Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Potters in Limpopo
I wonder if I'll ever stop writing about South Africa. Two books, particularly Party and Fever Tree were filled with the place. Much of Party documents my first trip there with a new baby, toddler and their father - a visit in 1994, the year of the first South African elections, when we stayed in his mother's corrugated iron house, drove from Johannesburg to Cape Town, were refused a room for the night (police with guns were called), visited his old friends and more family in Soweto. Fever Tree shows a gentler, rural side of life in South Africa and in Commandments, the village of Mashau in Limpopo I have come to know so well is in the background of at least two poems, with the vastness of the Kruger national part stretching into the distance of another.
On a hillside in Mashau, Limpopo

Then in the summer of 2012 I was back there with Giya for her 18th birthday. We stayed at Risenga's place in Johannesburg but mostly in Mashau where he has built two round houses on the side of a hill. I didn't expect poems to come from this trip, but they did, inevitably because South Africa's like that - it throws images at you so fast, generously, sometimes alarmingly that some of them have to evolve into more than a transient impression.
At the Phiphidi Falls outside Sibasa

I thought two of these poems - Axes and Leaving Orange Farm - would fit in Woman's Head As Jug. Because when I trace the central image in the title poem of course it comes from South Africa, from the village of Mashau, from the sculptures of Noria Mabasa, from the co-operatives of women potters we visited, from all the women carrying what is needed for life. But the poems didn't fit anywhere, so they came out of WHAJ. One of them - Axes - found a place in Mslexia's winter 2013 issue, selected by Pascale Petit. Others are waiting to be sent out, others may yet be waiting to be written.
Leopard  mother (her cub's behind)