“Excuse me, random stranger… may I read you a love poem?”
This is how I welcomed people into the intimate Poetry Corner of Chandler House in Cape Town.
The excellent Michael Chandler was blending fine art and poetry, love and beauty, Bukharas and erotica on last night’s First Thursday in Cape Town.
“I’m not going to seduce you,” I’d say to those who looked hesitant or wary. “I mean only to share some expressions of love.”
People were enchanted, listening to me read the words of Justin Fox, Romaney Pinnock, James Ambrose Brown, Takawira Dururu, Walter Andries Oliphant, Micere Githae Mugo, Siyabonga Sibiya and numerous others, as I sat at a small antique table, surrounded by ceramics, fabrics and embroideries.
A newly married couple on honeymoon listened to “Love poem to my husband of forty-one years”, looking into each other’s eyes and their future.
A handsome French gentleman mentioned that he found the English language had a sensual lilt to it.
A German tourist was so touched by David Friedland’s “Always” that I wrote it out for her and she in turn later translated into German my poem ‘Africa’.
A young man filmed me reading the words of a former Rhodesian soldier in “Found Poem: Was that poetry?” to send to his girlfriend in London.
Two students shared how much meaning they derived from poetry, especially performance poetry. One told of how he had recently responded to a challenge and written a poem every day over a number of weeks.
A young woman closed her eyes while I read Carol Leff’s “We were” and I noted her dark, serene beauty.
The gallery was full and at times it was difficult to hear me, but people caught single words as they rose into the air: “Lips. Tender. Kissed. Held. Thigh. Privacy of flesh. Consummation. Beloved. Cinnamon. Secret.”
The word “buttery” from Kerry Hammerton’s poem “Lovers” drew people in and I was asked to re-read it a number of times.
I closed the evening with Chris Mann’s “Night Flying”. People left Chandler House taking the poem’s final lines with them:
“Love lifts and joins the embodiments of desire
and sends us both flying, flying through the night.”
Poems were read from:
Heart of Africa! Poems of love, loss and longing
Africa! My Africa! An anthology of poems
Published by African Sun Press
Church Street Cape Town
Now at this moment of ripeness
A time for culling or falling
Bruised fruit poised for ploughing and renewal
For me at seventy
It is a vow more easily honoured than in my twenties
So let diffidence end here
This is my daring confession
I will love you always
Translated from the English by Elisabeth Fenner
Wie werde ich von dir gehen?
Es wird Nacht sein
ich treibe auf den Wassern der Kanäle
nahe dem Stammsitz meiner Ahnen
in einer mit blauem Samt ausgeschlagenen Gondel
mit einem Bündel von musasa Samen
und getrockneten Blättern von mopane.
Es wird unter der Seufzerbrücke sein.
Meine Handflächen halten ocker und eidechse.
Meine Seele spiegelt deine Sterne
und die Flamme des Tages.
Dort werde ich dahintreiben
und mich nach dir sehnen.