Spotlighting Pan-African Poetry

Biography

Siren Song

Enlarge poem

I keep going back

to an island
moist with death, coraled
with the bones of lives unfinished.

The moon is big there

and moves the waters with a strong magnetism.
And the phosphor at night peeks through the sea

the eyes and lights of a drowned city
spill onto beach sands
beloved by tourist brochures.

Do all islands contain our souls’ whispers
in the leaves of their coastal trees
perpetually moving to the beat
of the wind, tolling, to and fro,
like a restless head on a sleepless pillow?

Or is it just this land
of lotus eaters
that wraps its lagoon
around my feet, asks me to eat
in wonder and never wake up?

It’ the softness of the air
that entangles me like seaweed,
languid and familiar before
becoming despondency. Trapped,

by tropical humidity
my eyes can no longer see the deep, opening beyond the reef
and my ears keep hearing
the crash of waves on the barriers.

This grave is beautiful.
My ancestors live here and call me

Tania van Schalkwyk

Featured Poem:

Abyss

Enlarge poem

There is an abyss
from my childhood.

I remember
‘Trou Dangereux’
where we would
challenge each other
to jump.

Close to the shore,
only twenty or more steps
past a ridge of volcanic rock,
there it lay,

swimming in tales of dead people and animals
and a monster sucking you into a bottomless pit.
The sea was murky there — a sick grey-green colour.
We stood on black rock, salt-encrusted, sun-hot sacrifices,
hearts beating like captured birds’ wings,
and with shaking legs
we jumped.

No one ever reached the bottom. No one died.

But I remember
pissing warmth into the cool current
curling between my toes,
imagining fingers pulling,
swimming as fast as I could
back to the edge —

and when scrambling up the precipice’s wall
the worst was feeling slick seaweed cloy my limbs,
and the rocks’ broken barnacles clawed my skin
in a vicious attempt to make me cry
in front of my friends.

Once back on dry land,
the pulse of the ocean continued to drum in my ears
like a huge shell swallowing me alive,
but I laughed and smiled along with the others
knowing I had faced something deep down there,
an inexplicable dangerous hole
that would keep gaping at me

on and on, like the tides
and the cycles of the moon,
always there
below every path I walk, waiting.
-Tania van Schalkwyk:Hyphen, UCT Writers Series 2009

Notes

Abyss

Poem inspired by an article in the Argus, particularly this extract:

Deepest seabed unveils its secrets
A team of Japanese and British marine biologists found that delicate, soft-walled creatures dominate the microbial life forms that inhabit the sediment at the bottom of a deepwater trench in the Pacific Ocean. The trench, called Challenger Deep, lies 643 km off the Marianas Island in the South Pacific. The trench is 11.2 km below the sea surface at its deepest point and would comfortably submerge Mount Everest in a 1.6 km-deep layer of water.
– Steve Connor: Weekend Argus 5th February, 2005

Trou Dangereux: Dangerous Hole
Sound mixing and Music: Pete O’Donoghue

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (3)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (1)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (1)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (1)
  • Captivation (2)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (1)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Comments

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Biography

Tania van Schalkwyk is the hybrid of a Hamburg sailor and a Mauritian artist, born in Africa, raised in Arabia and matured in Europe. She has studied, taught, edited, served tea, busked, sold useless things, given famous statues make-overs and even tried (and failed fabulously at) a couple of less interesting but ‘serious’ jobs. She has published, performed, exhibited , directed, curated & collaborated on various multi-media artworks across the globe with a sculptor, a choreographer, a carpenter, DJs, photographers, film makers, artists, dancers, musicians,scientists, poets, famous statues, cows, horses, turkeys, sheep and her dog Elvis ; read and performed in theatres, bars, bookstores and bathtubs around the world; written columns, scripts, shopping lists, love letters and once upon a wonder-full time– food reviews.

Tania holds an MA in Creative Writing from UCT and a natural ability to watch the day go by. She is a proud founding member of SEWS (The Society for the Erection of Women Statues). When she’s not writing, Tania reads and reads and reads, and engages in the gentle art of omphaloskepsis. Her work is inspired by the places and spaces in between, the hyphen-states of life, love and home. She currently lives between Cape Town and the Piketberg mountains.

UCT Writers’ Series recently published Tania’s first book of poems, Hyphen. Her poetry has appeared in the following publications: UK: Agenda, Orbis, Decode, South, Focus on Farmers Anthology ( Aune Head Arts),Citizen 32, Intellect Quarterly South Africa: New Contrast, Carapace, Green Dragon, Ons Klyntji, Laugh it Off Annual Online: Triplopia, Muse Apprentice Guild, Itch, Litnet, Unlikely 2.0, Incwadi.

Tania van Schalkwyk

Biography

Tania van Schalkwyk is the hybrid of a Hamburg sailor and a Mauritian artist, born in Africa, raised in Arabia and matured in Europe. She has studied, taught, edited, served tea, busked, sold useless things, given famous statues make-overs and even tried (and failed fabulously at) a couple of less interesting but ‘serious’ jobs. She has published, performed, exhibited , directed, curated & collaborated on various multi-media artworks across the globe with a sculptor, a choreographer, a carpenter, DJs, photographers, film makers, artists, dancers, musicians,scientists, poets, famous statues, cows, horses, turkeys, sheep and her dog Elvis ; read and performed in theatres, bars, bookstores and bathtubs around the world; written columns, scripts, shopping lists, love letters and once upon a wonder-full time– food reviews.

Tania holds an MA in Creative Writing from UCT and a natural ability to watch the day go by. She is a proud founding member of SEWS (The Society for the Erection of Women Statues). When she’s not writing, Tania reads and reads and reads, and engages in the gentle art of omphaloskepsis. Her work is inspired by the places and spaces in between, the hyphen-states of life, love and home. She currently lives between Cape Town and the Piketberg mountains.

UCT Writers’ Series recently published Tania’s first book of poems, Hyphen. Her poetry has appeared in the following publications: UK: Agenda, Orbis, Decode, South, Focus on Farmers Anthology ( Aune Head Arts),Citizen 32, Intellect Quarterly South Africa: New Contrast, Carapace, Green Dragon, Ons Klyntji, Laugh it Off Annual Online: Triplopia, Muse Apprentice Guild, Itch, Litnet, Unlikely 2.0, Incwadi.

Siren Song

Enlarge poem

I keep going back

to an island
moist with death, coraled
with the bones of lives unfinished.

The moon is big there

and moves the waters with a strong magnetism.
And the phosphor at night peeks through the sea

the eyes and lights of a drowned city
spill onto beach sands
beloved by tourist brochures.

Do all islands contain our souls’ whispers
in the leaves of their coastal trees
perpetually moving to the beat
of the wind, tolling, to and fro,
like a restless head on a sleepless pillow?

Or is it just this land
of lotus eaters
that wraps its lagoon
around my feet, asks me to eat
in wonder and never wake up?

It’ the softness of the air
that entangles me like seaweed,
languid and familiar before
becoming despondency. Trapped,

by tropical humidity
my eyes can no longer see the deep, opening beyond the reef
and my ears keep hearing
the crash of waves on the barriers.

This grave is beautiful.
My ancestors live here and call me

Featured Poem:

Abyss

Enlarge poem

There is an abyss
from my childhood.

I remember
‘Trou Dangereux’
where we would
challenge each other
to jump.

Close to the shore,
only twenty or more steps
past a ridge of volcanic rock,
there it lay,

swimming in tales of dead people and animals
and a monster sucking you into a bottomless pit.
The sea was murky there — a sick grey-green colour.
We stood on black rock, salt-encrusted, sun-hot sacrifices,
hearts beating like captured birds’ wings,
and with shaking legs
we jumped.

No one ever reached the bottom. No one died.

But I remember
pissing warmth into the cool current
curling between my toes,
imagining fingers pulling,
swimming as fast as I could
back to the edge —

and when scrambling up the precipice’s wall
the worst was feeling slick seaweed cloy my limbs,
and the rocks’ broken barnacles clawed my skin
in a vicious attempt to make me cry
in front of my friends.

Once back on dry land,
the pulse of the ocean continued to drum in my ears
like a huge shell swallowing me alive,
but I laughed and smiled along with the others
knowing I had faced something deep down there,
an inexplicable dangerous hole
that would keep gaping at me

on and on, like the tides
and the cycles of the moon,
always there
below every path I walk, waiting.
-Tania van Schalkwyk:Hyphen, UCT Writers Series 2009

Notes

Abyss

Poem inspired by an article in the Argus, particularly this extract:

Deepest seabed unveils its secrets
A team of Japanese and British marine biologists found that delicate, soft-walled creatures dominate the microbial life forms that inhabit the sediment at the bottom of a deepwater trench in the Pacific Ocean. The trench, called Challenger Deep, lies 643 km off the Marianas Island in the South Pacific. The trench is 11.2 km below the sea surface at its deepest point and would comfortably submerge Mount Everest in a 1.6 km-deep layer of water.
– Steve Connor: Weekend Argus 5th February, 2005

Trou Dangereux: Dangerous Hole
Sound mixing and Music: Pete O’Donoghue

How does this featured poem make you feel?

  • Amazement (3)
  • Pride (0)
  • Optimism (1)
  • Anger (0)
  • Delight (1)
  • Inspiration (0)
  • Reflection (1)
  • Captivation (2)
  • Peace (0)
  • Amusement (1)
  • Sorrow (0)
  • Vigour (0)
  • Hope (0)
  • Sadness (0)
  • Fear (0)
  • Jubilation (0)

Siren Song

Enlarge poem

I keep going back

to an island
moist with death, coraled
with the bones of lives unfinished.

The moon is big there

and moves the waters with a strong magnetism.
And the phosphor at night peeks through the sea

the eyes and lights of a drowned city
spill onto beach sands
beloved by tourist brochures.

Do all islands contain our souls’ whispers
in the leaves of their coastal trees
perpetually moving to the beat
of the wind, tolling, to and fro,
like a restless head on a sleepless pillow?

Or is it just this land
of lotus eaters
that wraps its lagoon
around my feet, asks me to eat
in wonder and never wake up?

It’ the softness of the air
that entangles me like seaweed,
languid and familiar before
becoming despondency. Trapped,

by tropical humidity
my eyes can no longer see the deep, opening beyond the reef
and my ears keep hearing
the crash of waves on the barriers.

This grave is beautiful.
My ancestors live here and call me

Comments

Your email address will not be published.