Archives for October 2011

The Melville Poetry Festival

When: Friday October 14th and Saturday October 15th 2011

The first Melville Poetry Festival Showcase is happening this Friday and Saturday, with an exciting line up of poets writing in all languages set to read and perform their work.

Over 30 poets will be gathering for the festival, with readings, panel discussions, exhibitions, book launches and music taking place at different venues in 7th Street and 4th Avenue. Poets participating include Angifi Dladla, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Robert Berold, Kobus Moolman, Arja Salafranca, Ike Muila, Uhuru Waga Phalafala, the Botsotso Jesters, Toast Coetzer, Loftus Marais, Charl-Pierre Naudé, Johann Lodewyk Marais and Rene Bohnen.

The festival kicks off on Friday 14th October at 9.30am at the old Koffie Huis in 4th Avenue with the Jozi Spoken Word poetry writing and performance workshop where poets young and old can hone their skills under the guidance of established poets and writing teachers.

On Saturday book launches by Dye Hard Press and Deep South Publishing start the day, before the festival’s official opening at 1.30pm with Ron Smerczak, Yoliswa Mogale, and the Botsotso Jesters. In a creative collaboration entitled ‘Digkyk/Eyepoems’, Naudé, Peter Fincham and Hans Pienaar will mount an exhibition of images integrated with poetry, while a theatre projection called ‘Angels and Stones’ will be narrated by Lionel Murcott.

Panel discussions include a talk on the influence of Wopko Jensma (‘The Ghost of Wopko Jensma’) and one called ‘Into Poetry: How to Get Young People to Enjoy Wordplay’, facilitated by Pamela Nichols from the Wits Writing Centre.

Readings and exhibitions carry on throughout the afternoon, with the day wrapping up with a music festival (Andries Bezuidenhout , Planet Lindela Jazz Trio, Riku Latti & Les Javen, and Lithal Li) which will also be used to showcase up-and-coming slam poets.

“The festival offers a great opportunity to listen and engage with South African poets writing in all languages – and for poets to meet and talk to each other, which doesn’t always happen,” says Alan Finlay, a poet who will also be reading at the event. “I think the panel on Wopko Jensma raises a question about the spirit of South African poetry that’s worth exploring.”

Allan Kolski-Horwitz, a Botsotso Jester who, together with the Wits Writing Centre, has run Jozi Spoken Word for several years, feels that the idea of intimate readings at cafés and shops in Melville is a unique one. “The blending of students and local residents with a wide range of poets should make for a very stimulating exchange,” he says.

“The plan is to hold a national festival next year, and then to grow it from there – and already several sponsors have shown an interest,” explains Eleanor Koning, one of the organizers of the festival. “That’s why we’re calling this festival a ‘showcase’ – we want to build on it in the future, inviting more poets from around the country and even internationally to take part.”

“We also need to develop real public festivals – a festival where everyone is welcome and heard and we can together develop our new multicultural, multi-faceted literature,” adds Nichols. “We hope the workshop on Friday will contribute to developing the new South African poetry and we believe that Melville with its bookshops and coffee shops and restaurants and wandering poets is the perfect place to incubate a new and creative literary culture.”

Books will be on sale at the venues. Come support South African poetry, or just browse around, catching snippets of poems and song, while visiting the local book and coffee shops that line the streets.

Entrance to all readings, panel discussions and the Friday poetry workshop is free. The slam event and music in the evening costs R15 for students and R30 for adults. To see the full programme for the event, visit The Melville Poetry Facebook Page.

For more information:

For more information on the festival, please speak to Eleanor Koning on 082 386 4688 or e-mail her at eleanor(at)

To participate in the Jozi Spoken Word poetry workshop, please contact Pamela Nichols at Pamela.Nichols(at)


You didn’t keep your eyes on your child
Time has tic-tocked since she went away
Because fatherless children sometimes wander off alone
There she was, her lips spewing words
So carelessly in prayer
Insisting that you were not some poltergeist
Some apparition of her lucid dreams
That you had a halo and set of wings
waiting for her somewhere

You didn’t try to move her
You didn’t try to pull the moon closer for her
Because lunar lights whisper sweet nothings to lonely girls
Though you once embraced her
her fists in your back,
her nails piercing the palms of her hands,
the absence of fathers is a killer.
Uncurl her, unbreak her, unclip her wings
Let sweet violence fall away


So, I am is’febe. Before being called is’febe by a shadow it never occurred to me that I could be one, let alone so much so that someone else could have reason to name me so.

See, dear reader, I was walking from the Hillbrow Shoprite to my cottage in Yeoville. I had a 500ml yoghurt, strawberry, in my hands, scooping the contents out with two forefingers. Just before crossing what I always assumed was the border between the two suburbs, I noticed three shadows behind me. Jumpy as a springbok, I hastened to enter Yeoville proper. I then found myself in a deserted stretch of road. The three shadows followed. They, I assume, found themselves in a stretch of road less deserted. Conscious (hahaha!) of nothing else, the stretch of road disappeared and became those three shadows. It could be said, without any hint of mysticism, that I now walked the shadows. They, I assume, continued to walk a road less deserted. The gap between us had, by now, lessened considerably. You, dear reader, could explain this closing of the gap physically. Physical explanations bore me. Locked as I was in the shadows, my movements were now a function of the laws that hold in shadows. If we isolate my movements, and explain them in terms of what directly controlled them, then it is to the shadows that we must look. Or, insofar as those shadows are ultimately abantu, it is to ubuntu that we must appeal for an explanation. Physical laws held sway over me only insofar as they held sway over shadows.

At any rate, when one of the shadows made a sudden move, perhaps to scratch an itchy bum, perhaps to pounce, I moved as suddenly. The shadow, perhaps having completed the bum scratching, perhaps aborting the pouncing, smoothly resumed its previous movements. I did not.

Heart pounding, limbs shaking, embarrassed that I had misread the move, I turned to them and said, in a second language, “Gents, I thought you were coming for me.”
The first shadow, perhaps starting the pounce, perhaps never having stopped from the moment he woke up, moved. I, despite my embarrassment seconds earlier, had never actually stopped my flight move. I narrowly escaped but the shadow almost caught me. Locked in that continuum, both of us recognized the moment. It is in that moment that he said it: s’febe.