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Who are the poetry advocates in South Africa?

Last week The Huffington Post ran an article about the Top 200 Advocates for Poetry in the US. The author of the article Seth Abrahamson is a reviewer and a Series Co-Editor,for Best American Experimental Writing. he lists his top 200 Poetry Advocates in alphabetical order and gives them a primary reason or two for inclusion.

Individuals are identified by their primary bases for inclusion on the list, and, as known, other appropriate designations; any missed identifications are solely the result of human error and are by no means purposeful. Neither the designations included in the list below, nor the list as a whole, are intended to assess the power, authority, or cultural capital invested in any person or group; instead, the emphasis here is on the quality, scope, and duration of an individual or group’s advocacy for American poetry and American poetry-related discourse.

I posted the article on Facebook to see who others thought South African poetry advocates might be. I thought it should be relatively current, in other words the past ten years say, up to the present. The list is quite long and I am sure quite incomplete. Most people on my Facebook post just listed names, without saying why they were nominating them, so I did a bit of research on the ones I didn’t know. There must be many more. My own experience is biased towards the English poetry scene and I know what happens and who does what in Cape Town, to some extent in Grahamstown and a little in PE, and then bits of what happen and who does what in Joburg and in other parts of the country.

Just for fun, here is my list – totally subjective and as I said incomplete. Please add names (with a few words to say why they should be included in this list) to the comments below. Add people & organisations. I will update the post as I get more information.

Oh, and what is interesting is that most of the advocates are also poets. Some of the people mentioned were more active a little while ago, but are still active. And some people as you can see have multiple roles as poetry advocates and promoters. And from the list of organisations – I’ve put down where they are based, it is clear that there are a few main centres for poetry activity. Perhaps this is largely because I am not aware of what is happening in other places. Finally, I think the list is encouraging, as it shows that poetry is alive and well in South Africa. Lots of passionate people, lots of things going on.

Poetry advocates
Ingrid Anderson (Poet, Incwadi online poetry magazine)
Arthur Attwell (Poet, publisher, mentor, editor)
Gabeba Baderoon (Poet, editor, mentor)
Bulelwa Basse (Poet, Lyrical Base, cultural activist, events)
Zenariah Barends (Poet, Cape Cultural Collective, events)
Brett Beiles (Ran Live Poets Society in Durban)
Vonani Bila (Poet, Timbila – publisher, events, cultural activist, NAC Board member for Literature)
Mphutlane wa Bofelo (Poet, cultural activist)
Robert Berold (Poet, Editor of New Coin, editor, mentor, convener of Rhodes MA, workshops, teacher)
Breyten Breytenbach (Poet, translator, events)
Deidre Byrne (Editor – Scrutiny 2, reviewer)
Gary Cummiskey (Poet, Green Dragon, Dye Hard Press – publisher, interviews with poets, reviews)
Raphael d’Abdon (Poet, editor)
Ingrid de Kok (Poet, events, teacher)
Angifi Dladla (Poet, publisher, workshops, poetry in prisons)
Finuala Dowling (Poet, workshops, Franschoek Lit Fest, Summer school, Slipnet)
Ntone Edjabe (Publisher of Chimurenga)
Mark Espin (Poet, cultural activist, events, teacher)
Gus Ferguson (Poet, Carapace, Snailpress – publisher, editor, mentor)
Diana Ferrus (Poet, WEAVE collective, mentor)
Alan Finlay (Poet, editor, compiler, Donga, Bliksem)
Vangi Gantsho (Poet)
Dawn Garisch (Poet, SlipNet mentor/teacher)
Keith Gottschalk (Poet, convenor of Landsdowne Local Writers’ Group – been going for 24 years!)
Joan Hambidge (Poet, reviewer, teacher)
Khadija Heeger (Poet, cultural activist)
Colleen Higgs (Poet, Modjaji Books – publisher, provider of information)
Hugh Hodge (Poet, editor – New Contrast, Off the Wall organiser)
Allan Kolski Horwitz (Poet, Botsotso, cultural activist)
Nthabiseng “Jah Rose” Jafta (Poet, publisher, Free State producer of poetry events)
Myesha Jenkins (Poet, Radio readings, Jozi House of Poetry, cultural activist)
Liesl Jobson (Poet, reviewer, Poetry International)
Sophy Kohler (Poet, editor, Imago, Aerodrome)
Rustum Kozain (Poet, poetry editor, mentor)
Antjie Krog (Poet, teacher, cultural activist, mentor)
David wa Maahlamela (Poet, cultural activist, organiser, mentor, events, RealMenTalk project)
Duduzile Mabaso (Publisher, Black Letter Media, Poetry Potion)
Robin Malan (Editor, compiler)
Danie Marais (Poet, editor, reviewer)
Napo Masheane (Poet, director, actress & performer of poetry, poetry as theatre promoter)
Gawki Mashego (Poet, cultural activist)
Lebo Mashile (Poet, cultural activist, mentor)
Michelle McGrane (Poet, Peonymoon Blog)
Joan Metelerkamp (Poet, editor of New Coin, editor, critic)
Amitahb Mitra (Poet, publisher)
Helen Moffett (Poet, compiler, anthologiser, encourager)
Afurakan T Mohare (Poet, cultural activist, events)
Kobus Moolman (Poet, Fidelties, Creative Writing teaching at UKZN, poetry editor, mentor)
Natalia Molebatsi (Poet, Urban Voices, compiler)
Malika Ndlovu (Poet, WEAVE, performer, And The Word Was Woman, Badilisha Poetry Radio Curator/Presenter)
Mxolisi Nyezwa (Poet, cultural activist, mentor, Kotaz, events)
Pieter Odendaal (Poet, SLipNet workshops, mentor, teacher)
Harry Owen (Poet, Reddits Poetry Open Mic evenings, mentor)
Mari Pete (Poet, teacher, events-organiser, mentor)
Hans Pienaar (Melville Poetry Festival)
Karen Press (Poet, publisher, organiser of events & exhibitions)
Lesego Rampolokeng (Poet, cultural crtic/activist)
Marcia Raymond (Poetry Circle organiser at CT Central Library)
Moira Richards (Publisher, reviewer, mentor)
Kate Rogan at Love Books (Poetry launches, stocks poetry)
Michael Rolfe (Poet, Off the Wall)
Arja Salafranca (Poet, reviewer, editor, compiler)
Karin Schimke (Poet, Off the Wall, reviews, poet)
Patricia Schonstein (Poet, anthologiser, publisher)
Anne Schuster (Poet, teacher, mentor)
Matome Seima (Poet, publisher – Dinkwe Productions)
Ari Sitas (Poet, worker poetry publisher – Insurrections)
Kelwyn Sole (Poet, editor, compiler, critic, mentor, lecturer & writer about SA Poetry)
Toni Stuart (Poet, teacher, Poetica, performer, events, reviews)
Halejoetse Tshelana (Poet, SLiPNet poetry workshops, mentor)
Adrian van Wyk (Poet, SLiPNet poetry workshop)
Marlene van Niekerk (Poet)
Crystal Warren (Poet, editor of New Coin, ISEA course, organiser of launches)
Paul Wessels (Donga, teacher)
Indra Wussow (Events, Silt residencies)
Phillippa Yaa De Villiers (Poet, Jozi House of Poetry, mentor, events)
David wa Maahlamela ( Poet, indigenous language poetry promoter, Polokwane Litfest)
Stephen Watson (Poet, teacher, UCT Creative Writing MA convenor, publisher, editor, mentor)
Makhosazana Xaba (Poet, editor, cultural activist)
Rachel Zadok (Events, passionate reader of poetry)
Fiona Zerbst (Poet, poetry editor, mentor)

Organisations, Events, Institutions
Badilisha
Bookslive
Book Lounge (Stock poetry, readings, launches) (Cape Town)
Cape Town Central Library (Poetry Circle)
Chimurenga
Clarke’s Books (Stock poetry, readings, launches) (Cape Town)
Franschoek Lit Fest
Jozi House of Poetry
Ingrid Jonker Prize
In Zync sessions (Stellenbosch)
Kalk Bay Books (stock poetry, launches and readings)
Landsdowne Local Writers’ Group – run by Keith Gottschalk (Cape Town)
Litnet
Love Books (Johannesburg)
McGregor Poetry Festival
Off the Wall weekly readings & Open Mic sessions (Cape Town)
Open Book Festival (Cape Town)
Poetry Africa (Durban mainly)
Praat (Port Elizabeth)
SAFM (Poetry in the Air, Literature Programme on Sundays)
SALA Poetry Prize
SLipNet (Stellenbosch)
Versindaba (Stellenbosch)
Wordfest (Grahamstown)
Woordfees (Stellenbosch)

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    August 19th, 2013 @11:42 #
     
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    Pretty comprehensive - thanks, Colleen. I would add Ntone Edjabe and Chimurenga.

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  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    August 19th, 2013 @11:50 #
     
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    Moira Richards - she is not only a poet, has helped publish poetry but is one of the rare voices that makes sure poetry is reviewed in the more mainstream press.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    August 19th, 2013 @12:06 #
     
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    Thanks Ben and Tiah, of course!!
    But that is why I wanted to do this, to have the list as a record and a resource. Will update later on today.

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  • <a href="http://unisa.ac.za" rel="nofollow">Reluctantpoet</a>
    Reluctantpoet
    August 19th, 2013 @12:26 #
     
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    I will add Matome Seima, a Poet, an editor and publisher of poetry of Dinkwe Productions. Manypoets, were published by him http://dinkwe.booklive.co.za. A seasoned lawyer of our time, who continues to defend the poorest of the poor in the court rooms of South Africa. The cases which influences his poetry!

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    August 19th, 2013 @12:27 #
     
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    Agreed, Reluctantpoet - Matome deserves inclusion.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    August 19th, 2013 @12:38 #
     
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    Thanks!

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    August 19th, 2013 @16:17 #
     
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    Thanks for this, Colleen, it's a grand (and hopefully unfolding) list. I'd add Gabeba Baderoon, even though she's now largely US-based: poet who does mentoring and teaching and takes SA poetry round the performance platforms of the world. And while Lebo Matshile seems to have dropped off the poetry radar a little, she's done great work in raising the profile of SA spoken word poetry.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    August 19th, 2013 @17:23 #
     
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    A useful list, Colleen! One of the things that worries me is how few people are writing, or attempting to write, scholarly, critical or even descriptive articles about post-liberation poetry. Aside from student postgrad theses, I know overall of about twelve in over twenty years (though there are one or two websites that are useful, like dyehardpress, and SlipNet). At the same time, it's fascinating, what's going on; re form, re poet self-fashioning, re ideological and thematic content etc etc.
    It strikes me that it makes sense to start trying to map this, tentatively and non-prescriptively, and crude as it may have to be: we need much more through critical engagement and discussion. At least to make a beginning.... In the absence of this, the old problem of particular political or other interest groups claiming to talk for 'South African poetry' as a whole remains with us; and, even worse, poets and fans of poetry often remain ignorant of what's going on elsewhere, or nationally.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    August 20th, 2013 @09:32 #
     
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    I think it is useful to map, because one starts to see things, like the fact that most poetry advocates are also poets. And also I always find its better to do things like make this list or whatever, rather than to wait till one has all the possible information and resources.
    Why don't you start something Kelwyn? A blog or something that does offer a space for critical engagement? Or get UCT poetry studying students to do so ...

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    August 20th, 2013 @09:51 #
     
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    Also included Arthur Attwell and the late Stephen Watson ...

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    August 20th, 2013 @10:20 #
     
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    I do run courses sometimes, because inter alia they're fun to teach. And yes, all these things would help. But I do think there's a problem that starts at schools: where too often the teaching of how to read poetry, and the processes of poetry, is parlous, if such teaching exists at all. And the traditional methods don't help either (i.e. "this is a poem and it has a (one) meaning and if you don't understand it then you're a pretty stupid student") - this kills off poetry for many children. Poetry is like any other form of literature, or art, or music - there are literacies involved, and it's possible to get to enjoy and understand these without being flattened in the process.
    But yes - metropolitan modernisms and post-modernisms; (post)modernisms in developing countries; traditional forms like the izibongo/dithoko, etc - we need to start talking about these in relation and interaction with each other, myns insiens. A useful conceptual start is made by e.g. Jahan Ramazani in his book 'Transnational Poetics'.

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    August 20th, 2013 @10:30 #
     
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    Good choices, Colleen.

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  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    August 20th, 2013 @12:59 #
     
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    Kelwyn, you should offer to do mini courses in the schools. Especially the little ones. That's the time to show them that reading / writing is beyond what they see at school. (The books my kids come home with *shudder*)

    My little dream is that more writers will brave the classrooms - even if it is only twice a year. Teach whatever floats the writer's boat and then (of course) if May or June said writer will pass out the SSDA's current contest and encourage kids to submit. ;)

    Might be a fun theme next year - have children take a poem and turn it into their own short story. Because poems are a type of story - and the interpretations or the way the build on it could be fascinating. The website could have a few kids could download if they can't find one on their own.

    (I am only brainstorming out loud. I don't even have this years entries perfectly sorted out yet. Just tossing ideas out and see which seeds sprout.)

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    August 20th, 2013 @22:19 #
     
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    *yearns with impossible longing to teach poetry again -- any poetry, from T'ang dynasty to Middle English to modern African -- yearn yearn yearn*

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    August 22nd, 2013 @09:53 #
     
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    There are discussions going here and there on re the possibility of focusing on teachers, Tiah ... let's hope they come to fruition. Talking with school teachers about methodologies of making poetry interesting (in ways they go beyond initial, subjective likes and dislikes on the one hand, or simply being prescriptive and over-didactic on the other) seems to me the crucial first step.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    August 22nd, 2013 @15:34 #
     
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    Malika Ndlovu just sent me some people to add
    Nthabiseng “Jah Rose” Jafta (Poet, publisher, Free State producer of poetry events)
    Napo Masheane (Poet, Actress, director, poetry and theatre promoter)
    Ari Sitas ( Poet, Academic, Worker Poetry publisher, Insurrections)
    Halejoetse Tsehlana ( poet, academic, mentor)
    David wa Maahlamela ( Poet, Indigenous language poetry promoter, Polokwane Litfest)
    Makhosazana Xaba (Poet, editor, cultural activist)

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  • <a href="http://nickwood.frogwrite.co.nz/" rel="nofollow">nick45wood</a>
    nick45wood
    August 22nd, 2013 @16:46 #
     
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    Isobel Dixon (poet and literary agent)

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  • <a href="http://book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Ben - Editor</a>
    Ben - Editor
    August 23rd, 2013 @08:35 #
     
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    Good one, nick45wood. Especially like David wa Maahlamela, Colleen.

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  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    August 23rd, 2013 @11:59 #
     
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    I don't think there is much to be done about the teaching. The curriculum in its current format demands things to be done X way in order to pass national exams. My son is in Grade 3 (8 to 9yr olds) and they have week long assessments twice each semester. In short - we're spending 8 weeks a year 'assessing' and the rest getting them ready to pass said assessment.

    Hence why I sneak in there to try to broaden their perspective on things - life beyond the right / wrong answer.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    August 24th, 2013 @09:39 #
     
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    This is the first problem with pedagogic thinking about poetry - that you're teaching content, when 70% of the time you're actually teaching process. (In my two last years of school, we had a teacher who refused to do the syllabus except occasionally - he used Eliot, Chekhov and Lawrence mainly instead. Out of this came a number of SA literary academics and critics - Trump, Clingman, Bunn and others. And his pass percentages in the class as a whole were very good).
    I see Harvard is now teaching foundational courses in the Humanities like 'The Art of Reading', 'The Art of Listening' etc. Point taken.

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  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    August 24th, 2013 @17:08 #
     
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    Too many mistake memorization for knowledge. In actual fact, this only leaves a person with 'true opinions.' Few people understand the difference between having a 'true opinion' and 'knowing' something.

    ...I'm going to shut up now or I'll start ranting.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    August 24th, 2013 @17:41 #
     
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    In in poetry, and literary studies generally, a 'true opinion' is of temporary value - as notions of what's significant and of value in any text can and do change over time. And there's more than one theoretical perspective from which one can approach any text, which proliferates the possible meanings.
    Moreover, as you get to modernist, postmodernist and postcolonial poetry (in their various global manifestations) it's even less use, as the genre lends itself to prolixity of meaning - it's possible to have more than one meaning come out of a line, let alone a poem: and these different meanings can exist side-by-side.
    So the process of analysis itself is what's important...

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  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    August 25th, 2013 @11:20 #
     
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    Which doesn't happen in a lecture where the students are told to focus on THE theme of South African literature, which will be declared to be land. (Except they are no longer students. But learners.)

    Very different from being taught seminar style where students are expected to open their mouths and back up ever utterance from the text and only the text. So land may be a common theme, but if the student can then produce another and back it up then the issue is explored.

    Or in my University's case, I ended up having to write a paper using both Blake's poetry and Marx. Regardless, the situation would not happen at UCT.

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  • <a href="http://kelwynsole.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Kelwyn Sole</a>
    Kelwyn Sole
    August 25th, 2013 @16:22 #
     
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    Tiah, are kids seriously being told that 'the theme' of SA lit is the land? Only? Oy vey.
    The best one can do in a lecture is try to show process - i.e. 'this is how I arrive at this meaning, look'. And to show through this how some meanings make more sense than others....burden of proof. Come to think of it, poetry analysis is a bit like detective work.

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  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    August 26th, 2013 @08:21 #
     
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    UCT, South African Lit - '99. To be fair, the other lectures in the 'micro' classes that fed into the one class were a bit more 'Use your brain!' But the main lecture was all about landscape. Which is a good topic. But there was more to explore.

    Detective work - sounds good.

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  • <a href="http://www.modjajibooks.co.za" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    Colleen
    September 13th, 2013 @18:08 #
     
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    Just added Keith Gottschalk -poet and convenor of the Landsdowne Local Writers' Group which has been going for 24 years! Please let me know if there are any other advocates I should add. I'm sure I've missed some.

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