the essayist

My work encompasses such a broad range of ideas and disciplines that creating
parallel lives for each has become a necessary evil.  It takes time to develop each
into something viable; perhaps much like gardens, or children both of which need
time space and patience to develop their full character. it could be my mind is more
like wine, needing the different wooden vats in which to distil the array of cultivars
that have become the vineyards of my mind. Somewhere between the earth and vine
lurks the thinker, that prowling vagrant of the unwary. My thanks, as ever to Jerry
Shawback for his boundless generosity in fathoming my shadow in ink…

There is something in all this struggle to leave something of a trace of oneself in the
mire of voices, deeds, misdeeds, mistakes and the odd triumph of the human spirit that
reminds me of the character in Paul Auster’s novel Travels in the Scriptorium : isolated,
alone, detached and somehow forever guilty of past crimes, real or imagined. Someone
else always seems to be holding the key to that mysterious door that seems forever
locked. It never seems to occur to us, the door may not be locked at all ….

crumbed duckling . . .

origami unfolding
paperplay. soulfood
telling tales in dishevelling;

 folded in pages.

paper to play: origami poems

 of a telling: dishevelled

stories held to the rim
lipped to the dregs: rippling

dyed and died

words crumbed. duckling downe.
puddled poems kissed into the wet
dreams dance ink-ward
my skin her ancient parchment
letters splash her dizzy heart
paperplayspun in mud letter me skyward
thoughts rained, ideas fell, mind grounded.
edges coax the seamless to dance soulful
felled thoughts, rained groundless. mind less
dissolved of air; word dancers: paged
rains pool, mindplay, skim word stones
skin shed addictions: inked down…poured
the heart of sweet; lovelorn book, wormed.

a translation challenge Antjie Krog.. ‘Ma’

This evening on Twitter I found myself unexpectedly caught up in a translation

challenge:H0ll0D0ll (monica) and  takooba (Michael Willoughby) were attempting

a shared translation of Anjtie Krog’s  poem  ‘Ma’… from its original in Afrikaans.

Monica posted this version earlier

Here is mine, along with the Afrikaans original ….


Ma, ek skryf vir jou ‘n gedig

Ma, I write you a poem
free of fancy punctuation
without words of rhyme
no adverbs
just a barefooted poem
like, just  because –

because you raise me
in your small crumpled hands
you beg me with your black eyes
and sharp words
you turn your limestone mind
you laugh and break up my tents
yet every evening you offer me
your God.
Your moled-ear my only telephone
your house my only bible
your name, my breakwater against living

I am so sorry mamma
that I am not, as I so desire
all you wish I would be….

Ma, ek skryf vir jou ‘n gedig

sonder fensie leestekens
sonder woorde wat rym
sonder bywoorde
net sommer
‘n kaalvoet gedig-

want jy maak my groot
in jou krom klein handjies
jy beitel my met jou swart oe
en spits woorde
jy draai jou leiklipkop
jy lag en breek my tente op
maar jy offer my elke aand
vir jou Here God.
jou moesie-oor is my enigste telefoon
jou huis my enigste bybel
jou naam my breekwater teen die lewe

ek is so jammer mamma
dat ek nie is
wat ek graag vir jou wil wees nie


What is strange for me in doing this, is the journey it takes me on, back in time. My father died this month in 1990 and late this afternoon, a family member died after a spell battling Leukemia.  In the embrace of sadness around me this evening, Antjie Krog takes me back to my own relationship with my mother at the time of her death and the burial of her two days before my twentieth birthday.  Amid the laughter and dark secrets kept behind closed doors, writing Krog’s words into English, make me wonder ; what poem I would write of my own mother in how much I feel, at this moment, I’ve just lost her all over again . . .


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