POEM: Must travel

BY ABIGAIL GEORGE

(for my sister)

The day has
a mothlike quality to it. I make a cup of tea (always for one). Boil the
water in the
microwave oven while

old poems
make way for new poems. Once, I lived in grassroots country. Rural
countryside.
Mbabane, Swaziland.

(Boarding school). Slowly
my flesh is emptying out. Winter making way for spring’s milky sweetness,
summer’s pleasure and
waves of heat, autumn’s gift.

Slowly, I climb back
into their world. Standing in the sun sipping my cup of tea for one.
I sit and watch the
afternoon warming the page in front of me.

POEM: Winter Karoo Evening

BY CRAIG O’FLAHERTY

The dust road ahead
cuts dead straight
through the stony
semi-desert folds,
as if someone’s drawn it
from above.
To one side I see a
a small lit plaas window
winking in the darkness,
emboldened by the whistle
of a burnt kettle
sitting on its blue
ring of fire,
calling out into
the starlit cold.

POEM: Insomiac’s Dreaming

BY CECILY CAMARA

I float through my kind of house
late at night.
I eat exotic foods
which does nothing for my cholesterol.

I travel to places of interest to me
where I meet a stinking rich, very
old man who gives me the time of my life.
In return I promise to spoil him to death.
That’s without even getting out of bed.

WORK/Life: Antjie Krog

Antjie Krog by Antonia Steyn

Antjie Krog is the author of the Alan Paton Award-winning Country of My Skull and A Change of Tongue. Her first poetry collection, Dogter van Jefta, was published when she was aged 18; other collections include Mede-wete / Synapse and The Stars say ‘tsau’. The English edition of Lady Anne, a collection first released in Afrikaans in 1989, was recently published by Human & Rousseau in collaboration with Bucknell University Press.

Krog has been an extraordinary Professor of Literature and Philosophy at the University of the Western Cape since 2004.

What does “writing” mean?

Writing, for me, means to attempt to say the unsayable.

Which books changed your life?

I don’t read books that do not change my life. I expect of every novel or poetry volume to shift something in me so that I am a different person by the end of it.

Your favourite fictional character?

Petrus in Disgrace and maybe a real character such as Teboho Raboko who shouts in his Sefela: “Hail you, fire-speckled giraffe, Hail you quinea fowl, with water tearing upwards from your head.” And in Afrikaans, a character by Eugene Marais: My vaal sussie Gampta, “al wat ek in die wêreld het, buiten my ou ouma.”

What are you working on at the moment?

I try to return to poems. Just single individual and not-thought-about poems.

Describe your workspace.

I write poetry, or the beginning of poems on my bed. They are reworked on paper until they move to the computer. I only got a “study” with a surface exclusively for a laptop and dictionaries when I was around 47-years-old.

The most important instrument you use?

Pencil. Sharp. HB. A4 paper and a Pelikan rubber. That’s for poetry. For non-fiction: laptop and a good chair.

What’s your most productive time of day?

Half-past-four in the morning, for non-fiction. Poetry is like a big shit. It comes when it wants. If you squeeze it back, it will be hard and dry. So you must have “endless” time…

What do you do when you’re stuck, or not feeling creative?

I once read that a writer’s block has to do with ego, so I work on the ego.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

To sit down. To lift the pencil over the white empty page. To allow it to be a fishingrod lined into the unconscious, touching and lifting out shimmering fishes from below, fitted out to say what you try to say. The hardest thing about being a poet is that you don’t know when it will leave you – just one morning, and it’s gone, that heard-voice coming from you don’t know where. Gone. And as far as I can make out: it never returns.

What advice would you give to people starting out in a writing career?

I have no advice for younger poets in this technological age – coming from a time where the poem was what mattered, not the poet, her looks, her recipes, her relaxation methods, her self-doubt, his marriages, his Facebook page, agent or public utterances. That is why I didn’t answer some of your questions, those that I thought: jesus, what the fuck?

[Editor’s note: Those questions unanswered included “What do you dislike most about yourself?, “What are you afraid of?”, “What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?” and “How do you relax?”]

Lady Anne is published by Human & Rousseau.

Author photograph by Antonia Steyn.