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.


Curtain up!

Sunday June 20 2010, Grahamstown. The National Arts Festival is officially open.

I have been watching the posters going up, scaffolding for seats being carried into halls, traders setting up stalls in High Street. And now it has all begun.

I have a busy festival ahead of me, with something on almost every night. I will try to blog on a daily basis about shows I have attended and any other interesting festival experiences.

At the moment, my favourite poster is one for a show called The Game. It shows a slightly manic face superimposed on a large green tennis ball. Underneath, in big friendly letters is the line: We are not coming! I have no idea what the show is about, but every time I see the poster it makes me laugh.

Festino moment of the set-up stage was seeing a group of traders putting up a tent, and quite happily tying their ropes around the optimistic sign saying “No Camping”. Somehow I think that is a losing battle.

I had a head start on festive events with two book launches this week. Thursday saw the launch of Chris Mann’s book Home from Home: New and Selected Poems. He performed a few poems with the group Nia. They have a show on at festival and if the three poems we heard were anything to go by, it will be worth attending. I bought a copy of the book and look forward to reading it once things have calmed down.

Then last night I was at another poetry launch, this time Kobus Moolman with his new collection, Light and After. Kobus read several poems which were moving and haunting. Needless to say, another book bought and added to my to be read pile.

Today I have two shows booked. First up is a play Breed and this evening I attend an a capella show, Goosebump Madrigals. Depending how I feel I might go to a comedy No Fat Jokes. How could I not like a show with a title like that. Although there is also the tempting thought of going home and watching the soccer.

My world cup activities will be somewhat curtailed now that the festival is upon us. Time to turn off the television and see live theatre.

New Coin on BookSA

 The latest issue of New Coin got a mention on BookSA, listing the poets included in the issue and giving three sample poems.
 BookSA is a vibrant site, giving a lot of interesting information about all aspects of South African literature. It is well worth visiting.  It is great to have New Coin included as one of the literary journals they promote, as poetry needs all the publicity available.

Reflections on Incwadi

The second issue of Incwadi is now out. Or would that be up? What is the correct term for an online journal? Any ideas?

Anyway, for those who have not yet discovered it, Incwadi is a lovely new online journal of poetry and photographs. The first issue appeared in October 2009 and it is expected to come out twice a year, in Autumn and Spring.  Kudos to the editor, Ingrid Andersen (herself a fine poet) for putting together a wonderful collection of words and images. I hope to see many more issues.

On a personal note, I was honoured to have two poems in the Spring 2009 issue . The latest issue contains one of my poems,  Reflections, along with work by poets such as Gary Cummiskey, Isobel Dixon, Finuala Dowling, Michelle McGrane, Kobus Moolman, Dan Wylie and Fiona Zerbst, to mention but a few. Why not visit the site to see who else is there and enjoy the poems.

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

Changing name

If anyone has actually been reading this blog from the beginning you will have noticed the name changing a few times. As a writer I find the titles to be the most difficult part of writing a poem, and it seems a blog is not very different.

A new year, a new title. Which will hopefully be the permanent name. I wanted to use the title of one of my poems and decided to go with The Crystal Calligrapher. Not only do I really like the poem, but after a life time of people making puns about my name, I figured I was entitled to do it too.

The poem The Crystal Calligrapher speaks about writing, which is the prime topic of this blog, and about painting with light; which is rather what we are doing as we blog. My words will be read, not on a page, but on a computer screen. I also like the idea of each entry being frozen in time, left to linger in cyberspace long after it was written, even after the writer has forgotten it and readers have faded away. Yet our words remain.

The Crystal Calligrapher (first published in Carapace)

the crystal calligrapher

is frozen in time

pen ever poised

painting with light