Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Letter To My Country

Enlarge poem

I was born
in the caul of your veld,
encased in your accent.
Do you remember me,
my African mother?

I want you to remember me.

I never fought for you.
I was foetal-waiting
as you struggled up ñ
my childhood
your bloody birth
my adolescence
your childhood,
unsteady and milk toothed.
(When you built sandcastles
I kissed and smoked
behind your walls)

I need you to remember me.

I cannot sleep
in this cold country.
I have been gone too long.
Feet leave no prints here.
Where are my soles
impressed in your soil?
Trace them
photograph them
send them to me.

Remember me.

Ma Africa
I hate you
for your infinite embrace
your umbilical pull!
Because of you
I am migratory,
your geography
tattooed to my skin
in sun spots,
these tan lines
washed up on my breasts.
Ma Africa
where are swallows
when they are home?

Jenna Mervis

Featured Poem:

What is an African Poem

Enlarge poem

What is an African poem
drifting on the diaspora
that disparate etcetera of belonging
that borderless rhyme land?

We divine poetry in our hands
like palmistry,
roll our tongue tips over words
and grammar, trace
the simile, the sibilance,
stumble stammer its punctuation,
palate smooth its conjugation,
its metaphoric function,
(will we find an African conjunction?)

Strip this poem
bend her over backwards to con-
form the flattened back of our mountain,
make her restate, rephrase the south.
Help her language to its feet
tell her: stand up!
stand up
if you speak my speak!

Poem from Africa? of Africa? with Africa? in her bloodline Africa? only mine Africa? an African poem?
Do you read her in the accent of her pen?
Or hold the sway of her cadence
in your cupped hand,
suckle her quest for home
for any rich loam to take root again?

Or do you ask about her poet?
Is she African too? Or he. Or black or white
or red yellow blue faced choking identity
in no-mans land poetry.

Stand up,
stand up
if you speak my speak!

A poem is foreign soil, an unmapped island
a xenophobic society of printed ink
you hover on the margin, reading in.
until a word extends its hand,
a line opens its arms
and suddenly!
you’re through.

So stand up
(if you speak my speak) and keep
moving, verse to verse.
This poem is not a conference of words and phrases
to listen and notate in catatonic hazes;
between tea-time stanzas debate instead
the state of the sun rolling overhead.

No! Stand up
(if you speak my speak) and keep
moving, line to line
until the chant of her siren song
binds you to her skin
invites you in
and under
and deeper
into her heart beat

Then whisper this question beneath her sheet:
is an African poem born and bred
or is it African only once it is read?

stand up, stand up

if you speak my speak

How does this featured poem make you feel?

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

Comments

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Biography

Jenna Mervis is a poet, short story writer, freelance writer and designer. Her work has been published in various anthologies, including New Contrast, English Academy Review, New Coin, Botsotso, Itch online, Carapace, POWA’s 2008 anthology and New Writing from Africa 2009.

Born and schooled in Durban, Jenna moved to Grahamstown to study Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University (and life at the local watering holes). She then headed to London to test out her newly acquired skills. She polished cutlery at a fancy restaurant, gagged on Guinness in Dublin, fell asleep on a night bus (several times), surfed in Newquay (failed dismally) and worked for the London Science Museum, where she navigated outer space, shrunken heads and ancient mariners to get to her desk each morning. After almost 2 years of travelling, writing and working, Jenna was finally lured back south by a postcard of Camps Bay – after all, who can say no to white sand, turquoise water and a fold of fynbos mountains?

Back home, Jenna obtained her MA Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town. She currently lives and works in Hout Bay with two dogs and one human. She’s done with big city life. The mountains help her breathe and think. Woman Unfolding is her debut collection of poetry.

Jenna Mervis

Biography

Jenna Mervis is a poet, short story writer, freelance writer and designer. Her work has been published in various anthologies, including New Contrast, English Academy Review, New Coin, Botsotso, Itch online, Carapace, POWA’s 2008 anthology and New Writing from Africa 2009.

Born and schooled in Durban, Jenna moved to Grahamstown to study Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University (and life at the local watering holes). She then headed to London to test out her newly acquired skills. She polished cutlery at a fancy restaurant, gagged on Guinness in Dublin, fell asleep on a night bus (several times), surfed in Newquay (failed dismally) and worked for the London Science Museum, where she navigated outer space, shrunken heads and ancient mariners to get to her desk each morning. After almost 2 years of travelling, writing and working, Jenna was finally lured back south by a postcard of Camps Bay – after all, who can say no to white sand, turquoise water and a fold of fynbos mountains?

Back home, Jenna obtained her MA Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town. She currently lives and works in Hout Bay with two dogs and one human. She’s done with big city life. The mountains help her breathe and think. Woman Unfolding is her debut collection of poetry.

Letter To My Country

Enlarge poem

I was born
in the caul of your veld,
encased in your accent.
Do you remember me,
my African mother?

I want you to remember me.

I never fought for you.
I was foetal-waiting
as you struggled up ñ
my childhood
your bloody birth
my adolescence
your childhood,
unsteady and milk toothed.
(When you built sandcastles
I kissed and smoked
behind your walls)

I need you to remember me.

I cannot sleep
in this cold country.
I have been gone too long.
Feet leave no prints here.
Where are my soles
impressed in your soil?
Trace them
photograph them
send them to me.

Remember me.

Ma Africa
I hate you
for your infinite embrace
your umbilical pull!
Because of you
I am migratory,
your geography
tattooed to my skin
in sun spots,
these tan lines
washed up on my breasts.
Ma Africa
where are swallows
when they are home?

Featured Poem:

What is an African Poem

Enlarge poem

What is an African poem
drifting on the diaspora
that disparate etcetera of belonging
that borderless rhyme land?

We divine poetry in our hands
like palmistry,
roll our tongue tips over words
and grammar, trace
the simile, the sibilance,
stumble stammer its punctuation,
palate smooth its conjugation,
its metaphoric function,
(will we find an African conjunction?)

Strip this poem
bend her over backwards to con-
form the flattened back of our mountain,
make her restate, rephrase the south.
Help her language to its feet
tell her: stand up!
stand up
if you speak my speak!

Poem from Africa? of Africa? with Africa? in her bloodline Africa? only mine Africa? an African poem?
Do you read her in the accent of her pen?
Or hold the sway of her cadence
in your cupped hand,
suckle her quest for home
for any rich loam to take root again?

Or do you ask about her poet?
Is she African too? Or he. Or black or white
or red yellow blue faced choking identity
in no-mans land poetry.

Stand up,
stand up
if you speak my speak!

A poem is foreign soil, an unmapped island
a xenophobic society of printed ink
you hover on the margin, reading in.
until a word extends its hand,
a line opens its arms
and suddenly!
you’re through.

So stand up
(if you speak my speak) and keep
moving, verse to verse.
This poem is not a conference of words and phrases
to listen and notate in catatonic hazes;
between tea-time stanzas debate instead
the state of the sun rolling overhead.

No! Stand up
(if you speak my speak) and keep
moving, line to line
until the chant of her siren song
binds you to her skin
invites you in
and under
and deeper
into her heart beat

Then whisper this question beneath her sheet:
is an African poem born and bred
or is it African only once it is read?

stand up, stand up

if you speak my speak

How does this featured poem make you feel?

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

Letter To My Country

Enlarge poem

I was born
in the caul of your veld,
encased in your accent.
Do you remember me,
my African mother?

I want you to remember me.

I never fought for you.
I was foetal-waiting
as you struggled up ñ
my childhood
your bloody birth
my adolescence
your childhood,
unsteady and milk toothed.
(When you built sandcastles
I kissed and smoked
behind your walls)

I need you to remember me.

I cannot sleep
in this cold country.
I have been gone too long.
Feet leave no prints here.
Where are my soles
impressed in your soil?
Trace them
photograph them
send them to me.

Remember me.

Ma Africa
I hate you
for your infinite embrace
your umbilical pull!
Because of you
I am migratory,
your geography
tattooed to my skin
in sun spots,
these tan lines
washed up on my breasts.
Ma Africa
where are swallows
when they are home?

Comments

Your email address will not be published.