Monday, August 9, 2021

Patina upon patina: J-town

Scrawled on the city 
and a profuse patina 
on my brain, in my bones 
so many tales
how they came
the old and current earthquakes from the mines
the unsolved bank robbery at Randburg
a story still at large
the cranes and the builders
the anti-builders who crushed dreams – Sofiatown, Doories, Fietas
how the city lost Wopko in the cracks
the unmellow yellow of cop-van raids 
in the wee hours
looking for black bodies, looking to manage their limbs
how so many who came      leave in droves, at year-end
boxed in on trains, the trommels on bakkies, the buses sagging
a small prison tree – apricot, I believe
where women prisoners sat, ointmenting the sting
and the larger prison; while shadows pool
in the eye’s hollow
the spraycan worked on the walls
of an old theatre (Kilroy and lord knows which other ghosts were here)
mould getting the upper hand
in the grotty side of town
so many voices, all speaking at once
if you let them

Ah, the sweat-stained dreams
imagining the future

Sometimes you can hear
the strains of a mouth organ, saxophone, Kippie's flute 
or just the plaintive whistle of a train 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

New collection: Lockdown Poems: Second Wave

I've released my second set of "lockdown poems." These poems focus on the Second Wave in the unfolding path of the Covid-19 pandemic and were written


after 28 Dec 2020, when the South African president raised the lockdown levels.

Writing poetry on 'lockdown' experiences and other matters at this time allowed me to confront and, in a small way, deal with the range of emotions associated with living through the pandemic's second wave.

You can get an e-book version of the collection here: https://payhip.com/b/My4PF. The cost is just $1.50.

This comment gives an idea of the kinds of poems you will experience in reading Lockdown Poems: Second Wave. Referring to the first lockdown poem collection [the publication that preceded this on], radio host Renos Nicos Spanoudes had this to say: "Every one of these poems touched me deeply, speaking the raw truth of being human during this time, trying to survive and comprehend."

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 drop 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 the 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 left and then right, and 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 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 pair of 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, it 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 brew 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 the C-19 lockdown began, 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 go 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

along 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.