The blog is back!

After more than three years I slowly return to blogging. Perhaps this time I will be able to sustain it a bit better.

Part of my problem was that my email changed and I foolishly forgot to update my details on the blog site. So when I thought about going back online I couldn’t remember my password, and couldn’t get it resent to me. There is a reason I am a writer not a computer fundi.

I was tempted to abandon this blog completely and start a new one. But, as often happens when you start to think about writing, as I journalled about the possibilities I got good ideas, including remembering the password. I often say that I think better with a pen in my hand. This week has given me concrete proof of this.

So, logged on, email updated, design refreshed and now I am ready to go. Now all I need is something to say. And the motivation to keep saying it. Which sort of sums up the writing life doesn’t it.


Two small stones

1 The West Coast Wind

it whistles and howls
prowling around the house
it rattles windows and slams doors
it blows the washing off the line
it blows the holiday-makers off the beach
clouds race across the sky
plants cling to their pots
trees sway, struggling to maintain their dignity
hands thrown up in disgust and despair
and the sand dances
over the dunes

2 – Incandescent

I lie in a white room:

white roof, nearly white walls

covered with black and white photographs.

The bedding is white,

as is the door, and the blinds,

closed to keep out the light.

If I looked in the mirror

my face would be white.

But I do not look.

I close my eyes,

seeking refuge in darkness

which is seared by white lightning.

More Music : The Rest of the Fest 3

What I know about music is dangerous. I don’t know who was more relieved when I stopped piano lessons as a child – me, my teacher, the piano, or the rest of the family who had endured my clanging. But just because I can not produce music myself doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. And being ignorant has advantages – I have attended concerts where friends have engaged in fierce debates about the merits of the various performers. While I just smile and think “That was nice”.

So I will not attempt to comment or critique the music I heard during the festival. Suffice to say that I enjoyed all the shows I went to. Which were:

18 Strings – Steve Newman, Nibs van der Spuy and Guy Buttery. All three were amazing, but it was particularly awesome when they played together. At one point I counted seven guitars on stage. And came away with two new cds for my collection (I already own several by Steve Newman).

Bach Goldberg Variations –  Zanta Hofmeyer (violin), Morkel Combrink (viola), Wessel Beukes (cello). Beautiful.

North Sea Big Band – jazz  A collaboration between jazz musicians from South Africa, Norway, Scandinavia and Finland. Wonderful stuff, with an amusing note when they included a vuvuzela.

Symphony – Cape Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra – conductor Richard Cock, soloist  Florian Uhlig, who was so good I almost wished I could play the piano. They played pieces by E von Reznicek, Robert Schumann and Antonin Dvorak.

Celso Duarte & Ensemble – music from Mexico, a mix of traditional, classical and jazz. Celso Duarte played the harp and many other instruments, accompanied by a wonderful group of musicians. I was fascinated by the unfamiliar instruments, particularly the guy who played what looked like the jawbone of a donkey!

Home from Home – Chris Mann and Nia – Chris Mann’s poems set to music, accompanied by local band Nia, against a backdrop of artwork by Julia Skeen.

It is coming!

No, I am not referring to that small sports event being held in South Africa.  I am talking about the National Arts Festival, starting in Grahamstown on 20 July 1010.

This is an annual extravaganza of art, with music, drama, dance, comedy, crafts, exhibitions, talks and much more. Grahamstown is transformed as thousands of artists, performers, stall holders and festinos flood into town. Even is you don’t attend a single show, the people watching potential of this event is enormous.

I love the festival, and am always excited when it finally starts. But I must admit that after a week I am getting tired and irritable and am quite ready for everyone to go home. So how I will cope with an extra long festival remains to be seen. While most events that usually happen in June and July  have been cancelled or rescheduled (you know, that small sporting event that we won’t mention), for some strange reason the organisers of the arts festival felt it would be a good idea to extend the run. From 10  to 15 days.

We are waiting to see if this is really a good idea. On the one hand, we might get a lot of extra visitors. Either foreign tourists who have come to South Africa to watch sport and decided to take a break from soccer for a bit of culture. And then there are South Africans from the host cities trying to avoid the sport. So this could be a bumper festival. On the other hand, it might be very quiet. I wonder how many people really want to travel at this time, what with expensive tickets and crowded airports to contend with.  And some days or nights it will pose a dilemma for festinos – do I got to a show, or do I stay at home and watch soccer?

In my case the answer will usually be  – go to a show. I already have several shows booked, and will add a few more to the list. I will blog about the shows I attend, here and on facebook. And will most likely be talking about little else over the next few weeks.

Let the games begin show start.

Happy Museum Day

18 May is International Museum Day. The theme for this year is “Museums for Social Harmony”. Something we can certainly do with in South Africa.

Museums record the history and culture of a country, a community. Apart from providing an interesting glimpse into the past, knowledge of where we came from can help us get to where we want to go. And hopefully avoid endlessly repeating the same mistakes.

Many people never visit museums, seeing them as boring places they were forced to visit as children. If you are one of those people, please consider visiting your local museum. You might be surprised.

New Coin

New Coin 45 (2), December 2009 is now out.

This journal of South African English poetry contains poems by Mari Ballott, Brett Beiles, Paulette Coetzee, Gail Dendy, John Eppel, Genna Gardini, Dawn Garisch, Basil George, Peter Horn, Anton Krueger, Liam Kruger, Ryan Eric Lamb, Carol Leff, Brent Meersman, Wanda Miles, Mandy Mitchell, M Soga Mlandu, Sabata-Mpho Mokae, Kobus Moolman, Tendai Mwanaka, Andile Ecalpar Nayika, David Priilaid, Dudu Saki, Ben Schermbrucker, Luisa Soares, Marelise van der Merwe, Megan van der Nest, David wa Maahlamela, Lindsay Wagner and Earnest Zitha. In addition there are reviews by Marike Beyers and Moira Richards.

To subscribe, purchase individual copies or submit poems for future issues please write to Up to six unpublished poems can be submitted. I am working on the June issue at the moment and will make final selections at the end of February. Any material received after February will be held for the December issue.

I include three short poems from the December 2009 issue:


on moving house

if only I’d taken up a
hobby like kayaking,
or flying a light aircraft;
instead of collecting books…
you know something easier
to pack up, not as heavy.



silver lining

a silver lining hovered
above the campus lawn and trees,
small figures passing to and from town
in the distance

above the colonial clock tower, edging
military battlements,
it snagged on size and shape
then floated free

(blowing out smoke, watching the dark clouds,
snagging on metaphor, I tried to write a real bright
shining silver nogal lining shining so brightly
no-one else noticed, I swear)



The Love of Trees

It was my grandfather
who taught me to love trees,
bending over my pram
under the great boughs.

“Right up to the top” he’d say,
pointing with work worn hands,
that later would hold mine
across countless streets,
write invisible maths equations
on the kitchen tablecloth
and build bookshelves
to hold future knowledge.

“Right up to the top” he’d say,
and the words filter back
in shafted sunlight
through the green.

Poetry Recommendations – 2009

One of the blogs I read regularly is Peony Moon by Michelle McGrane. Michelle is a wonderful poet in her own right (or would that be write:) and knows an immense amount about poetry. Her blog is filled with interviews, reviews and other information about the poetry world.

So I was delighted and honoured when she emailed me asking for my participation in a poetry project. Michelle has got a large group of poets from around the world to list their three favourite poetry collections of 2009.  Here is the link to one of eight entries, which, taken together provide a large list of books to be read.  Favourite Poetry Collections of 2009

Choosing  just three books was quite a challenge. There were several more that I would have liked to have mentioned. Then there are all the books published before 2009 that I only got round to reading last year, or reread. So here is my longer list, noting my favourites of the poetry books I read in 2009.

Impredehora – Yvette Christansë

Flashes – Carol Leff

The State of Poetry- Roger McGough

Burnt Offering – Joan Metelerkamp

Rage against the Beast – Sonwabo Meyi

Strange Fruit – Helen Moffet

Thirst – Mary Oliver

Séance for the Body – Wendy Woodward

Tongues of their Mothers – Makhosazana Xaba

Oleander – Fiona Zerbst