his Wild West magazines,
a buckaroo of the chaparral and sage,
yet taught as a tit at the thought
of his trapping me there,
the lash of his eyes more devastating
than any bullet from a bad guy’s gun.

Why she stayed with him I shall never know,
a caring woman who had ceased to care,
a dust that moved in distant corners of the rooms.
I saw them once, reflected in a glass door,
taking their siesta on the old brass bed,
lying on their backs, staring up
at the ceiling, as separate as
two figures on the lids of tombs.
A precocious child, I wondered whether
he still entered her, or she invited him …
and cried to myself, without,
to this day, knowing why.

 

The McGregor Poetry Festival
www.mcgregorpoetryfestival.co.za

 

 

Heart of Africa! –Poems of love, loss and longing
Selected by Patricia Schonstein
First published in 2014
African Sun Press
ISBN 978-0-620-60850-3
Order copies from: afpress@iafrica.com

 

 

 

The writing of a seventh novel

I conceptualised my new novel, The Inn at Hellsvlakte, in 2011, wanting to again examine, within a work of narrative fiction, humankind’s penchant for war.

I formulated the terrain of the story and sketched the central characters while travelling through Namibian wilderness with my husband and Ian & Sharon McCallum.

We spent a month in a dramatic landscape transformed by particularly good rains. Golden grasses had turned to green and the rivers were full and joyous. The whole journey was one of simplicity, depth, reflection, poetry and star-spangled nights where even the Magelenic Clouds were visible to the naked eye. Without cell-phone coverage, the outer world grew diminished and irrelevant.

Following my usual method of composition, I wrote the opening and closing chapters, in order to ‘secure’ the boundaries of the story, but then I put my notebook aside, deciding not to write the novel at all. It was to be a dark work, a Tragedy, and I presumed it would not find much response from publishers or agents.

Since then, over the years, the story has ‘lent with force’ against me and the characters have hovered at my door with quiet insistence. Latterly they entered my office, my creative hours and my dreams, requesting that I be gracious enough to grant them life.

So intense was their presence that I realised, obviously, that only I could give them life, could give their story life, because I had created the template of their existence in the first place. Whether or not the work ‘went anywhere’; whether or not it would be accepted for publication, I was duty bound to give life to what I had seeded.

So, beginning in July this year, and over a period of 40 days, I woke up each morning before dawn and wrote the daily 1 000 words that have led to the core manuscript of The Inn at Hellsvlakte.

I’ve never worked with such characters before – strong, purposeful people who wanted to exist, who wanted their story told and who are all still here in my room while I polish and embellish and work with the extreme and absolute colours of their world and relationships.

The lesson? Authorship is not just about getting published. It’s about being responsible to the craft. If you’re going to start telling a story, you’d better finish it.

Here is the cast of characters. Theirs is a love story. A tragedy. A tale of war and of the crafty engineers behind all war.  I have given them life and am exhausted now.

The Captain: Ulysses Malan
The Inn Keeper: Jon Jonker
The Inn Keeper’s Wife: Katinka ‘Kitty’ Cloete
The Inn Keeper’s Lover: Tana Jonkertjie
The Great-Aunt: Eugenie Cloete
The Young Man: Regal van der Stel
The Army Chaplain: Gabriel Grobler
The Archivist: Ariel Liebowitz
The Procurer: William Blythe Morris
The Transporter: Boaz Apelbaum
The Housekeeper: Iaga Klaasen
The Chief of Defence: General Quintus Winter
The Inn Staff: Klas, Kapi & Meita Jonkertjie

The Three Military Commissioners
The Military Artist
Various members of the Janse, Cloete and Van der Stel households
Various minor players

The Inn at Hellsvlakte
Patricia Schonstein
Unpublished manuscript 2014

Image: Albrecht Durer. Four riders of the Apocalypse

 

 

Poetry in the art of John Kramer

John Kramer’s evocative repertoire of paintings record the shops, corner cafés, bioscopes and general dealer stores of South African dorps and towns.

This formidable artist has captured onto canvas (over a forty-year career) the small, old buildings that are among the hallmarks of South African country life. Many have been replaced by branded chain-stores, or modernised or closed, so a view of Kramer’s works carries a certain pathos and lament.

Shadows, light, doors, gates, drapes, signs, advertising boards, shaded verandahs, peeling paint and bins make poetry.

The heat of the day, the colours burned by sun and the dry air juxtapose the invisible merchandise on the shelves inside.

Poetry is found in the signboards, among such words as Joko Tea, Coke, Boerewinkel, Slagtery, Kafee, Vrugte & Groente, Café Fast Foods, Haarkapper, Cash & Carry.

Sentiment is enticed by drawn blinds, by the paper stuck against windows of a closed-up store, by boarded-up doors and by old petrol pumps.

Meaning is sought, because Kramer’s streets are empty, with no people walking about, no shopping or purchasing being done. Even so we feel the richness, the character, the wealth of communication that these small stores once afforded and which some continue to give.

We know it is Sunday in each of these paintings – we hear the church bells ringing and are aware that people are going about their sabbath business.

 

Mr Ossher’s Trading Store
Grahamstown 1984

You can buy anything you want
in Mr Ossher’s Trading Store,
cotton on reels, bales of cloth,
beads, buckets, hats.
It’s dark inside
and the tailor sews the whole day long,
skirts and head cloths, aprons, bright shirts.
I like the smell –
dry goods, tobacco, soap, tea, new things, calico.
Mr Ossher is old already,
but he remembers everyone,
even the sons who go to the mines as boys
and come back men.
My mother keeps her money knotted inside her skirt,
counts out the coins on the counter,
there’s never enough.
She always sighs,
pushes something back across the counter,
maybe the soap,
till next time.
Outside it’s hot.
We stand in the shade.
Fried fish for sale,
nice pieces of meat cooked crisp.
My mother calls out to her friend
and they laugh together,
outside Mr Ossher’s Trading Store.
And I wait to be a woman, like her,
strong and with laughter,
to make the few coins do so much.

John Kramer  http://www.johnkramer.net/

Solo exhibition of new work by realist artist, John Kramer
Irma Stern Museum 6-27 September 2014 http://www.irmastern.co.za/exhibitions.htm

 

Mr Ossher’s Trading Store by Patricia Schonstein
from Saturday in Africa
ISBN 978 1874915-05-08
African Sun Press Cape Town


COMMENTS

  1. Shulamit says: September 13, 20143:38 am

    Nice, having a poetry reading alongside the painting exhibition. Thanks for sending the link to your blog. XXX.

  2. Ethelwyn Rebelo says: September 13, 20146:04 am

    Beautiful. Those trading stores were a wonderful hub where people could connect and look for unexpected treasures.

    SO GOOD to hear from you! Hope you are well? Hope the book you are writing is going well?

  3. Billy Kennedy says: September 13, 20147:18 am

    What a beautiful BLOG
    Thank you Patricia

  4. Ian McCallum says: September 13, 201412:15 pm

    a touch of class …

Turning poetry into storybooks

In my post-apocalyptic novel, The Master’s Ruse, I examine authorial conscience and the responsibility of authors to ‘up’ the human condition towards integrity and light.

It is a time of book burning. The central characters, an aging authoress and her close friend, a former university professor of literature, are both banned under draconian laws of censorship and martial control. They discuss, among literary matters, the concept of  messianic energy and redemption.

Central to the novel are their questions: How would messianic energy be revealed to humankind during these dark times? In what form? And what to redeem – earth or humanity?

They concur that messianic energy could never be rendered into human form, for it would surely be crushed by the junta in power. Nor could it take the form of a book, a ‘biblion’, for it would be cast upon a pyre. The only way messianic energy could restore humankind’s morality and ethics would be through poetry, indeed, through a single poem, which would be transposed from heart to heart.

In the fiction, a poem does take form. It is a love poem, addressed to the earth, to creation, and it begins its task of illuminating the collective human heart with an uncompromising bravado.

In the real world, away from my fiction, I’m attempting to use poetry in a restorative way through curatorship of three anthologies. These resound with the voices of three great groupings of poets – some are master-poets, some are well-established and others emerging. Together they weave a magnificent fabric of emotion and description.

Through the sale of these anthologies, I hope to generate the wherewithal to produce children’s books that are imbedded with loveliness; and to distribute a third of each print run to children who don’t have easy access to story books.

So it is with pleasure that I announce the launch of the first story book, funded by sales of poetry: Maggie, Mango and Scottie – an adventure in Africa.

Copies will be donated to Biblionef South Africa for distribution to schools and projects. The first two copies, hot off the press, went directly into the hands of children – one to Wedza in Zimbabwe and one to Khaylitsha in Cape Town.

I thank all the poets who generously allowed me to include their voices in the first three volumes in a proposed series of six.

And I thank all those who purchased copies of the anthologies, right at the start, when they were mere ideas; especially Monica Nagler, Oliver Munnik  Ruth Bloch, Leon & Miki Gittelson and members of the Swedish SAFRAN who put their names down for the first dozen copies of Africa! My Africa! without the blink of an eye, when I first mooted the idea.

Maggie, Mango and Scottie – An adventure in Africa
Patricia Schonstein Pinnock
African Sun Press ISBN 978-1-874915-21-8
Paper Back. Full colour illustrations. 32 pages

 

Africa! My Africa! An anthology of poems selected by Patricia Schonstein
ISBN 978-1-874915-20-1

Africa Ablaze! Poems & prose pieces of war & civil conflict selected by Patricia Schonstein
ISBN 978-1-874915-19-5

Heart of Africa! poems of love, loss and longing selected by Patricia Schonstein
ISBN 978-0-620-60850-3
African Sun Press: Publication date December 2014

These titles can be purchased directly from African Sun Press afpress@iafrica.com for donation to schools and projects.

 

 

An exchange between an anthologist and a gentleman

I’m delighted to announce that the manuscript of the third anthology in my Africa! series is  complete. I had the privilege of giving readings from it at one of Hugh Hodge’s recent Off-the-Wall live poetry events.

The anthology, now sitting on my designer’s table, waiting for cover and layout, is titled Heart of Africa! Poems of love, loss and longing. It opens with Richard Whitaker’s translation from the Septuagint Greek of selections from Solomon’s Song of Songs; and closes with his translations of Four poems by Callimachus and Three poems by Dioscorides.

Callimachus (310-240 BC) was from Cyrene in ancient Libya. He was a noted poet, critic and scholar at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. Dioscorides (3rd century BC) wrote epigrams. He lived and worked in Egypt.

I placed these sensuous, sometimes witty love poems from Antiquity at the beginning and end of the collection to form an embrace, within which to hold contemporary poems, all touched by Africa.

Initially, while I gathered the poems, love’s dark side emerged as a storming force. Strong, harsh expressions eclipsed gentler, romantic notions. Poets revealed deeply private feelings of betrayal, loss, remorse and spent passion.

At times, I felt like an intruder, entering scenes where by rights I should not be – places of emotional wreckage and pain. I stood among shredded love letters, stained sheets, discarded vows and melted down wedding rings. I noticed, in dark pits, the glitter of diamonds torn from engagement rings. I watched lovers weeping at the loss of the one they held more precious than any other.

At a certain point, the questions arose: ‘Is this what love is about? Is it all hurtful, dark-matter?’

This proved not to be, for, as the collection slowly grew, it began to reveal the infinitesimal detail of deep, intricate and true love.

We find the unadulterated first kiss, first touch and first breaking of all things virginal and are thus reminded of love’s sweetness.

There are some bursts of eroticism. Beautiful body-forms are draped on couches and beds or across wilderness settings. Wet and pulsing corporal landscapes serve as boudoirs. Some surprising details of bedroom intimacy are shared as well as a lot of imagined, longed-for love. There is the occasional touch of humour with some make-believe and pretence too, in unexpected milieux.

Running through all the poems, like an underground river or an electric charge, is the longing that we all have to be held by another; the longing to find meaning in that other; and to give back meaning in return.

It is the yearning for the Beloved and it is always the Lover speaking.

 

An exchange between an anthologist and a gentleman
At a literary tea party
Ivydene, Rondebosch 2014
Patricia Schonstein

‘I sent out a call for submissions,
For love poems.
Hundreds came in – well – that is, heaps were sent,
Yet, how strange, not one of them celebrates the male torso.’

       But my dear,
Homosexuality was criminalised until fairly recent times.

‘Yes, but surely, if the gay fellows are not ready to express it all,
One of the lady poets could do something with pecs and abs,
With those firm six-packs we always hear about,
The smooth skin, the male nipples …

‘I mean, I’ve been presented with a surplus of the female landscape –
Breasts, thighs, that gentle curve of the armpit,
The down-below areas …
But no male plateau, no male terrain, no dunes, no crevices,
None of the potent man-musculature …

‘Sorry, I’m going on a bit.
It’s just
That’s where my thoughts are at the moment.
I hope I’m not being too frank – gosh we’ve only just met!
But it’s a problem, you see,
Because, as it stands now, the anthology is weighted one way
Mostly, it’s sad women lamenting loss.

‘I’ve been scouring the city, looking for poems,
Listening to people speak, finding poems in their words,
Without hearing any erotic celebration of the man-body I’m looking for.

‘Surely, somewhere, there’s some Adonis,
Some Atlas, some Mark Anthony, some hot … hot …

‘Oh, I can hear myself sounding rather … I’m sorry …
Please excuse me.’

       Yes, I see. Shall we have another cup of tea?

 

 Heart of Africa! Poems of love, loss and longing
ISBN 978-0-620-60850-3
African Sun Press
Due for release December 2014 but we are now taking pre-publication orders

Africa! My Africa! An anthology of poems
ISBN 978-1-874915-20-1
African Sun Press

Africa Ablaze! Poems & prose pieces of war & civil conflict
ISBN 978-1-874915-19-5
African Sun Press

The Unknown Child – Poems of war, love and longing
ISBN 978-1-874915-15-7
African Sun Press

Please send your orders to: afpress@iafrica.com

Painting by RB Kitaj

Off the wall live poetry at Touch of Madness, Nuttall Road, Observatory, Cape Town every Monday night