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Modjaji Books

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Woman Unfolding Launched at The Book Lounge

Jenna Mervis’s debut collection of poems, Woman Unfolding, was launched at The Book Lounge on Thursday 3rd November. Some books have a relatively short gestation period (Margaret Clough’s At Least the Duck Survived for example) but somehow the gestation period of Jenna’s book was more like those of the large mammals, a whale or an elephant, say.

Karin Schimke, poet and Books Editor of the Cape Times welcomed Jenna’s book into the world, along with a warm and enthusiastic crowd of well-wishers who were all delighted to finally the see the book, alive and breathing.

Here is what Karin had to say:

Woman UnfoldingHere’s what I know about Jenna:

1. She likes dogs. A lot.
2. She is Jewish, but she married a gentile. This is where I almost said “Jedi” while I was reading.
3. She’s nice.

Here’s another thing I know about her: when she reads at Off The Wall, or sends a new poem in to UCTPoetryweb for the other poetrywebbers to crit, I sit up. She always seems to have something interesting to offer. She is not a shouty poet. She doesn’t swear, or rage, or perform her quiet poems with any superfluous theatics. But inside each carefully constructed gentle lineis a depth of thought, a curiosity and a maturity that is sometimes lacking in the poetry of people twice her age.

But actually I want to tell you something about Jenna’s mother, about whom I know even less than I do about Jenna, except that I have seen her supporting Jenna at various performances, and that which I know of her from what Jenna has revealed in her poems.

There’s a long, strong tradition of mother writing, particularly by female writers. The relationship between mother and daughter is often fraught. I think of Antjie Krog’s poem Ma, in which she says she is writing her mother a “kaalvoet gedig”, a simple praise poem, which ends – perhaps unexpectedly – with a lament that she is sorry she cannot be what her mother would want her to be.

I think of Erica Jong’s poems about her mother, in which she says, in one “Mother,what I feel for you/is more/& less/than love”. I think of Jeanne Goosen’s poem which made me cry the first time I read it, in which she says she is borrowing a looking glass from Copernicus to spy on her mother in heaven – in her OK Basaarsloffies – where God draws her mother to his chest, lifts the “snaakse gesiggie” towards him and places his lips on her to blow into her, and how happy this makes the poet “want op aarde het my ma min gehad”.

Launch gallery

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