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Patricia Schonstein

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

David Friedland’s poetry at Clarke’s Bookshop

David Friedland’s new collection, Perspectives, was launched ‘upstairs’ at Clarke’s this week.

Two deep leather armchairs, a Persian carpet on the floor, walls lined with books and framed prints, together with the evocative smell of old pages and binding, gave the sense of being in the study of an nineteenth-century gentleman.  We sipped wine and ate delicious snacks, then listened to readings of David’s insightful poems.

In the background, the hum of Long Street’s traffic and club noise added a nice touch to the occasion.

 

 

Perspective
David Friedland

I assured God that I was truly sorry
Hard as I tried
I just could not believe he was up there and everywhere
I could not leap into the void where faith is the only safety-net
His reticence and stealth made belief even harder

But imagine if I did believe
What gratitude I would feel
Always enveloped by love and beauty
Imagination to explore the nature of existence
The rich sounds and textures of the world
The beauty of music
The beauty of female-hood with or without love
As for my so-called disability
All I can say is damn this blindness
Isn’t that what they call having perspective?

In a London supermarket I gained real perspective
A dishevelled young man was peddling books
Only a dollar a dozen and all good stuff
I declined with thanks
But he nagged and nagged until I just blurted out
Leave me along with your damn books
Can’t you see I’m blind?
He thought a while and muttered
That’s a drag

 

Perspectives
by David Friedland
Quartz Press/ Snailpress
Cape Town
ISBN 978-0-9870026-2-4

Available from Clarke’s Bookshop: books@clarkesbooks.co.za

Launch photo © Don Pinnock

Reflecting on the Song of Solomon at the First McGregor Poetry Festival

The town of McGregor recently presented wall-to-wall and street-to-street poetry as the whole town ‘came out’ to become South Africa’s primary ‘place of poems’.

The event coincided with the winter solstice as well as the full moon moving across the sky within 357 000 kms of the earth, the closest it will be this year.

In its fullness, the moon seemed to be a bronze gong. It gave the sense that all the poems of the weekend would sound against it and then reverberate across the land in homage to the creative word. Later in the night, when it was high in the sky, a vast halo formed around it.

Yellow banners were strung all over the town, marking venues. They looked like Tibetan prayer flags. People strolled and stopped and read and listened and shared rhyme and verse in the crisp winter air. Everywhere, one saw poets and others writing in notebooks, or sipping wine, or feasting on simple delicious meals, in such lyrical postures that one yearned for all of life to be like this.

Threaded through the entire Festival was the mystical and exquisite Song of Solomon, a poem beloved to the Festival’s muse, Billy Kennedy, and made tangible in his garden of Temenos. The Song of Solomon formed the magical carpet upon which the Festival stood.

 

 

The First McGregor Poetry Festival was the vision of Billy Kennedy, of Temenos Retreat in McGregor.
He was assisted in making his dream come true by Jenny Johnson, Anne Binos, Annie Norgarb, David Magner, and Marinda Oosthuizen.
The bilingual Festival (20 – 23 June 2013) offered installations, exhibitions, workshops, discussions, musical recitals, outdoor musicians, an open-microphone and an abundant list of live readings by established and emerging poets.

 

http://billysblogtemenos.blogspot.com/2013/06/take-heart-my-friends-who-dare-to-dream.html?spref=fb

www.temenos.org.za

Photographs © Don Pinnock:
Full moon through tree
Full moon over McGregor Poetry Festival
Reflecting on The Song of Solomon in Temenos Garden

 

 

 

 

 

The Song of Songs of Solomon

One

The song of songs, which is Solomon’s.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee.
Draw me, we will run after thee: the king hath brought me into his chambers: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee.
I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon.
Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.
Tell me, O thou whom my soul loves, where thou feeds, where thou makes thy flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turns aside by the flocks of thy companions?
If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds’ tents.
I have compared thee, O my love, to a company of horses in Pharaoh’s chariots.
Thy cheeks are comely with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold.
We will make thee borders of gold with studs of silver.
While the king sits at his table, my spikenard sends forth the smell thereof.
A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.
My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphor in the vineyards of Engedi.
Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes.
Behold, thou art fair, my beloved, yea, pleasant: also our bed is green.
The beams of our house are cedar, and our rafters of fir.

Two

I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.
As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.
His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me.
I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.
The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.
My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he stands behind our wall, he looks forth at the windows, showing himself through the lattice.
My beloved spoke, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;
The fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.
Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feeds among the lilies.
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether.

Three

By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loves: I sought him, but I found him not.
I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loves: I sought him, but I found him not.
The watchmen that go about the city found me: to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loves?
It was but a little that I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loves: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.
I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes, and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.
Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all powders of the merchant?
Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel.
They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.
King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon.
He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem.
Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.

Four

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes within thy locks: thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from mount Gilead.
Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them.
Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely: thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
Thy neck is like the tower of David built for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies.
Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get me to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense.
Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.
Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.
Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.
How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!
Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.
A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.
Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphor, with spikenard,
Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices:
A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.
Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits.

Five

I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved.
I sleep, but my heart wakes: it is the voice of my beloved that knocks, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.
I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?
My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
I rose up to open to my beloved; and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with sweet smelling myrrh, upon the handles of the lock.
I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone: my soul failed when he spoke: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer.
The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.
What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us?
My beloved is white and ruddy, the chief among ten thousand.
His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.
His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.
His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.
His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.
His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Six

Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee.
My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.
I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feeds among the lilies.
Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.
Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me: thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Gilead.
Thy teeth are as a flock of sheep which go up from the washing, whereof every one bears twins, and there is not one barren among them.
As a piece of a pomegranate are thy temples within thy locks.
There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number.
My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.
Who is she that looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?
I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished and the pomegranates budded.
Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib.
Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.

Seven

How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter! the joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a cunning workman.
Thy navel is like a round goblet, which wants not liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies.
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins.
Thy neck is as a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fish-pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim: thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.
Thine head upon thee is like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king is held in the galleries.
How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!
This thy stature is like to a palm tree, and thy breasts to clusters of grapes.
I said, I will go up to the palm tree, I will take hold of the boughs thereof: now also thy breasts shall be as clusters of the vine, and the smell of thy nose like apples;
And the roof of thy mouth like the best wine for my beloved, that goes down sweetly, causing the lips of those that are asleep to speak.
I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.
Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages.
Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vine flourish, whether the tender grape appear, and the pomegranates bud forth: there will I give thee my loves.
The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved.

Eight

O that thou wert as my brother, that sucked the breasts of my mother! when I should find thee without, I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised.
I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother’s house, who would instruct me: I would cause thee to drink of spiced wine of the juice of my pomegranate.
His left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me.
I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, until he please.
Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved? I raised thee up under the apple tree: there thy mother brought thee forth: there she brought thee forth that bare thee.
Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.
We have a little sister, and she hath no breasts: what shall we do for our sister in the day when she shall be spoken for?
If she be a wall, we will build upon her a palace of silver: and if she be a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.
I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.
Solomon had a vineyard at Baalhamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver.
My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.
Thou that dwells in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice: cause me to hear it.
Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices.

 

Reading a poem by Margaret Epstein to Nguni cattle

 

The sun was just about to set. The trees of the nearby eucalyptus forest were a-roaring, as fierce cold wind raced through branches and leaves. The Nguni cattle were gathered on the plain, some lying down, some standing, with a quietude absolutely opposed to the noise of the wind.

When I began to recite the poem, the herd moved in towards the words. I opened my palms to them, sensing they might want to nudge at this praise that I had brought them. The sky deepened in colour and everything was a-splendour in anticipation of the moon which would later rise.

When it did, it resembled an Nguni hide – ash-white and with  its craters forming a dark mottled pattern.

 

 

 

 

Nguni herds
Margaret Epstein
Translated from the Afrikaans by the poet

Nguni herds
shift silently as spirits
Across the face of the earth.

Back and back they go,
generation upon generation
through Africa’s history,
forming a bond between man and beast.
Reckoned in honour,
pride and wealth.

To reflect an eternal
forming and dissolving pattern
of shadows and sunlight,
mud, pebbles, rocks
and grains of sand.

In the silence of heat,
under thorn tree branches,
alongside pools of water and cliffs,
across centuries
the sound of bellows,
the blowing of cattle breath
and voices calling,
echo through a haze of dust.

Spoor of cattle and men
lie stretched out over plains
and mountains.
Their marked skins and graves,
eternal signs of temporary ownership,
are alone and deserted,
lost, disintegrated in the veld,
forgotten.

Now we stand
in this time and place,
to admire Nguni cattle, their distant past,
innocence and patience,
patterns of spots, horns, blemishes
and intimate family conversations.

Remember the old links,
but loosen the bridle
of today’s constraints.
Free your thoughts to wander with us,
to dream.

 

Photos by © Don Pinnock
Poem Nguni herds  © Margaret Epstein
From the anthology Africa! My Africa!
ISBN 978-1-874915-20-1

Pearlie Theron chats to Patricia Schonstein following the launch of Africa! My Africa!

The encounter took place in the former premises of Clarke’s Bookshop in Long Street. This followed the removal of all shelves, books and furnishings to the shop’s new premises at 211 Long Street.

The conversation happened a few hours after the launch of Africa! My Africa! By then all guests had left so Miss Theron and Ms Schonstein cut recessive figures in the vacant shop, which was illuminated by a single strip of neon light.

Miss Theron was dressed in her iconic bridal gown and Ms Schonstein wore a black silk dress, with a beaded collar fashioned by Thuliswa Kraai of Khayalitsha.

PearlieTheron: Well, that was quite a launch! You must be thrilled. Were you expecting such a turn out? Who’d imagine a crowd like that, spilling out onto Long Street, for a poetry launch? What a guest list! Even Hakeem Kae-Kazim and Oliver Munnik were there. David Lurie and Sheila Fugard too. And how tenderly Sheila reminded us of Don McLennan’s magnificence by reading his poem.

Of course, I had a head-start coming early, and opening one of those bottles of Dragonridge Sangiovese, so my mood was already well-in-the-mood, as they say, all nice and mellow and ready for pathos and beauty. When everyone started arriving, I was rather overwhelmed to see so many of the poets themselves; and to hear them later read their own words. I loved heairng Philippa Namutebi Kabali-Kagwa sing that amazing Ugandan song before reading her poem. Fantastic! I believe Jonty Driver came out from England especially for the launch and to read his poems.

You’ve created quite a kaleidoscope of settings and images with this anthology. So many voices. Such a mix. Such a range. The poem by Patrick Cullinan, The Billiard Room, with all its rage, contrasted with the tenderness of Kerry Hammerton’s One Minute Lover and Ethelwyn Rebelo’s Who. And I must say those Found Poems are extraordinary. What a concept – poems being uttered by one person and then rendered by another. They deserve a book on their own, as probably do Hugh Hodge’s concise but bold text verses. By the way, I didn’t know that Mike Nicol and Consuelo Roland were poets as well as being novelists. And I loved your telling of meeting Tatamkhulu Afrika. Fancy him living in such humble circumstances in a wendy-house in someone’s yard. I agree with you, that he should have been cherished in his late years and given all sorts of awards.

And how fitting that you should launch here in Mr Clarke’s shop.  You mentioned meeting him in 1975 shortly after arriving in Cape Town from the old Rhodesia, and how he was prompted to tell you his amazing story when he learnt that your mother was Italian. I had a quick peek at Henrietta’s poster, in her office, just now, of The Resurrection. Yes, I’d agree with Aldous Huxley’s crediting it as being the most beautiful painting in the world. How wonderful that Mr Clarke allowed it to live on for us. Aah, Mr Clarke, one can still sense him here in his old shop, even though the books and shelves have gone next door to the new place. You were smart to launch here, in the shop-shell, this cavern, and then filling it with poetry.

Now, these poems all touched me in one way or another. Either for their poignancy, or for their simple beauty, or for their innocence, or for their courage. I wondered what you had in mind, and whether you had conceptualised the anthology right from the start, or whether it just grew organically. I see you’ve dedicated it to Stephen Watson and Patrick Cullinan. Yes, two giants of South African poetry, without doubt.

By the way, does former President de Klerk know he is now a published poet? I heard you read his words when Nancy Richards interviewed you on radio the other day. Strong words … life-changing words.

May I add one more thing? I like what you said about using poetry to heal society. To touch people’s hearts with it. To inspire with it.

Are you uncorking another bottle? You sweet-heart. I raise my glass to sonnets and odes and all the rest.

 

Photograph of the launch before the interview: Gaelen Pinnock
Miss Pearlie Theron declined to be photographed

 

 

 

 

Africa! My Africa! launched at Clarke’s Bookshop

The Cape Town launch of Africa! My Africa! was magnificent.

Held in the empty, former premises of Clarkes Bookshop in Long Street, there was hardly standing room and guests spilled out onto the pavement.
Poets featured in the anthology read their own works. Hugh Hodge of Off-the-Wall-Live-Poetry fame and the former editor of New Contrast, read poems by Stephen Watson and Patrick Cullinan, to whom the anthology is dedicated.

We drank wine and feasted on yummy finger foods.

Mr Anthony Clarke, the founder of the shop way back in 1956, was remembered for his heroic stand during World War 2. As a gunner officer, he had held back from firing at the Italian town of Sansepolcro, where German soldiers were thought to be hiding. By not firing into the town, Anthony Clarke saved from destruction the magnificent fresco by Piero de la Francesca, The Resurrection. It was appropriate to launch Africa! My Africa! in his shop, now empty of books, and to fill it with live poetry. (The books and the old atmosphere of Clarkes Bookshop have moved down the road to 199 Long Street)

The launch proved again that poetry is good for the soul. It should be read at bus stops and in taxis. Politicians should definitely be given books of verse to move their minds and hearts toward deep and inspiring things.

Yay! For the launch. Thanks to everyone involved. Three cheers for Henrietta and Isabel of Clarkes for hosting us and for the excellent wine!

Comment by Pearlie Theron: “This was such a fun launch. I was there early, coming in with the wine delivery, but before the chairs and snacks and mircrophone arrived. It felt poignant, walking about the empty shop, with its walls devoid of shelves and books. What a mercy that Henrietta Dax & Isabel Essery managed to score Number 199 Long Street and to take the entire atmosphere of Clarkes with them, lock-stock-and-a-billion-books, so to speak.

“I opened a bottle of Dragonridge Sangiovese and drank a few glasses on my own, toasting these two fine ladies and the visionary Anthony Clarke while waiting for Patricia & Hugh to arrive with all the launch paraphernalia.

Africa! My Africa! is a definitive collection: Evocative. Real. Pulsing. Resonant. I recommend that you keep a copy to dip into at all hours of the day and night.”

 

Photos by Gaelen Pinnock

Reading Hugh Hodge aloud on the London Underground

People were going by at a fast pace. Some were running to catch their trains. There was a sense of migration, of determined, instinct-driven movement. They had no time to stop, no time to focus on what was being read to them as they descended on escalators that plunged to the depths of underground London.

A long poem would have been lost. So short Text Messages were read. A commuter, pushing by, might have heard only a single line. Another might have heard only one word. But these would have been words like: Love. Honey. Light. Longing. You.  Mirror.  And they would have stuck like black-jacks to winter coats, determined to be noticed at home, later, and pondered.

On the escalator, a young boy was alerted to the word “galaxy” and looked enchanted. And a young man glanced across when he heard “each moment of eternity, my love” as though he thought it was the voice of a lost sweetheart lamenting him.

Ten text messages
Hugh Hodge

give oranges to sweet hearts
honey to lovers
pare fruit and dice
eat at passion’s table
drink deeply
hold your love’s gaze
lick your lips
remember to kiss

talk me down
O Icarus
I close the light
so heated I
wax and wane
flow and ebb
search your body
with my poet’s tongue
to articulate this
word unknown to
any man

a poet combs the horizon
at the edge of his longing
no distance is closer
than his heart or further
from his voice
so he sings his lullaby
to the morning light

even the wind knows nothing
of love how it is
nowhere and everywhere
how it speaks
in caress and roughness
how I turn to you
in this weather
this season’s quiet

filled with thoughts of you
almost pure
a joy I knew I had
carefully parcelled behind the hearth
waiting for the day
to bring out
and show you
who I am

could I count the ways
each pebble each powdered
galaxy each beat of hearts
each blink each song
each drop in the forest stream
each moment of eternity
my love

the circus leaves town
the trapeze artist sleeps
the lioness measures her cage
only the clown remains
serious under his mask
is that a tear
I see
in this mirror

she touches this edge
peels me
reveals the pith
and seed
that sweetness
the honey
of busy lives
and all with a song
of summer kisses
of watermelon sugar

black night
petrol pink
dawn sea
slick and still
and sacred
ibis queue
in space time
the stars lost
again and me
here too
hope and tide
turns another
cheek

send a perfumed letter
wear gold on your right hand
nothing else
to distract me
do not smile
or touch your throat
you are not naked
yet your body is song
dances

Hugh Hodge is the former editor of New Contrast. He is a published poet, writing facilitator and host of live poetry events.

Photos by Romaney Pinnock

From Africa! My Africa!  An anthology of poems selected by Patricia Schonstein. ISBN 978-1-874915-20-1
African Sun Press: afpress@iafrica.com

 

 

Reading Robert Berold aloud on the London Underground

It was not quite rush hour. Most commuters continued with their own thoughts or read newspapers.
Two men, strangers to each other, but sitting side by side, bowed their heads and clasped their hands, listening to the words.
The absolute intimacy of the poem, with its snap-shot-view into the lives of  other, distant commuters in the old Transvaal, had a certain fragility to it, as it was recited there, in that British subterranean setting.
Despite that fragility,  the poem’s landscape of pathos and goodwill held fast above the metal-on-metal sounds on the Piccadilly Line.

 

 

Travelling
Robert Berold

Our compartment is muscled
with knees and beercans.
Between coughing and grunting
speech comes thickly.
We are all white men, hairy,
the conversation is army and cars.

The man offers homemade bread,
homemade chicken, homemade chutney,
then his photocomics, westerns,
tapes of Elvis hits.
He’s a railway carriage inspector,
his wife stays behind on an isolated farm,
his strained convulsive anger
is destroying them both
and his dear son
rides his bike to the fences
and watches for trains.
Railways no longer use ironwood
in their sleepers or teak in their carriages,
it’s all concrete and aluminium now
and his son still wants to be a railwayman!

He got off at Vereeniging,
nothing cured his cold.
It was a kind of weeping.
It was weeping.

Robert Berold is a poet, editor and the publisher of Deep South books.  He is coordinator of the MA programme in Creative Writing at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.

Travelling from The door to the river by Robert Berold. Bateleur Press, 1984. ISBN 0-86975-175-1.

From Africa! My Africa!  An anthology of poems selected by Patricia Schonstein. ISBN 978-1-874915-20-1
African Sun Press: afpress@iafrica.com

Photo by Romaney Pinnock

 

 

Reading Haroon Aziz in London

Walking along the Thames, the sky was that gorgeous grey-blue-white of London and the air was wet.
Passers-by were preoccupied, texting, busy with getting somewhere.
There was a sense of choreography, of feet moving in time together, of a great creative flow.
The words of the poem were light, like chiffon.
Only the street sweeper stopped to listen.
Someone watched through a lace-curtain but could not hear because of the window’s double glazing.
The phone rang in the red booth and a dancer leapt as though in flight.

 

 

 

The dancer
For Phyllis Naidoo
Haroon Aziz

A fiesta
dances
in her breath
dressed
in the colours of patience

tap
tapping, with a whirl
and swirl of her skirt

the fiesta
of defiance
seizes
her soul

hypnotising
death

she
a daughter of strength
dances into
a mother of courage
pierces
bullets

death
falls
by her side.

 

This is one of the poems in the definitive anthology Africa! My Africa!  An anthology of poems selected by Patricia Schonstein
ISBN 978-1-874915-20-1

The selection brings together a wide, rich range of poems all held together by a simple yet deep honesty. The words of Nobel Laureates, well-established poets, emerging poets and even Cape Town’s homeless people share the pages, expressing eloquence and wit, and reminding us of poetry’s unique place in the landscape of the human heart.

Available from African Sun Press
afpress@iafrica.com

Photo by Romaney Pinnock

 

 

Reading Ithaca on the closing day of 2012

Sometimes a poem will take a lifetime to arrive.
And when it finally comes, you may wonder why it took so long, for you might have done better, in your journey through life, having had it with you sooner.
Carmel Rickard recently brought me ‘Ithaca’. In a candlelit room, with red wine and a meal ready to be blessed and eaten, the conversation quietly turned to this poem.

I recite it aloud now, on this closing day of 2012, sensing the words fill the thermals and spiral down upon the city.

 

 

 

Ithaca
Constantine P. Cavafy (1863-1933)
Translated from the Greek by © George Barbanis

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon — do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.

Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean.

 

 

Photograph by Don Pinnock

Reading Norman Clothier and Uys Krige in the vacated, former premises of Clarke’s Bookshop in Long Street

I  met Antony Clarke in 1975, in his bookshop in Long Street, when I first moved to Cape Town.

One day, in exchanging some details of our own histories, I told him that my mother was Italian. He then confided the remarkable story of how, as an Allied gunner officer during the Second World War, he had defied orders and held back from shelling the Tuscan town of Sansepolcro, where there were presumed to be German soldiers and the strong possibility of ambush.

What prevented him from giving the order to bombard the town was the memory of an essay written by Aldous Huxley. In that essay, Huxley had described The Resurrection, a fresco masterpiece by Piero della Francesca in Sansepolcro’s town hall, as being ‘The greatest painting in the world’.

Knowledge of Mr Clarke’s deed stunned me, for he would surely have been court martialled had there in fact been an ambush. I internalised his defiance as a benchmark of integrity in my understanding of war and destruction. ‘This should be in a book,’ I told him in a flush of youthful admiration.

Antony Clarke established Clarke’s Bookshop in 1956. It has traded at 211 Long Street since then and is now owned by Henrietta Dax. She has just this month had to move premises (a few doors down to number 199 Long Street) but has managed to relocate the shop’s atmosphere and spirit so entirely that one is hardly aware of the move at all.

Poems by Norman Clothier and Uys Krige were recited in the vacant premises of the ‘old shop’ in homage to Mr Clarke.

Libyan winter
Norman Clothier

There is so little earth, and so much cold
Grey sky clamped down upon us that we seem
Cut off from any kinship with the world,
That safe sane world we knew once in a dream.
We have been set apart like fallen souls
Without a past or future to fulfil
Blindly a driving destiny that hurls
Us on towards a goal beyond our will.
We only know that nights are long, and sleep
Comes slow to shivering men who lie
On cold hard ground, and dawn brings no respite,
Only the pallid sun and sullen sky.
Always on every side our trucks intrude
Their stark forbidding shapes above a plain
Of stones and yellow earth and grey dwarf scrub,
Bleak under wind and clouds that bring no rain.
The idle anxious days draw out their length
Into uncharted seas of time, and all
The urgent incidents that stirred us once
Are blurred and fading, lost beyond recall.
We know capricious death drones overhead,
And, more insistent as our column runs
Into the unknown battles we must fight,
Lurks in the thudding menace of the guns.
And we are trapped, for there is no escape
From this colossal tumbril as it reels
On its relentless way towards the fate
That waits us in the west before our wheels.
But still we trick ourselves with poignant dreams
Of half-forgotten days, and long in vain
For the old easy life we knew at home
In peace – that we shall never know again.
Those things are not for us; ours is the way
That lies over the desert under sombre skies
Past rusting blackened wrecks of trucks and tanks
And graves of men who blazed it in this guise.

Farm gate
Uys Krige
Translated from the Afrikaans by Jack Cope and the poet

Blood-red the aloes flank
the winding road.
As if aflame with leaping sparks each fire-lily glows.
But nothing, nothing stirs … only
a breeze that flows
that seems to pause and waver there
the grass-seed grows.

Above, the blue, blue sky;
and far below, the falling stream
drifts through the orchards with
a flash of green.
And no sound breaks the hovering peace
of this still mountain scene.

Now after all the years I’ll open
a gate again.
Where have my paths
till now not led
to bring me to this farm-road gate
with all illusions shed
but hope, hope in my heart
and clear dreams in my head?

The gate stands in
a maroola’s shade.
A wholeness in me, harmony
and no bitterness, no hate.
I lift the catch … and in my heart
open a gate.

 

Anthony Clarke was awarded the Freedom of City of Sansepolcro and a street – Via Anthony Clarke – was named in his honour.

Norman Clothier (1915- ) was a long-serving National President of the South African Legion. His poems appeared in numerous anthologies and one collection.

Uys Krige (1910-1987) was a multi-award winning South African writer, poet, playwright, translator, and war correspondent. He translated many of Shakespeare’s works into Afrikaans, as well as poems by Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda and Lope de Vega.

Africa! My Africa! An anthology of poems selected by Patricia Schonstein
African Sun Press
ISBN 978-1-874915-20-1
To order please email: afpress@iafrica.com

Author photos: Don Pinnock

The Resurrection by Piero della Francesca was painted in 1463.

Anthony Clarke