The town of McGregor is fast establishing itself as South Africa’s primary ‘Place of Poetry.’
It hosted the second bilingual McGregor Poetry Festival last month and launched an excellent anthology of poems. Once again it facilitated a wall-to-wall and street-to-street celebration of the deep and wondrous creative matter of the human soul.
Everywhere one saw poets and lovers of poetry with their books and journals and in discussion with one another.
Printed poems were strung from trees in the beautiful Temenos garden where many a poet met their muse. There were installations, exhibitions, workshops, discussions, musical recitals, outdoor musicians, an open-microphone and live readings.
Poets of calibre, established poets and emerging poets shared their work. Hugh Hodge – he of Off the Wall fame – hosted the Open Mic events which allowed for a good number of new voices, not heard before, to come forward.
Altogether, there was an abundant list of readings. Audiences were captivated by the poetic feast of “love-protest-praise-rap-lament-freeverse-haiku-doggerel-sonnet-ode-epic-lyric-humorous and more”.
“Why, it’s as though poems are falling down from Heaven,” said someone sitting next to me after listening to readings by Finuala Dowling & Graham Dukas.
She’s glad she didn’t inherit my curly hair
and that I don’t try to act young
that I’d never join her at happy hour
or make her a friend on Facebook
or be on Facebook at all
or gate-crash her parties.
She sighs when she has to help me with my phone
or when I wear two pairs of sunglasses at the same time;
laughs when I ask “So what’s this festival called
‘Burn it all up in the Karoo’?”
But when she sits by the kettle with her friend
and the two blonde heads talk in depth about life:
– How do we heal things? How do we solve things?
Is this love? And who are we anyway? –
all I hear is:
My mom says my mom says my mom says my mom says
An Olympian effort at the Mugg & Bean
The woman at the table opposite mine
tells the waitress that she won’t tolerate paper
around her giant lemon and poppy seed muffin,
although that’s how they’re baked here.
Her companion, her husband I gather
from his weathered and acquiescent bearing,
seems less concerned about the muffin’s appearance,
but she makes the decision for both of them.
And so the muffins arrive, without paper skirts,
but generously adorned with grated cheese
and something that looks like jellied tongue
but is probably just a dollop of cheap raspberry jam.
To the sound of Kris Kristofferson and Dolly Parton
going on about islands in the stream, the two dive in
and although she spews words for the duration
and he remains as quiet as the chair he sits on,
they get the muffins, cheese and cheap jam down
in much the same time. And I get to thinking
that this could become an Olympic event for couples –
muffin speed-eating for the dull and sadly adrift.
Authority by Finuala Dowling and An Olympian effort at the Mugg & Bean by Graham Dukas published in:
The McGregor Poetry Festival 2013 Anthology
African Sun Press Cape Town
The McGregor Poetry Festival is the vision of Billy Kennedy, of Temenos Retreat in McGregor. The 2014 Festival was run by him with David Magner, Marinda Oosthuizen, Michael McKenzie and Jennifer Johnson.
Finuala Dowling is a poet, novelist and creative writing teacher. Her poetry has won the Ingrid Jonker Prize, the Sanlam Prize and the Olive Schreiner Prize. She has read at the Aldeburgh Festival, at Snape Maltings and at all major South African literary festivals.
Graham Dukas divides his time between business management and strategy consulting, executive coaching and as a part-time teaching assistant at UCT’s School of Architecture. He started writing at a young age but lost his way as the demands of parenting and earning a living took over as priorities. In recent years he has returned to the pen, inspired by the simple experiences of this peculiar thing called life.