Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Learning to Love

Enlarge poem

(after Faiz)
FROM AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Here:
Some beads for the wave of your tresses
Bead them in hard, shiny against the jet black of your greying hair
Slaves were traded for them, fingers bled to thread them
They shine – little colourful skulls
Of the day of the dead from Mexico
I come from far, here: the beads
Plait them in the jet black of your graying hair
So I can learn to love you

Here:
Some tears for the dimple of your cheek
Run them slow, shiny against the narrow of your chin
Infants were killed for them, palms were leathered to collect them
They shine- sun-struck crystals
From the saltpans and the pampas
I come from far, here: the tears
Rain them softly against the narrow of your chin
So I can learn to love you

Here:
Some soot for your brow and lashes
Texture it in deep, a dark henna against your haunting eyes
Outcasts were starved for them, joints were cracked to scoop them
They haunt- tiny mirages of the desert
From the pit bogs and the crags of the equator
I come from far, here: the soot
Craft it in against your haunting eyes
So I can learn to love you

Here:
Some red pearls for your ears
Hang them low, crimson treasures from your softest lobes
Naked divers lost lungs for them, eardrums exploded to collect them
They pulse- little ripe pomegranate-seeds
From the reefs and the swells of the Red Sea
I come from far, here: the pearls
Pierce them through and hang them from your softest lobes
So I can learn to love you
Here is the soft pink for your lips
Smooth it over, soft and aromatic scent for a future kiss
Jews and pigs were boiled for them, chemists lost their skin for them
They entice- the madness between a heart and flower
From the vats and cauldrons of the subcontracted East
I come from far, here: the soft pink
Caress it on softly, an aromatic scent for a future kiss
So I can learn to love you
Leave your breasts bare
There is no mindless youth or loot to hide there
Leave them just there
Just there
So I can learn to love you

Ari Sitas

Featured Poem:

From Jazz, Bass and Land

Enlarge poem

From Jazz, Bass and Land

From Johnny Dyani
to Commandante Hani
an era ends.
Since then it’s money,
money. Money.

There on the right: – the Navy band all pomp and brass
they jita-bug
There on the left: the Shembe horn-men, poly-scalar
Wheeze-in, blast out
My friend Futshane with a bow guts the double-bass low
Wherever there is music, there is hope
The phrasing is Dyani’s, from Biko’s Song to an
Angolan Cry, the restless dead intone.
Faster than the wind
we are sleeping home tonight.

The bassist moves to the left and starts his tribute to Dyani
slow, controlled, promiscuous,
it hums into the eardrum, it plucks at the inside of the stomach
slow, controlled, as language fails each octave
each slide, each pluck.
You expect Moholo to rain on skins and cymbals
He is not there.
You expect Abdullah to place his left hand on the keys.
He is not there.
But from the left, taut, the guitar-man fiddles
pure maskandi, pure pele-pele, pure Madala Kunene fingers
circling on the strings, as if he left the streets
and is really talking to the stars
They meet to greet each other on every 16th pulse
Leaving the listener one breath short, a heartbeat far behind
as they are talking about some Mecca
or some spiritual den.

At that, my ethereal friend
Don Cherry gets his break on the cornet:
Crystals exploding from Timbuktu to LA
each screech or squawk shatters the peace
dragging the bass, stretching the chords to counterpoint.
This is the language between madness and rebirth
The final circus act of a tradition

Before the brink, the pianist brings it back
Yes, yes, Melvyn Peters- dreaming Coltrane
earning his dough from tourists who demand more crap-eases
the ear, upbeat-swing so low and merry, tonality returns, redeems
and Dyaniís bass responds pure cheek, pure wily nigger.

Oh no, Sazi Dlamini will not be outdone
and back from his Kunene-astral grooves
swinging chord and yoke, shining smile and blue
the Navy band breathes back to ooze
the Shembe horns awake to breathe. The bass responds
The big band soars and quietens
Leaving the trombone man alone
To grunt and exorcise the ghosts
The ugliest horn on earth, sheer chain
and joy
it obliges: even the ugly, love.

But no, who let Ngqawana in?
No build-up but a cataract – aggressive wails
burning his lungs while squealing each three beats
to pause and scream some more at something no one sees,
at something everybody feels

The chaos calls me, can I sing?
Where do I find the pitch to say and improvise my string?
The mike is trembling, Dyani, Hani, here we go
here is the sting- the tabla, drum and cello, guide me in:

Privatise the Sun
Copyright the Clouds
Before those others come
To steal our Rainbows

How does this featured poem make you feel?

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  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (1)
  • Captivation (1)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (1)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

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Biography

Ari Sitas is a poet, dramatist and sociologist. A founder member of the Junction Avenue theatre company in Johannesburg, he was involved in most of its productions until 1982 when he moved to Durban.

Sitas’s involvement in popular and worker theatre since the 1970s has been widely celebrated, his broader writing and involvement as a leading intellectual in anti-Apartheid movements has left a trail of robust engagements within and outside the country. In 1978 the theatre company received the Olive Schreiner Award for his play Randlords and Rotgut, and in 1981 won an award for the video/film Howl at the Moon. His first collection of poetry Tropical Scars (1989) met with much critical acclaim, and he followed this with a collection experimenting with musical form, was included in the anthology, Essential Things (1990). Sitas’s book, Slave Trades (2000), a result of seven years of research and writing has been highly praised. His last collection, The RDP Poems (2004) was his most disturbingly controversial with their precise and bleak analysis of current traumas in South Africa’s transition. Rough music (2014) is his current collection of poetry. Sitas has also penned a libretto for an opera for composer Jurgen Brauninger, Dead Fish and Dreams of Love Again.

Ari Sitas is considered to be one of the country’s leading sociologists and has been elected by the International Sociological Association on the executive of its world council. Locally, he is seen to be a central thinker around the African Renaissance and of social justice and labour movements. He is currently working on a collection of his plays, a take on Around the World in 80 days (of which the India section has been completed) and a series of lyrics titled Insurrections done in conjunction with other poets and composers from South Africa and India.

Ari Sitas

Biography

Ari Sitas is a poet, dramatist and sociologist. A founder member of the Junction Avenue theatre company in Johannesburg, he was involved in most of its productions until 1982 when he moved to Durban.

Sitas’s involvement in popular and worker theatre since the 1970s has been widely celebrated, his broader writing and involvement as a leading intellectual in anti-Apartheid movements has left a trail of robust engagements within and outside the country. In 1978 the theatre company received the Olive Schreiner Award for his play Randlords and Rotgut, and in 1981 won an award for the video/film Howl at the Moon. His first collection of poetry Tropical Scars (1989) met with much critical acclaim, and he followed this with a collection experimenting with musical form, was included in the anthology, Essential Things (1990). Sitas’s book, Slave Trades (2000), a result of seven years of research and writing has been highly praised. His last collection, The RDP Poems (2004) was his most disturbingly controversial with their precise and bleak analysis of current traumas in South Africa’s transition. Rough music (2014) is his current collection of poetry. Sitas has also penned a libretto for an opera for composer Jurgen Brauninger, Dead Fish and Dreams of Love Again.

Ari Sitas is considered to be one of the country’s leading sociologists and has been elected by the International Sociological Association on the executive of its world council. Locally, he is seen to be a central thinker around the African Renaissance and of social justice and labour movements. He is currently working on a collection of his plays, a take on Around the World in 80 days (of which the India section has been completed) and a series of lyrics titled Insurrections done in conjunction with other poets and composers from South Africa and India.

Learning to Love

Enlarge poem

(after Faiz)
FROM AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Here:
Some beads for the wave of your tresses
Bead them in hard, shiny against the jet black of your greying hair
Slaves were traded for them, fingers bled to thread them
They shine – little colourful skulls
Of the day of the dead from Mexico
I come from far, here: the beads
Plait them in the jet black of your graying hair
So I can learn to love you

Here:
Some tears for the dimple of your cheek
Run them slow, shiny against the narrow of your chin
Infants were killed for them, palms were leathered to collect them
They shine- sun-struck crystals
From the saltpans and the pampas
I come from far, here: the tears
Rain them softly against the narrow of your chin
So I can learn to love you

Here:
Some soot for your brow and lashes
Texture it in deep, a dark henna against your haunting eyes
Outcasts were starved for them, joints were cracked to scoop them
They haunt- tiny mirages of the desert
From the pit bogs and the crags of the equator
I come from far, here: the soot
Craft it in against your haunting eyes
So I can learn to love you

Here:
Some red pearls for your ears
Hang them low, crimson treasures from your softest lobes
Naked divers lost lungs for them, eardrums exploded to collect them
They pulse- little ripe pomegranate-seeds
From the reefs and the swells of the Red Sea
I come from far, here: the pearls
Pierce them through and hang them from your softest lobes
So I can learn to love you
Here is the soft pink for your lips
Smooth it over, soft and aromatic scent for a future kiss
Jews and pigs were boiled for them, chemists lost their skin for them
They entice- the madness between a heart and flower
From the vats and cauldrons of the subcontracted East
I come from far, here: the soft pink
Caress it on softly, an aromatic scent for a future kiss
So I can learn to love you
Leave your breasts bare
There is no mindless youth or loot to hide there
Leave them just there
Just there
So I can learn to love you

Featured Poem:

From Jazz, Bass and Land

Enlarge poem

From Jazz, Bass and Land

From Johnny Dyani
to Commandante Hani
an era ends.
Since then it’s money,
money. Money.

There on the right: – the Navy band all pomp and brass
they jita-bug
There on the left: the Shembe horn-men, poly-scalar
Wheeze-in, blast out
My friend Futshane with a bow guts the double-bass low
Wherever there is music, there is hope
The phrasing is Dyani’s, from Biko’s Song to an
Angolan Cry, the restless dead intone.
Faster than the wind
we are sleeping home tonight.

The bassist moves to the left and starts his tribute to Dyani
slow, controlled, promiscuous,
it hums into the eardrum, it plucks at the inside of the stomach
slow, controlled, as language fails each octave
each slide, each pluck.
You expect Moholo to rain on skins and cymbals
He is not there.
You expect Abdullah to place his left hand on the keys.
He is not there.
But from the left, taut, the guitar-man fiddles
pure maskandi, pure pele-pele, pure Madala Kunene fingers
circling on the strings, as if he left the streets
and is really talking to the stars
They meet to greet each other on every 16th pulse
Leaving the listener one breath short, a heartbeat far behind
as they are talking about some Mecca
or some spiritual den.

At that, my ethereal friend
Don Cherry gets his break on the cornet:
Crystals exploding from Timbuktu to LA
each screech or squawk shatters the peace
dragging the bass, stretching the chords to counterpoint.
This is the language between madness and rebirth
The final circus act of a tradition

Before the brink, the pianist brings it back
Yes, yes, Melvyn Peters- dreaming Coltrane
earning his dough from tourists who demand more crap-eases
the ear, upbeat-swing so low and merry, tonality returns, redeems
and Dyaniís bass responds pure cheek, pure wily nigger.

Oh no, Sazi Dlamini will not be outdone
and back from his Kunene-astral grooves
swinging chord and yoke, shining smile and blue
the Navy band breathes back to ooze
the Shembe horns awake to breathe. The bass responds
The big band soars and quietens
Leaving the trombone man alone
To grunt and exorcise the ghosts
The ugliest horn on earth, sheer chain
and joy
it obliges: even the ugly, love.

But no, who let Ngqawana in?
No build-up but a cataract – aggressive wails
burning his lungs while squealing each three beats
to pause and scream some more at something no one sees,
at something everybody feels

The chaos calls me, can I sing?
Where do I find the pitch to say and improvise my string?
The mike is trembling, Dyani, Hani, here we go
here is the sting- the tabla, drum and cello, guide me in:

Privatise the Sun
Copyright the Clouds
Before those others come
To steal our Rainbows

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (1)
  • Captivation (1)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (1)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Learning to Love

Enlarge poem

(after Faiz)
FROM AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Here:
Some beads for the wave of your tresses
Bead them in hard, shiny against the jet black of your greying hair
Slaves were traded for them, fingers bled to thread them
They shine – little colourful skulls
Of the day of the dead from Mexico
I come from far, here: the beads
Plait them in the jet black of your graying hair
So I can learn to love you

Here:
Some tears for the dimple of your cheek
Run them slow, shiny against the narrow of your chin
Infants were killed for them, palms were leathered to collect them
They shine- sun-struck crystals
From the saltpans and the pampas
I come from far, here: the tears
Rain them softly against the narrow of your chin
So I can learn to love you

Here:
Some soot for your brow and lashes
Texture it in deep, a dark henna against your haunting eyes
Outcasts were starved for them, joints were cracked to scoop them
They haunt- tiny mirages of the desert
From the pit bogs and the crags of the equator
I come from far, here: the soot
Craft it in against your haunting eyes
So I can learn to love you

Here:
Some red pearls for your ears
Hang them low, crimson treasures from your softest lobes
Naked divers lost lungs for them, eardrums exploded to collect them
They pulse- little ripe pomegranate-seeds
From the reefs and the swells of the Red Sea
I come from far, here: the pearls
Pierce them through and hang them from your softest lobes
So I can learn to love you
Here is the soft pink for your lips
Smooth it over, soft and aromatic scent for a future kiss
Jews and pigs were boiled for them, chemists lost their skin for them
They entice- the madness between a heart and flower
From the vats and cauldrons of the subcontracted East
I come from far, here: the soft pink
Caress it on softly, an aromatic scent for a future kiss
So I can learn to love you
Leave your breasts bare
There is no mindless youth or loot to hide there
Leave them just there
Just there
So I can learn to love you

Comments

Your email address will not be published.