Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Bushveld

Enlarge poem

Bushveld
for Basil Somhlahlo, poet, silenced in a Transkei prison
Unsure on easy paths, you
scorned the cow-trod tracks
of pastoralists and picked,
instead,
the narrow duiker trails
of the hunted, where thorns
of acacia, like fingers
rudely raised, would thrust
and poke at your humanity.
Your life was argument,
your ground held only
by the spoor you left.

But now, in my memory,
you are yourself
a rooted thorn tree,
a wag-’n-bietjie boom
of wryness, stopping all
who hurry to meetings,
agendas in their heads.

And I think, one day, when
from my too settled ways,
I scramble, terror-chased,
from rhinoceros spirits
of conscience, yours will be
the thorn tree I clamber up,

cutting flesh on points
you have made, to rest
safe in the boughs
of your uncertainty.

Brian Ernest Walter

Featured Poem:

Unfinished and Klaar

Enlarge poem

Turn up the hip-hop
it doesn’t matter any more
bring out the muggers and drug peddlers
let them speed through the streets
of Korsten with audios screaming and
hooters shrieking because
it doesn’t matter, it is of no consequence —
Wella is dead!

Musician Errol Cuddumbey wrote that lament
for a dead friend: this one’s for him.

You gave me your poems to read,
and lent me bucks for beer,
composed apt vignettes for that poetry show:
we made vague promises that we’d meet more,
and work sometimes together on stuff.

Now the music at your tribute trips me up.
I need words as slow as that last note; blue,
soft-drumming-gentle, shimmeringly brushed,
an under-bass that’s deep, and slides:

it’s too late now. Though it’s never too late
for jazz: I should have known you
twenty five years ago, drinking with the guys
at the old Alabama Hotel, in Korsten,
before it was burned down in that “unrest”

in those odd days of summertime madness
when I was happy being quite otherwise,
with songs stretching like an unfinished score,
and we could have maybe improvised,

you and I, all along the pavements
of Highfield Road, or in a smoky upstairs bar.
But the chords struck for you are dying —
your friend weeps on the Opera House steps;
his My Way was yours. Your keyboard is hushed:

but this stage is still set, and the sax rides
the salty air like a wine-dark songstress,
the bass from below swells, till it breaks —
and brief time is unfinished yet, but klaar.

Brian_Walter

How does this featured poem make you feel?

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  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (2)
  • Reflection (2)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (1)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

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Biography

Brian Ernest Walter was born in Port Elizabeth, in 1956. He has taught at Chapman Senior Secondary School in Gelvandale, PE, and at the University of Fort Hare, Alice. For a Rhodes PhD he worked on Sol Plaatje’s use of the romance mode to project a vision that could avert potential tragedy, using cross-cultural knowledge and sympathy to transform (or “translate”, to use Bottom’s word) tragic unkindness into a more human, moral understanding.

Currently he works on educational and community development projects. With the poet Alvené du Plessis, he mentors the Helenvale Poets in Port Elizabeth, and has assisted them with two publications, Uitsig, and Tussen Strate. His books include Groundwork: An Introduction to Reading and Writing about Poetry (1997), which he wrote with Felicity Wood. His poetry collections are Tracks (in which the poem Bushveld appears), Baakens (2000), and Mousebirds (2008). He works with the informal Ecca group of poets, and published in local journals: Unfinshed was published in New Contrast, and Otherwise in Botsotso.

He has won the 1999 Thomas Pringle Award for poetry published in journals and the 2000 Ingrid Jonker Prize for Tracks.

Brian Ernest Walter

Brian_Walter
Brian_Walter

Biography

Brian Ernest Walter was born in Port Elizabeth, in 1956. He has taught at Chapman Senior Secondary School in Gelvandale, PE, and at the University of Fort Hare, Alice. For a Rhodes PhD he worked on Sol Plaatje’s use of the romance mode to project a vision that could avert potential tragedy, using cross-cultural knowledge and sympathy to transform (or “translate”, to use Bottom’s word) tragic unkindness into a more human, moral understanding.

Currently he works on educational and community development projects. With the poet Alvené du Plessis, he mentors the Helenvale Poets in Port Elizabeth, and has assisted them with two publications, Uitsig, and Tussen Strate. His books include Groundwork: An Introduction to Reading and Writing about Poetry (1997), which he wrote with Felicity Wood. His poetry collections are Tracks (in which the poem Bushveld appears), Baakens (2000), and Mousebirds (2008). He works with the informal Ecca group of poets, and published in local journals: Unfinshed was published in New Contrast, and Otherwise in Botsotso.

He has won the 1999 Thomas Pringle Award for poetry published in journals and the 2000 Ingrid Jonker Prize for Tracks.

Bushveld

Enlarge poem

Bushveld
for Basil Somhlahlo, poet, silenced in a Transkei prison
Unsure on easy paths, you
scorned the cow-trod tracks
of pastoralists and picked,
instead,
the narrow duiker trails
of the hunted, where thorns
of acacia, like fingers
rudely raised, would thrust
and poke at your humanity.
Your life was argument,
your ground held only
by the spoor you left.

But now, in my memory,
you are yourself
a rooted thorn tree,
a wag-’n-bietjie boom
of wryness, stopping all
who hurry to meetings,
agendas in their heads.

And I think, one day, when
from my too settled ways,
I scramble, terror-chased,
from rhinoceros spirits
of conscience, yours will be
the thorn tree I clamber up,

cutting flesh on points
you have made, to rest
safe in the boughs
of your uncertainty.

Featured Poem:

Unfinished and Klaar

Enlarge poem

Turn up the hip-hop
it doesn’t matter any more
bring out the muggers and drug peddlers
let them speed through the streets
of Korsten with audios screaming and
hooters shrieking because
it doesn’t matter, it is of no consequence —
Wella is dead!

Musician Errol Cuddumbey wrote that lament
for a dead friend: this one’s for him.

You gave me your poems to read,
and lent me bucks for beer,
composed apt vignettes for that poetry show:
we made vague promises that we’d meet more,
and work sometimes together on stuff.

Now the music at your tribute trips me up.
I need words as slow as that last note; blue,
soft-drumming-gentle, shimmeringly brushed,
an under-bass that’s deep, and slides:

it’s too late now. Though it’s never too late
for jazz: I should have known you
twenty five years ago, drinking with the guys
at the old Alabama Hotel, in Korsten,
before it was burned down in that “unrest”

in those odd days of summertime madness
when I was happy being quite otherwise,
with songs stretching like an unfinished score,
and we could have maybe improvised,

you and I, all along the pavements
of Highfield Road, or in a smoky upstairs bar.
But the chords struck for you are dying —
your friend weeps on the Opera House steps;
his My Way was yours. Your keyboard is hushed:

but this stage is still set, and the sax rides
the salty air like a wine-dark songstress,
the bass from below swells, till it breaks —
and brief time is unfinished yet, but klaar.

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (0)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (0)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (0)
  • Inspiration (2)
  • Reflection (2)
  • Captivation (0)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (1)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Bushveld

Enlarge poem

Bushveld
for Basil Somhlahlo, poet, silenced in a Transkei prison
Unsure on easy paths, you
scorned the cow-trod tracks
of pastoralists and picked,
instead,
the narrow duiker trails
of the hunted, where thorns
of acacia, like fingers
rudely raised, would thrust
and poke at your humanity.
Your life was argument,
your ground held only
by the spoor you left.

But now, in my memory,
you are yourself
a rooted thorn tree,
a wag-’n-bietjie boom
of wryness, stopping all
who hurry to meetings,
agendas in their heads.

And I think, one day, when
from my too settled ways,
I scramble, terror-chased,
from rhinoceros spirits
of conscience, yours will be
the thorn tree I clamber up,

cutting flesh on points
you have made, to rest
safe in the boughs
of your uncertainty.

Comments

Your email address will not be published.