Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

The Angolan Madonna

Enlarge poem

Day in and day out she knelt there beneath the trees
alone with her blankets wrapped down to her knees
and we other mothers drove past taking children to school
sometimes glancing at her, perhaps thinking her a poor fool.
She had extra blankets about her and bundles of rags
empty Coke bottles and gatherings tied in plastic bags.
We other mothers noticed her war-ravaged face
the softness gone from it with horror in its place.
Sometimes we’d notice a wildness in her eyes
or sometimes a sadness there as when a child sighs.
We would see her stand up and shout into the air
at nothing we could see, though she saw soldiers there.
And we’d watch her plunge down with her imaginary panga
into the sordid hearts of generals and their governing death-mongers.
And once we heard her howl like a rabid dog dying
but we turned our hearts away lest her baying be crying.
Some of us wondered if we should reach into her world
though none of us did, fearing what we might unfurl.
So we left her there with her blankets and belongings
knowing that she was just one of many war-mothers thronging
away from the pitiless and plundered fields of war,
searching for their children, though they would find them no more.

Patricia Schonstein

Featured Poem:

The Box of Plums

Enlarge poem

I wait on the corner, where we meet as arranged,
then drive to your home because I want to know
everything about you, you
with eyes that are dark and kind.
I want to know where you sleep and how you eat

and what you do
when you are not here minding cars in Kloof Street
and what you dream about now that war is behind you.
I want to know how you travelled here
whether you have your papers in order or whether

you live as a fugitive and how you are treated
in this democratic South Africa, you
with your finely spoken French and courteous manner.
Your home is a run-down building in run-down Salt River.
As you lead me through behind the stairwell

and out into the backyard I notice washing hanging
and the sour smell of drains.
Your place is a large room shared by many
curtained off for cooking and sitting and sleeping.
They are waiting for us, your friends

and all stand when we enter, without speaking.
You introduce them one by one and I wonder
what part they played in war. I sit on the old sofa
and they sit around on odd chairs, or stand
crowding around me waiting for me to speak, but I cannot

for I am stunned by everything – by their faces which I search
by their hands, by the magazine pictures pasted on the walls
by the languages they speak to each other
as one by one they say their names
and where they have fled from:

Congo Angola Congo Angola Congo Angola.
I am here looking at your quarters. You own so little.
What do you think of me, for asking you to show me your life?
What do you think as I drive off out of run-down Salt River
glancing in my mirror at your standing figure

glancing in my mirror at you, you framed by bleak buildings
with a sad woman sitting on a doorstep
and old rain left puddled and painted with oil?
What do you think of me as I drive away
leaving behind only my gift of sweet red plums?

patricia schonstein

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  • Amusement (0)
  • Sorrow (1)
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  • Jubilation (0)

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Biography

Patricia is an internationallly published, award winning novelist and poet whose works have been translated into five languages.

In 1984, in response to apartheid and the political violence in the Eastern Cape, she opened a non-racial pre-school. She wrote and self-published stories, poems and songs that had relevance to her pupils’ lives, and which were based on the same principles of peace she used in her classes.

After completing a Master’s Degree in creative writing at the University of Cape Town, she focused on full-time authorship. Although her novels are decorative, magical, opulent and richly furnished, they carry at core a deep, philosophical note as she exposes the emotional carnage caused by war and genocide.

Her novels reflect variously on the Holocaust, South Africa’s wars in Angola and Mozambique, Zimbabwe’s Chimurenga war and current dictatorship, the bombing of Dresden and apartheid.They also reflect on the way we ‘war’ against the earth and other species.Yet, despite these dark matters, her fictions are full of hope and joy and love.

Her poetry is another matter. Here she is blunt and to the point. She captures, in language that is at times paradoxically lyrical and beautiful, the full scale and horror of war, genocide, fratricide and our destruction of the natural world. Patricia’s is a voice for peace.

Patricia Schonstein

patricia schonstein
patricia schonstein

Biography

Patricia is an internationallly published, award winning novelist and poet whose works have been translated into five languages.

In 1984, in response to apartheid and the political violence in the Eastern Cape, she opened a non-racial pre-school. She wrote and self-published stories, poems and songs that had relevance to her pupils’ lives, and which were based on the same principles of peace she used in her classes.

After completing a Master’s Degree in creative writing at the University of Cape Town, she focused on full-time authorship. Although her novels are decorative, magical, opulent and richly furnished, they carry at core a deep, philosophical note as she exposes the emotional carnage caused by war and genocide.

Her novels reflect variously on the Holocaust, South Africa’s wars in Angola and Mozambique, Zimbabwe’s Chimurenga war and current dictatorship, the bombing of Dresden and apartheid.They also reflect on the way we ‘war’ against the earth and other species.Yet, despite these dark matters, her fictions are full of hope and joy and love.

Her poetry is another matter. Here she is blunt and to the point. She captures, in language that is at times paradoxically lyrical and beautiful, the full scale and horror of war, genocide, fratricide and our destruction of the natural world. Patricia’s is a voice for peace.

The Angolan Madonna

Enlarge poem

Day in and day out she knelt there beneath the trees
alone with her blankets wrapped down to her knees
and we other mothers drove past taking children to school
sometimes glancing at her, perhaps thinking her a poor fool.
She had extra blankets about her and bundles of rags
empty Coke bottles and gatherings tied in plastic bags.
We other mothers noticed her war-ravaged face
the softness gone from it with horror in its place.
Sometimes we’d notice a wildness in her eyes
or sometimes a sadness there as when a child sighs.
We would see her stand up and shout into the air
at nothing we could see, though she saw soldiers there.
And we’d watch her plunge down with her imaginary panga
into the sordid hearts of generals and their governing death-mongers.
And once we heard her howl like a rabid dog dying
but we turned our hearts away lest her baying be crying.
Some of us wondered if we should reach into her world
though none of us did, fearing what we might unfurl.
So we left her there with her blankets and belongings
knowing that she was just one of many war-mothers thronging
away from the pitiless and plundered fields of war,
searching for their children, though they would find them no more.

Featured Poem:

The Box of Plums

Enlarge poem

I wait on the corner, where we meet as arranged,
then drive to your home because I want to know
everything about you, you
with eyes that are dark and kind.
I want to know where you sleep and how you eat

and what you do
when you are not here minding cars in Kloof Street
and what you dream about now that war is behind you.
I want to know how you travelled here
whether you have your papers in order or whether

you live as a fugitive and how you are treated
in this democratic South Africa, you
with your finely spoken French and courteous manner.
Your home is a run-down building in run-down Salt River.
As you lead me through behind the stairwell

and out into the backyard I notice washing hanging
and the sour smell of drains.
Your place is a large room shared by many
curtained off for cooking and sitting and sleeping.
They are waiting for us, your friends

and all stand when we enter, without speaking.
You introduce them one by one and I wonder
what part they played in war. I sit on the old sofa
and they sit around on odd chairs, or stand
crowding around me waiting for me to speak, but I cannot

for I am stunned by everything – by their faces which I search
by their hands, by the magazine pictures pasted on the walls
by the languages they speak to each other
as one by one they say their names
and where they have fled from:

Congo Angola Congo Angola Congo Angola.
I am here looking at your quarters. You own so little.
What do you think of me, for asking you to show me your life?
What do you think as I drive off out of run-down Salt River
glancing in my mirror at your standing figure

glancing in my mirror at you, you framed by bleak buildings
with a sad woman sitting on a doorstep
and old rain left puddled and painted with oil?
What do you think of me as I drive away
leaving behind only my gift of sweet red plums?

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 (1)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (1)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

The Angolan Madonna

Enlarge poem

Day in and day out she knelt there beneath the trees
alone with her blankets wrapped down to her knees
and we other mothers drove past taking children to school
sometimes glancing at her, perhaps thinking her a poor fool.
She had extra blankets about her and bundles of rags
empty Coke bottles and gatherings tied in plastic bags.
We other mothers noticed her war-ravaged face
the softness gone from it with horror in its place.
Sometimes we’d notice a wildness in her eyes
or sometimes a sadness there as when a child sighs.
We would see her stand up and shout into the air
at nothing we could see, though she saw soldiers there.
And we’d watch her plunge down with her imaginary panga
into the sordid hearts of generals and their governing death-mongers.
And once we heard her howl like a rabid dog dying
but we turned our hearts away lest her baying be crying.
Some of us wondered if we should reach into her world
though none of us did, fearing what we might unfurl.
So we left her there with her blankets and belongings
knowing that she was just one of many war-mothers thronging
away from the pitiless and plundered fields of war,
searching for their children, though they would find them no more.

Comments

Your email address will not be published.