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An A to Z of AmaZing South African Women

Fatima MeerMeet the rebels, artists, troublemakers, athletes, dancing queens and freedom fighters that shaped our past – and are changing our future.

An A to Z of Amazing South African Women tells the stories of 26 trailblazing South African women through accessible stories and illustrations that are as bright and bold as the women they depict.

From Fatima Meer to Caster Semenya, Natalie du Toit to Dope St Jude, this is a book about women who ask too many questions, who defy injustice, who refuse to take no for an answer. It is a celebration of the courage and determination of the activists, scientists and storytellers who have gone before us – as well as a recognition of the everyday heroism of ordinary South African woman doing extraordinary things.

JThe book takes its inspiration from the worldwide bestseller An A to Z of Rad American Women and will be launched during August 2017. It is the work of writer Ambre Nicolson and illustrator Jaxon Hsu, a husband and wife team based in Cape Town.

“When I came across the American edition I immediately wished there was a South African version. Since none existed we decided to make one ourselves. The result is a book that showcases South African women as we know them to be: courageous, compassionate and resilient,” says Nicolson.

Publisher Colleen Higgs describes the process of choosing only 26 women for the project as almost impossible: “What we loved about the American version is that the women featured were not the usual suspects, they were such a diverse group of women all united by a certain steely irreverence. We have worked hard to ensure that An A to Z of Amazing South African Women features a really interesting mix of women from all walks of life and all eras of South Africa’s past and present.”

Modjaji Books has also launched a crowdfunding campaign, through Thundafund, to support the publication of An A to Z of Amazing South African Women. Supporters of the campaign can not only pre-order their copy of the book but also buy an additional copy at a discounted rate that will be given to a young person who would not be able to afford one through Fundza, the South African nonprofit dedicated to improving literacy among teens and young adults.Olive Schreiner

The campaign will run for six weeks until 13 June 2017.

For more information click this link

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Michelle Hattingh’s I’m the Girl Who Was Raped – a powerful, brave book


Michelle Hattingh was in Joburg this week launching her memoir, I’m the Girl Who Was Raped. Her book is receiving huge media attention, because she has had the courage to come forward and tell her story about being raped and what happened to her afterwards externally – but more especially what happened internally – how she dealt with what happened to her, how she felt, how she started to heal.

Michelle’s story is a no holds barred one, and her insight and writing is disrupting conversations and taken-for-granted views about rape and what it is, she is disturbing and disrupting rape culture, and none of it is easy.

Fiona Snyckers was in conversation with Michelle about the book at Love Books.

With Fiona’s permission, I’m sharing what she wrote on Facebook afterwards and her Twitter summary of the launch.

I’ve been present at panel discussions where white members of the audience have derailed a discussion on race and black pain by talking about how hard it is as a white person to know how to do the right thing.

What they did, in other words, was make the conversation about themselves and demand that the black panelists mop up their white tears.
Last night at Love Books we saw this in action again, but this time it was male tears that hijacked the agenda.

I was in conversation with Michelle Hattingh, author of the searing memoir I’M THE GIRL WHO WAS RAPED at her Johannesburg book launch. We’d had a long and difficult discussion about rape and rape culture, with many valuable contributions from women in the audience.

We were just wrapping things up when someone asked that a young man who’d had his hand up be given the chance to speak. Michelle agreed so I allowed the question.
He started off by saying that he thought we were all simplifying rape. (This is Mansplaining 101 – accusing a female interlocutor of not grasping the nuances.) Then he said that rape was “complicated” because there were always two people with their own different backgrounds that they brought to the encounter. (If this sounds like rape apology, that’s probably because it is.) He went on to talk about how difficult it is to be a man in this day and age and how hard it is to tell if a woman really is giving consent, especially if she is drunk.

And because we had decided that this was absolutely the last comment, that’s where the session ended, with mansplaining, rape apology and male tears having the last word. I’m still annoyed about it.

But Michelle’s talk was great and he didn’t have the power to take anything away from that. In the end, that’s all that matters.



Michelle was interviewed by Sue Grant-Marshall for Radio Today. You can listen to her interview here.

More photos of the launch are here. Thanks to Lourens Botha for these photographs.

Thanks, too, to Helen Holyoake of Helco Promotions for her brilliant work in drawing the attention of the media to I’m the Girl Who Was Raped.
I'm the Girl Who Was RapedBook details

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Here’s a little thank you gift from Modjaji Books

Book MarkWe’re giving all of our Facebook Friends and Likers a small gift – a R100 voucher to buy books off our website. Choose your book/s and when you check out, use the coupon “facebook” (all lower space and no quotation marks) to claim your R100 voucher. It’s a small way of saying thank you! The R100 gift voucher is on offer till the end of July 2015.

Small Print
*You do need to LIKE our Facebook page in order to take advantage of this offer.
*Only one voucher per person.

Our website is

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Now I See You by Priscilla Holmes – standing room only launch at The Book Lounge

written by Isabel Ritchie

Now I see youThis past Tuesday evening, The Book Lounge was flooded by readers eager for the launch of Priscilla Holmes’ debut novel Now I See You, “a tough-cookie cop adventure”, as described by fellow South African crime writer Joanne Hichens.

Priscilla was in conversation with famed journalist and author, Tim Butcher. They are friends, and this lent a fun, easy, chatty air to the interview. It also gave Tim the elbow room to saucily suggest that the sex scenes in the book are too good to not be true. After praising the well-written erotic moments (there’s sex in a toilet cubicle, and even naked Twister), Butcher engaged Priscilla about how Now I See You has “layers like an onion” which unpeel as the book progresses.

Holmes revealed that she was inspired by the true story of a young, gifted girl from a remote valley in the Eastern Cape, who was the first child from the community to be educated. She walked 10km every day, through all weather, to reach the farm school, and later acquired a bursary for a prestigious Grahamstown high school. This is the point where fiction took over from fact. Holmes’ protagonist became feisty Detective Inspector Thabisa Tswane, who leaves the valley (she thinks for good) to pursue a high profile police career in Jozi. Fourteen years later, a violent crimes case takes her back to her roots, and we start to see glimpses of the hidden layers that Tswane is comprised of.

The metaphor of an onion unpeeling as the book progresses can apply to all the main characters – which includes the villains, as well as to the various places where the novel is set. As we learn more about their pasts, unexpected subtleties are unearthed.

The significance of place is a key aspect of this “racy, pacy crime thriller”. The red hilled Eastern Cape valley of DI Tswane’s childhood, the bustling metropolis of Johannesburg, the brown and red carpeted police safe house in Grahamstown, and the various environments the criminals inhabit in their pasts and present, are etched vividly into the reader’s imagination. Colours, smells, and personalities of local inhabitants are all used to enhance the value each setting holds for a character, and then we get to see another layer of the character unfold as they themselves are transformed by their locations.

Priscilla Holmes and Brigadier Mene1779901_10152917819187448_2662428328474449301_n

During the Q&A session with the audience, Priscilla predicted that her characters will outlive her. They are irrepressible, they occupy her dreams, and they take her writing to places she never expected or planned to go to. She actually set out to write an adventure story, a quest featuring the girl who leaves the valley, and it spontaneously turned into crime fiction. Luckily for us, the end of Now I See You is not the last we’ll see of DI Tswane – she and her fellow characters have insisted that they will be appearing again.

Standing didn’t dampen the mood (it was so well attended that half the crowd didn’t get seats) – afterwards, a long queue formed for book signing by Priscilla, all the copies of Now I See You at the venue sold out, and it was clear that everyone involved, including the Modjaji team, was buzzing with satisfaction.

To see more pictures go to the Modjaji Books Facebook page.

Book details
Now I See You

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Extreme summer special offer on all titles for two weeks only

Check out the Modjaji Books website first – click on titles and Hands-On titles to see what is available. Email me if you want to take up any of these offers.

All books are ON SALE for the next two weeks till November 22nd, 2013. (Postage excluded unless you select a package deal)


Novels are R130
Longer Non-Fiction – R150
Shorter Non-Fiction – R100
Short stories – R110
Poetry – R100

3 POETRY titles for R200 (including postage for South African addresses only)
3 SHORT FICTION titles – for R250 (including postage- for South African addresses only)
2 NOVELS for R250 (including postage – for South African addresses only)
2 longer NON-FICTION titles for R250 (excluding postage)
2 shorter NON-FICTION titles for R150 (excluding postage)


Jabulani Means Rejoice – Dictionary of South African Names – R150 (usually R250 in stores) Excl postage.

Small Publisher’s Catalogue: Africa, 2013 – R60 incl postage

New titles:

The Turtle Dove Told Me by Thandi Sliepen R100 incl postage (usual price R150)

Pleasure-in-Relating by Susan Groves (R100 incl postage – usual price R150

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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
Book Lounge (Stock poetry, readings, launches) (Cape Town)
Cape Town Central Library (Poetry Circle)
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)
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)

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Reneilwe Malatji’s Love Interrupted launched in Cape Town

“Cape Town is the best city in the whole world!”

Reneilwe Malatji was delighted to launch her collection of stories, Love Interrupted in Cape Town, she has a long and fond history with the city. Her grandfather lived and worked here and Reneilwe feels that this family history is partly responsible for where she is today, as a writer, a teacher, an academic.

The event at the Book Lounge was the sixth or seventh event to announce the arrival of this wonderful collection of stories. Eva Hunter spoke to Reneilwe about her life and her writing.

Reneilwe is still enjoying the sense that she is a writer, she didn’t know any writers growing up, and it seemed as remote as going to Mars that she might one day become a writer. She grew the confidence she felt she needed while doing a course in Journalism and the Creative Writing MA at Rhodes University.

Malatji told us that the writers she feels influenced by are Zakes Mda, Bessie Head, Eskia Mphahelele, Tsitsi Dangaremba, Achebe, Adichie as well as Chekhov and Somerset Maugham.

Eva Hunter said that what struck her about Reneilwe’s writing is that it is full of humour and is not angry, even though she writes boldly and provocatively about painful subjects, such as racism and violent relationships. Malatji said, “I laugh and love with my characters.” She also argued that as a Black writer she feels people in her community, other black people need to become more self reflective. This is what she is attempting to do. She also argued that she doesn’t think blame, anger and judgement are not helpful. “You tell it like it is, and you write with compassion, subtlety and sophistication,” Eva Hunter told Reneilwe, during the conversation.

Eva Hunter also said she feels Reneilwe’s stories are bursting at the seams. “Yes,” laughed Reneilwe, “I write the way I cook, If I cook for 2 people, 6 people will eat.”

For more pictures from the launch, click here

Love Interrupted

Book details

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Book Launch: Love Interrupted by Reneilwe Malatji

The Book Lounge and Modjaji Books are delighted to invite you to the Cape Town launch of Reneilwe Malatji’s acclaimed collection of short stories Love, Interrupted. Eva Hunter will introduce Reneilwe and talk with her about her book and her writing.

More about the collection:
I’m so excited about this collection, Reneilwe Malatji’s voice is a new and refreshing one. She writes in a way that I haven’t come across in South African writing before. She combines humour, wisdom, a beady eye and a take-no prisoners attitude and a very particular life experience and perspective. Everything and everyone is up for scrutiny.

The collection has received a range of very positive reviews in The Witness

THIS book is a treasure. A beautifully written book by a new author, who has powerfully captured the stories of African women, daughters, sons, and lovers in her first collection.

Malatji will be a voice to watch in the future and this is a worthy first book.

and in the Sunday Independent.

Reneilwe Malatji is on record as saying: “We need stories that are told from the point of view of black people, we need stories from rural areas, we need stories from ekasi, ja genuine sincere stories.”
This debut collection of short stories, Love Interrupted (Modjaji) – written in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an MA in creative writing at Rhodes University – just about fits this description.

…The collection offers a sustained exploration of the options open to (usually upwardly mobile) women in contemporary South Africa. One of its bleaker features is the absence of anything resembling a loving, intimate relationship.

More about Reneilwe Malatji

Reneilwe Malatji was born in Modjadji Village in 1968. She grew up in Turfloop Township, in northern part of South Africa. She grew up in a home where her father was an academic and her mother was a school teacher. She trained as a teacher and worked as a subject specialist and advisor to provincial education departments. She has recently completed a post-graduate diploma in Journalism and an MA in Creative Writing at Rhodes University. She is currently working on a doctorate at Rhodes. Love, interrupted is her first book.

Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 25 June 2013
  • Time: 5:30 PM for 6:00 PM
  • Venue: The Book Lounge, 71 Roeland Street, Cnr Buitenkant & Roeland Street, Cape Town 8001
  • Guest Speaker: Eva Hunter
  • Refreshments: Come and join us for a glass of wine
  • RSVP: The Book Lounge,, 021 462 2425

Book Details
Love Interrupted

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Launch of Fiona Snycker’s Team Trinity at SKOOBS in Joburg

Young Joburg turned out in force on Saturday afternoon to celebrate the launch of Team Trinity at Skoobs Theatre of Books at Montecasino, and to watch a memorable panel discussion. Proving that books are indeed an effective drawcard, even on a weekend afternoon, the launch attracted teenagers from all over Jozi.

The media, bloggers and Twitterati were also present with representatives from Get It magazine, The Times, children’s fiction website Puku, and lifestyle blog Syllable in the City.

Team Trinity is the third book in Fiona Snyckers’ acclaimed Trinity series. In true Star Wars fashion, the book is a prequel – Trinity Luhabe is 16 years old and in Grade 10 at her private school in Johannesburg. The book has been described by SABC2 presenter Sam Marshall as offering something for everyone with a heist, a mystery, a love triangle, and a twist in the tail that few readers see coming.

The launch of Team Trinity was about more than just one book though. A flash fiction competition for teens was held before the launch, and the three winning writers were invited to read their stories aloud at the event and to accept their book prizes. The topic for the competition was ‘A Controlling Relationship’, which was interpreted in an intriguingly different light by the three winners.

Lebogang Mashego of Roedean School wrote a searing story about a physically abusive relationship between lovers. Savannah Fremantle’s story was about the ways in which society polices young women’s bodies. Ricardo Rodrigues of St Martin’s High wrote about a meat hook that tempts and taunts the protagonist into committing suicide.

(To read the stories, click onto the links above, on the writer’s names.)

These unsettling stories provided the perfect segue into the panel discussion – ‘Who decides what’s suitable for teens to read?’ Moderator, Helen Holyoake, asked whether swearing is ever appropriate in a book for teenagers. Sinovuyo Nkonki, the author of teen romance Crooked Halo, answered that it should always be possible to rework a piece of writing to eliminate the need to swear. Kathryn White agreed, adding that on rereading her first novel Emily Green and Me she was struck by the realisation that the swearing she’d thought indispensible could easily have been left out.

Joanne McGregor (Turtle Walk and Rock Hard) argued that it’s okay to tackle controversial topics in teen fiction provided these topics are handled responsibly. Fiona Snyckers responded that the only responsibility of the teen fiction writer is to tell a good story. ‘Surely there is room for the renegade voice in teen fiction?’ she asked. ‘The subversive voice that isn’t interested in sending the right message?’

McGregor argued that there is indeed room for this renegade voice provided it is balanced by other perspectives. All the panellists agreed that it is disingenuous for adults to say that authors are ‘putting ideas into teenagers’ heads’ by writing about difficult topics. Those ideas are already there, as the flash fiction competition had just demonstrated.

Mcgregor made the point that parents allow their children to watch almost anything they like on television and at the movies but become surprisingly prim where books are concerned. The panel agreed that this was a testament to the power of fiction and its ability to sway opinions.

Here’s Syllable in the City’s write up of the launch

Team Trinity“>Team Trinity

Book details

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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

Book details

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