Jy blaai in die argief vir 2011 Oktober.

#83 Where does poetry begin? – Kyle Allan

Oktober 26, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

 Where does poetry begin?

Poetry begins in silence and transcends ourselves. A poem is both a message and a destination. A poem is both a process and an entirety. We are channels and also embodiers of the poem. Where does the poem end and another existence begin? And yet the poem is separate from us. As soon as we write or speak it takes on new life, like a child.

Should there be a message in poetry?

Poetry is the message. Poetry is our consciousness extended and revealed. It is a revelation of the link between things. Poetry is a synthetic process, combining many concepts and things into a unity. If there is poverty, write about it. Don’t shrink from existence. Art is about being awake to whatever form existence takes.

My favourite poets

Dante Alighieri, TS Eliot, Robert Lowell, Wopko Jensma, Kobus Moolman, Christopher Marlowe, Ike Mboneni Muila, Mxolisi Nyezwa, Shakespeare, Rainer Maria Rilke, Seithlamo Motsapi, Uche Nduka, Christopher Okigbo, to name only a few. I believe in our South African contemporary poetry – we have produced some great poets in recent decades. I rate Mxolisi Nyezwa to be the equal of a Lorca, yet most people in this country do not even know his name. Motsapi is mind-blowing. I am in awe of his reconstruction of syntax, yet he is not even in most compiled African anthologies. History will acknowledge him as one of the greatest poets of the continent. Muila is a modern Burns and ee cummings in one, but our scholarly elite regard his poetry as too far out – yet they appreciate James Joyce. Wopko Jensma is apocalyptic. You feel his words like portents in your body. Few modern writers are so powerfully stripped down. Kobus Moolman is like a messenger between the seen and the unseen. He is both a great symbolist and an imagist, a great estranger of language. Yet so many of our young people write as if these writers never existed.

The visionary writers like Mxolisi, Seithlamo and Khulile Nxumalo have decolonised English syntax and made powerful new systems out of it. Angifi Dladla is another amazing imagist poet. Don’t forget Isabella Matindoane. Her death is a tragic loss but no one seems to care. I also like Rustum Kozain and Steven Watson, and I ask why people are so afraid of writing long or longish poems? There seems to be an interdict against it or a scepticism in poetry’s qualities and essence. I work a full-time job, yet apply myself with discipline to writing poetry. My life and poetry flow into each other continually. It takes years to learn craftsmanship. Application is vital. Inspiration is the spark, but you must keep the fire burning with earnestness. And let me not forget Don Mclennan, who has thousands of imitators now. He stood for good values like a true painter: clarity of light; good use of language.

These are merely a couple of writers that come to mind, but in reality I am very open to experience. My veins are open to poetry in any form. What carries you as a poet is an attitude of openness, an ability to receive words, an understanding that wisdom begins in silence. To be potently overcome by deep silences.

I collate a poetry journal, Sibali, which is Zulu for brother-in-law. I have done only print versions so far, but I’m looking into doing an online version soon. I made a very big magazine, consisting of 116 pages long, a short while ago when I had sponsors. Unfortunately they lost interest. I ended up trying to print the magazine myself at home. What a crazy labour of love! The magazine’s contents were amazing, but self-publishing is hectic when you work from limited personal funds.

#82: Facing the future – Judy Croome

Oktober 13, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

My name is Judy. I am a bookaholic. I’ll buy a book I don’t need (and will probably never read) because I love the smell, the feel, the sight of it. I was the kind of person who threw out clothes to make cupboard space to store more books.

Until, that is, I discovered a new addiction: e-books.

At first, I resisted their seductive call.

Oh yes, I put up a good fight. I want a book to feel like a book, I said. A real book is printed on paper, I insisted. A book, I lamented, inhaling the familiar, musty scent of an ancient first edition, must smell like a book.

But then … I received my first Kindle. Smooth, sleek and black, it fitted in my hands just like, well, just like a real book.

Perhaps I’m just fickle, but less than a year after my introduction to e-books, my first choice for book-buying is an e-book (electronic book) over a p-book (paperback book.)

For both reader and writer, e-books bring advantages that p-books just can’t match.

E-books are:

  • Environmentally and cost-friendly. You never have to recycle an e-book to save a tree. And e-books generally cost less to produce (and buy) than a p-book.
  • Easy to read. Struggling with that thousand-page tome in size 10 font? No problem. Zoom in and resize your e-book to the font you want. No lights because of an Eskom power failure in your area? Again, no problem. Many e-readers incorporate built-in lighting devices. (Just make sure your battery is always charged.)
  • Easy to carry. In effect, you have a library on the go. When I’m on holiday, instead of having one suitcase filled with a selection of books, I have my Kindle library and hundreds of books to suit any reading mood.
  • Guilt-free. I have the bad habit of holding conversations with my books. I scribble notes and jot my thoughts in the margins, both of which effectively ruin the book for any other reader. With e-readers, you can make notes, reference them and delete them when you’re finished. No more hearing that voice in my head that makes me feel guilty for writing in A Book.
  • Permanently available everywhere internet technology exists. As a reader, how often have you found a new author you love and want to buy their backlist? Popular old stories are often unavailable or cost-prohibitive. E-books are permanently on the shelf to buy. For a writer, that’s a tantalising thought. Will some curious reader, a hundred years from now, on some space station heading towards Mars, download my book and be touched by it? With e-books, that’s not such a far-out scenario!

A remnant of loyalty to my old love compels me to confess that e-books are, sadly, not yet perfect. There are some disadvantages:

  • Resistance to change. Despite the acceleration of technological change leading to an increased recognition of its advantages, changes in human behavioural patterns do lag behind. People embrace change at their own pace, and many readers still prefer p-books.
  • Certain books are not suited to e-book format. Books with loads of photos, diagrams and pictures are not easy to read on the current crop of e-readers. I also find that I prefer to read poetry and reference books the old-fashioned way, in paperback.
  • Geographical and format restrictions. There’s an abundance of e-book formats, such as .mobi, .epub and .pdf. If you buy a Kindle, you can read only .mobi format. If you buy a Sony, you can’t read .mobi. So, which to buy? And, if you want to buy a particular book, will the geographical copyright restrictions allow you to purchase the e-book?
  • Power supply. To read your e-reader you need a power supply. Paper books never need recharging.
  • Not much fun to play with. How many paper aeroplanes can you make with an e-reader? None. And there’s nothing more satisfying than the thump an awful book makes when you throw it across the room. Pressing the Delete button on your e-reader doesn’t give quite the same satisfaction!

So, as both a reader and a writer, what do I face in the future?

For now, as the tsunami of technology currently changing the publishing industry continues to reshape the landscape of books, I’ll continue to read a mixture of e-books and p-books.

I have the feeling paper books will be around for a long time. But in ten years, when e-reader technology is that much more advanced and the innovative e-readers of today are the future’s dinosaurs, who knows how many paper books I’ll still be reading? I can’t begin to guess.

All I know for certain is that e-books are here to stay. And I’m seriously addicted to them.

Judy Croome lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was recently shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition, and other short stories and poems have appeared in Itch-e Magazine and “Notes from Underground Anthology”. Her independently published novel Dancing in the Shadows of Love is available from Loot.co.za and Amazon.com. Visit Judy on her blog, www.judycroome.blogspot.com.

#81: The Past is Another Country – Writing about the past in fiction – Clive Algar

Oktober 6, 2011 in Sonder kategorie

It was a bizarre but enjoyable experience for me to see my first novel, Journeys to the End of the World, on display in the bookshops in 2007, a few days after my 65th birthday. And when the reviews started coming in, with critics calling it “spellbinding”, “haunting”, and “riveting”, I decided that the experiment had been worthwhile, and that I would start work on my second one right away.

Although creative writing had always been my ambition, a busy career in the financial and mining industries left me with no time to write – and hardly any time to read for pleasure. During the latter part of my career I was based in London and my office was only a couple of blocks from the famous Hatchard’s bookshop. I bought wonderful books there and took them home, where they slowly gathered dust.

When I retired and returned to South Africa my wife and I settled on our small farm in the Western Cape, where for the first time in many years I could read what I wanted to, when I wanted to.

One of the subjects that I read was the history of World War I. My late father had served in the trenches of the Western Front and as a child I had asked him about the war, but apart from telling me a few amusing anecdotes he had always changed the subject. Later I realised that dredging up submerged memories of the horrors he had experienced there was extremely painful for him, even after the passage of so many years. He preferred not to look back.

I was also reading South African history, and I came across a remark by the missionary Dr John Philip about the behaviour of certain Khoi during the Hottentot Rebellion of 1799. The symptoms he described sounded similar to those of World War I shell shock. Around that time I noticed a newspaper article about post-traumatic stress disorder among present-day victims of crime, and suddenly I saw a link between South Africans of 1799, 1916 and the present time.

The opening line of LP Hartley’s novel The Go-between reads: “The past is another country – they do things differently there.” I believe in the wisdom of that line: it encapsulates a truth that any writer of historical fiction must acknowledge. The actions and motivations of characters set in the distant past cannot be fully comprehended by us today, because they are filtered through our experience of life as it is now. To attempt to interpret the lives and beliefs and motives of people from the past, the novelist must write about universal themes, about the human condition. As Isaiah Berlin said, “Intercommunication between cultures in time and space is possible only because what makes people human is common to them, and acts as a bridge between them.” I saw post-traumatic stress as a common factor, and from that grew the plot and characters of Journeys to the End of the World.

My second novel, Flowers in the Sand, published earlier this year, is set during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902, mainly during the closing months of the conflict. It is early days yet, but so far the critics have been kind enough to find it “completely engrossing”, “superbly written” and “a great adventure story”. Whatever other critics may say, I hope that my readers will understand and empathise with the troubled protagonist Emma, who, more than a century ago, struggled with moral dilemmas which threatened to overwhelm her.

Well, I am 69 now and my third novel (not set during a war this time) is currently being considered by a publisher. What can I hope to achieve in a writing career that started so late? There are two late bloomers that I admire: Giuseppe di Lampedusa because his only novel, The Leopard, was a great one, unfortunately published posthumously; and Mary Wesley, who was not a great novelist but was a great success. Mary’s first book was published when she was 70 and she went on to write many more, some of which had been made into films by the time she died at 90.

There’s not much satisfaction in being published posthumously, I would think, so if I may choose I’d like to do a Mary Wesley. Wouldn’t that be fun!


Journeys to the End of the World (ISBN 978-0-620-38334-9) and Flowers in the Sand (ISBN 978-0-620-47695-9) by Clive Algar are published by Penkelly Books, Cape Town ([email protected]) and are distributed by Helco ([email protected]). They are currently stocked by about 40 bookshops in South Africa and Namibia, and are available overseas via the website www.clivealgar.co.za or via Amazon.