English in Africa - Volume 40, Issue 3, 2013
Volumes & issues
Volume 40, Issue 3, 2013
Author Dirk KlopperSource: English in Africa 40, pp 7 –10 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.1More Less
I should like to thank Stephen Gray for his conception of this collection of the prose writings of Douglas Livingstone and his judicious selection of items; Mariss Stevens for her detailed description of the NELM collection of Livingstone's papers; and NELM staff for their compilation of the bibliography.
Author Stephen GraySource: English in Africa 40, pp 11 –24 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.2More Less
My own campaign to advertise the interest of Douglas Livingstone's poetry, and by extension the value of contemporaneous South African English literature, involved me in a long, rewarding haul and the resultant fervent friendship. My Douglas Livingstone collection I have deposited with the Humanities Research Center at the Austin campus of the University of Texas, where it has joined their holdings like those of British periodicals such as the archives of The London Magazine. It includes the typescript of an unpublished play called "The Crusaders," as well as two revised texts of his radio drama, The Sea My Winding Sheet (which became one of the five playscripts in Theatre One, the anthology of "New South African Drama," which I edited for Ad. Donker in 1978, though the collection was carried by Herman Charles Bosman's long-lost Street-woman, and then current stage-plays by Fatima Dike, Athol Fugard and Pieter-Dirk Uys). There is the typescript of the much corrected foreword he had written for my debut slim volume, It's About Time of 1974, justifying his selection for the Mantis Poets series. One of the poems I submitted to him and rather liked had to go extinct like its subject, the "Blue Whale," because he would let through no superficial double entendres which he reckoned I might later regret. Also included were various talks he had passed on. The correspondence part of the collection, comprised mainly of letters in his characteristic inky scrawl, with a few postcards and notes covering the period of over two decades, runs to more than ninety items.
Author Mariss StevensSource: English in Africa 40, pp 25 –32 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.3More Less
It is generally acknowledged that Douglas Livingstone (1932-1996) is one of South Africa's finest poets, and his wish that at least one of his poems will still be read 100 years after its publication will no doubt come true. Meanwhile, his papers are carefully conserved at the National English Literary Museum. This is one NELM's major collections and constitutes both an important scholarly resource and a rich source for literary exhibitions and school programmes at the museum.
Source: English in Africa 40, pp 33 –42 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.4More Less
Roots? - I was asked recently by an acquaintance who had read some of my work - the where/when were your roots? This threw me all right; I have been to more schools than I care to remember, in several continents, but which to call a capillary let alone the taproot had me foxed.
Source: English in Africa 40, pp 43 –44 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.5More Less
'Reactions against the modernism of Eliot and Pound.' Does this mean that these two are to be lifted from the context of mainstream Poetry-in-English? Afraid I regard them as very much a 'mainstream' pair - their language, their 'modernism' as historically inevitable. Their much-lauded (once) 'freeing of Language' was a fine and necessary development. Probably behoves some of us to re-examine this achievement and acknowledge it. To condemn the pair as American seems far-fetched. Viable poetry is being produced in many lands and apart from geographical shading or colour I often find it impossible to state (as some brave souls can) this was composed by an American, Englishman, Chinese.
Source: English in Africa 40, pp 47 –48 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.7More Less
Just over a dozen years ago, when the first sputnik had been launched, I embarked on an epic poem. The slightly bizarre idea (I had the courage of the young) was to set Africa in that other-world of Greek mythology. I combed Larousse, Smith and Bulfinch among other sources, and later, Graves; but nowhere did the Greeks have a myth for this continent that I could discover.
Source: English in Africa 40, pp 51 –55 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.9More Less
As far as I can gather, the writing of a poem starts with a word or a phrase or a line or a vision. Which one immediately attempts to suppress because the ensuing processes range from that initial minor annoyance (rather like a thorn in the seat of the trousers) to very hard work indeed involving the making and breaking of phrases, agonising decisions on the selection of what are probably totally unimportant words, obsessive writings and rewritings to cut down as closely as possible to the so-called 'truth,' which being interpreted is: saying exactly what it is one is trying to convey.
Source: English in Africa 40, pp 57 –58 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.10More Less
Among the Sixties phenomena was a resurgence of public interest in poetry which eventually reached even these iconoclastic shores. Inevitably much chaff was produced along with the wheat, even by good poets. (There is probably a fixed ratio that applies here - Keats in his annus mirabilis produced but six good poems, or one per two months; Cavafy, who lived a long time, two or three per year.)
Source: English in Africa 40, pp 59 –61 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.11More Less
First, in accordance with current fashion, I must make my political statement: the mighty Brecht, no less, knew something all the little post-Brechtians appear to have forgotten or mislaid: modern literature has not changed the heart of even one politician - to my knowledge. Polit-Lit does have one important function, of course: to show the few readers interested that One's Heart Is In The Right Place. Like everyone else, I have attempted political poems. Unlike everyone else's, mine were complete disasters - bad poetry - and are happily banned or suppressed, by me. Now the exponents of Poetry, and even more so those of Polit-Lit have had and no doubt will have much more to say this Summer School. In all fairness, therefore, I think it's time Science had a hearing.
Source: English in Africa 40, pp 65 –82 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.13More Less
Not only am I not a trained critic, but I am faced with an august body of English school teachers who probably know more about poetry than I do.
School teachers make me very nervous. My first English school teacher was a French nun at a convent in Malaya. She used to keep a bowl of boiled sweets on her desk. And if one of her pupils could write the letter CAT and SAT and MAT in their correct sequence on the blackboard, she would reward the child with a boiled sweet. It was probably very good for our English, if not particularly good for our teeth. Once when her back was turned - cleaning the board or something - and it was my turn to regale the class with my proficiency in the esoterics of English spelling, I grabbed a whole handful of the sweets and stuffed them in my pocket. She appeared not to notice. We finished the lesson. It was, I remember, a very long lesson! As we all filed out, she told me to stay behind and empty my pockets. It was a messy business: the sweets had partially melted. "Livingstone," she said, "you are going to come to a sticky end."
Source: English in Africa 40, pp 83 –85 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.14More Less
Ladies and gentlemen, fellow academicians:
I am pleased, honoured and proud - and not a little nervous at being here today. My impression is that a mistake may have been made. And my impulse is to flee before the mistake is uncovered, before I am stripped of my precious Schreiner [Award].
Source: English in Africa 40 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.15More Less
Particular physical sections of the earth, its waters, soil, topographies, terrains, regional skies, etc., appear to me, and I suppose to everyone, to have their own character or psychology (apart, that is, from the inhabitants). My involvement with this continent as a white African is to me a profound and passionate and (I hope) compassionate one. If I could, I would heal the very earth on which I stand, the waters I sail on, swim in, work with, look over, drink from; and of course, myself, my fellow humans and the fauna and flora. The only scalpels and medicaments I have are a limited scientific training, a little insight and a small writing talent.
Source: English in Africa 40, pp 95 –104 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.18More Less
A. W. Sloan (1979), in his elegant presidential address to the Royal Society of South Africa, states that science is "a search for the truth," the truth being "a pragmatic concept which explains phenomena." Science, he continues, depends on certain pre-suppositions, including a belief in order and harmony, although science itself is never static but constantly undergoing change as well as expansion. The scientist, observes Sloan, starts with some preconceived theory, and selects the relevant (as opposed to random) data - in order not to waste time. He makes a point of including Hume's (1777) contention that all science is contingent. Sloan also refers to Thomas Kuhn (1962) and Karl Popper (1959, 1972) in his address; and, perhaps surprisingly, some degree of formal logical congruency is discernible, despite their differing approaches to the subject, among the three of them in their scientific thinking.
Source: English in Africa 40, pp 105 –112 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.19More Less
Off the coast of Natal, the warm Agulhas Current streams south. Its central core wavers like a shimmy dancer in slow motion between 20 and 50 km offshore. On its journey towards the Cape it spins off gyres 10 to 20 km across which circle dreamily clockwise making the prevailing longshore currents north-going, although the gyres themselves are also gyrating south. The Indian Ocean on this coast is notorious: it oscillates between bland twinkling affability and violently destructive turbulence - fairly reflecting, it seems, the national character of the adjacent landlubbers. The gales veer from north-east to south, the winds bringing rain are usually south-westerly. A phenomenon referred to by some local oceanographers and sailors as the rogue or killer wave is not uncommon along the 100 fathom line: it is a wave attaining, some say, twenty or more metres in height, heading north, with attendant before and after troughs, and has broken or buried not a few ships. The whole system is dynamic to say the least, and is treated with respect by sober mariners. Conrad must have encountered one of our storms in his Narcissus.
Source: English in Africa 40, pp 113 –123 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/eia.v40i3.20More Less
Greeting, Grave Gentles; thank you for your welcome. I must confess I am extremely nervous at having to address such an august body: the word English stands for the vibrant and intractable language I love to distraction, and the word Academy is, to me, redolent of erudition - a quality I admire, which reduces me to hopeless envy. So I do not feel at all adequate to this evening's task: the Seventh English Academy Lecture, no less.