Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Prose: Another Day in Paradise

(May 2020)

Some days I feel that the earth is veering from its normal path as it swirls around the sun. That things are tilting in a way they haven’t before. On other days, I feel everything's the same. Tick-tock, tick-tock. That the river of time isn't dangerously in flood at all; it's merely a miserable stream in a meadow.

I look around my room. The cupboards, light brown wood from floor to ceiling, hold their own in the fading afternoon light. The curtains are pulled back; cream cotton drapes and a white lace with embroidered leaves. There is no breeze just the night's cold and damp settling in.

I’ve been holed up for over a month. I did step out once, when milk ran out, to a gas station a block away. The streets were completely empty.  I didn’t even see a cat or a dog. A lone minibus, standing at the traffic light seemed forlorn, friendless. The driver, ignoring regulations, wasn’t wearing a mask. He looked and right, and then steered his vehicle forward: no point waiting for green. I crossed the road. At the gas station, the teller behind a security glass signaled to me to hold up the milk carton so she could scan it. It seemed too much effort — for her and me — to say anything more than a muffled “Hi”. Unlike supermarkets and many other stores, there wasn’t any sanitizer available. These are the thoughts that like drift like dandelions in my head.

Now back at my room, I boil the kettle water. I take out some old calligraphy pens and ink. I can hear my breath as I complete a line of letters. ABCD abcd. Good practice, heavier downward strokes, lighter and thinner upward strokes. Then I write some names, random names ‒ Sally, Nomsa; then names of my late brother who died of cancer in 2013. Michael. Again, the strong downward strokes. My breath deepens. I remember my brother’s physical strength. He was always working; willing to pave the driveway at my parent's home, sometimes loaning a pliers to fix a neighbor’s gate. Then I write the name of my late mother, Dorothy, taking extra care with that D; making it especially ornate. Her love was like a thread joining me and my siblings. As I execute the strokes I comes to me that, in these unusual times, those who have gone some years ago feel as close to me as my living friends. I put the pen down and closed my eyes. I inhale and exhale. Mentally, I try to connect. I imagine writing the word connected, the C with an extra curl that reaches back over the entire word.

I make Rooibos tea, it's a reddish tea that has been drunk by the Khoi, the first nation groups that lived in the Cape Province when the first colonizer, Jan van Riebeeck, came. I take a sip and feel the warmth percolating in my mouth and down my esophagus. I can hear the hadedas give their trademark squawk. I step closer to the window. I've just missed their v-formation flight ‒ which is usually in the direction of the setting sun. Ah, well … there’s always tomorrow.

I sit again at the brown wooden desk with its drawers flanking the chair’s position. A BIC pen lies in a random position on an exam pad. My mind wanders to the end of lockdown; what will it be like? That coffee from Motherland, that piece of cake from VovoTelo, that beer from Radium. I smile as I think about that old Portuguese pub cum restaurant, about the dark-wood cladding that dims the interior, about the barman Sonnyboy and about the owner’s constant lament, long before lockdown, that ‒ "these days” – business was tough and customers too few. I think about my friends, and how they’d be happy to be out sipping on tumblers of beer and engaging in what they call “kakpraat”. And I wonder whether the homeless will be delighted to back on the wintry streets, whether the volunteers will shut the soup kitchens and whether the government, now appreciating how many people live on the edge, will keep rolling out the R300-a-month grant for ultra-poor.

I pick up the ballpoint pen. Writing doesn't come easy. During the lockdown, the similes hide and the metaphors shrink away. Yet I manage, on the A4 page that holds the calligraphy letters of mother’s name, to pen these lines:

Present

You just have to relate with pencil and pulses of the heart;

simply

utter the words taking shape in your mouth

even if no-one is listening

 

These are visceral times

the sky wants nothing more then

little pieces of cloud, slivers of silver light

to hang over a hillock

 

Seeking connection; the sharing of pollen

tiny threads on flowers

the dust of the leaves

the taste of mulberry on the tongue

 

I’m aware of my breath

on the pathways

of the body

 

Loved ones by the river;

a bygone picnic,

trees contemplating

the turning of the days,

words uttered

and lifted by the wind into nothingness

 

F. Meintjies

31 May 2020

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Artists craft billboard message: Meintjies and Mgibe

 The Centre for the Less Good Idea's Billlboard's are big, bold and prominently situated. The project is geared to provoking reflection, with (broadly speaking) the current times. I had the opportunity to be included in this project. I partnered with Wezile Mgibe in crafting this work.

The lines I used come from my poem entitled I Can't Breathe. See it here: https://www.poetrypotion.com/i-cant-breathe-frank-meintjies/.

The Centre advertised the call in late July last year with these words:

"The Centre for the Less Good Idea is calling for artists from across the disciplines to submit word and image proposals for artworks towards ‘PAUSE, BREATHE, | The Highway Notice Project’

The Highway Notice Project has been created in response to the current crisis and the need for continued physical distancing. Two billboards on the M1 and M2 highway in Johannesburg have been identified to hold a series of monthly artworks printed on to billboard material. The project will launch on 1 October 2020."





Frank Meintjies

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Worker Culture in SA from mid-80s to mid-90s

From the mid-80s to mid-90s, a South African movement of worker cultural expression was born, centred on Kwa-Zulu Natal.

It revolved around the organisation and mobilisation work of the Culture and Working Life Project (CWLP). CWLP started in 1985 to train workers in drama, music and literature. Based in the Sociology Department at the University of Natal, CWLP worked closely with the trade unions to organise cultural events for May Day and other important political occasions. It also helped establish cultural structures and document cultural activity.

See my article entitled, An explosion of worker creativity in Natal: The catalytic role of the Culture and Working Life Project, (ASAI, 2021). It can be accessed here: https://tinyurl.com/gkhn3a21.



Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Boost your poetry writing skills -- SA youth opportunity

If you are South African, 35 years of age and under and want to hone your poetry writing skills, this course is for you.

The Power of the Pen Course enters its last phase with a course set for the first quarter of 2021. 

Funded by the National Arts Council, this poetry course involves three master class sessions that will enable young poets to take their poetry to a new level. The course is free - but only if applicants attend all three sessions.

The course covers: Poetry Devices; Sound, Structure and Meaning, Reviewing Your Work, and; Ways to Make an Income from Poetry

Send your application to PenPowerPoetry@outlook.com. Please send a poem you have written as part of the application. Also, in a short message, let us know why you want to be on the course.

The course facilitator is myself, Frank Meintjies, an accomplished poet who has conducted numerous training workshops, has published poetry, short stories and children's stories. His poetry has been included in numerous anthologies, in school textbooks and in his own collections. 



Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Release: Lockdown poetry collection by Frank Meintjies

The poetry in this slim collection tells of the strange days as "lockdown"  in response to the Covid-19 pandemic  took hold in South Africa. Some are playful (about the animals), others are reflective and others look closely and empathetically at ways in which we are all affected.

Writing under the pressure of lockdown isn't easy and quite a few writers in South Africa were stricken by writers' block. But I was, fortunately, able to keep writing. 

I committed to writing a poem every day for the initial 21-day lockdown period. Many of the poems from that writing exercise are included here, complemented by poems writing in the period after.

See the Lockdown Poems herehttps://payhip.com/b/bwQv.






Monday, August 10, 2020

New poetry released: Wind in the Trees

I have compiled a collection of my poems that reference nature, spiritual connection and centredness. The e-book is called Trees in the Wind. 

In the foreword, Gladys Ryan writes: "Through Frank’s poems, I feel Africa flow through my veins just like the mighty Limpopo’s ‘hard elbows against banks’ and then I soar through the heavens above and imagine what it must be like to be that young hawk who “sharpens her talons for a debut strike.”

The e-book, containing 26 poems, can be purchased here https://payhip.com/b/Bcpo at the special introductory price of $1.50.




Thursday, June 25, 2020

SA's transition: a major breakthrough & unfinished business

What happened during South Africa's remarkable and fraught transition? I discuss some of the issues in this video interview produced by Gladys Ryan. See https://youtu.be/Yq6rT5Zmja4