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Liesl Jobson

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

350 Poems for Climate Change

Yesterday was the International Day of Climate Action and my conscience was duly prodded and pricked.

In a bid to join those of my friends and family who strive conscientiously to save our ailing planet, I have very recently pledged to compost my vegetable waste, buy less stuff, and recycle glass and plastics. I’ve signed up at 10:10 and sent ten of my nearest and dearest an invitation to sign up too.

In a fit of what looks already like misguided enthusiasm, I wrote very quickly a 3.5 line poem in response to a last minute call for 350 poets to contribute to the 350 Poems project, where my effort has just appeared:

Before my newborn ears heard rivers,
a cipher stamped a number I now cannot forget.
I’m waiting, still, to hear the goddess whisper
my real name.

I hope that by adding my voice to the universal call for the reduction of CO2 there is not a correlatory increase in my anxiety at having sent out a poem prematurely.

As a compulsive fixer and tweaker, I have already edited the version that appeared at 350 Poems. Will my neurosis boil all day, counteracting whatever small benefit such publication achieves?

No, perhaps it doesn’t have to. I will go down to the sea today and cast my anxiety about my poetry onto the water, and listen for the prompt to wellness in all my doings.

Seaforth Beach, Simonstown

Seaforth Beach, Simonstown

My Ouma se taal

Daar is ‘n verlange in my bewustheid, ‘n ontwaking wat my hart prikkel. Dis ‘n diepe gevoel wat los my nie uit nie. Maande of jare het ek die sintuig sonder ‘n naam verwaarloos, die ongesoeke ding wat my pla. Miskien verdwyn dit binne ‘n uur of ‘n week. Kan dit wees dat die klein onverwagte en onbeminde stemmetjie het my hele lewe gefluister? Sal dit ooit kan stilbly as ek dit aanhoudend ignoreer? Ek verstaan nie die mening hiervan nie, maar daar’s geen twyfel dat ek moet probeer om Afrikaans te skryf.

Het dit iets te doen met my onlangse duiselingwekkende rigtingsverandering? Die laaste twee jare wou ek uittrek Kanada toe. Ek het alles beplan en geld uit die land gestuur. Verlede November besef ek (nadat ek oor die R100 000 betaal het) dat ek kan nie aan nie, en besluit om liewers huistoe te kom, terug na die Kaap waar ek van my kinderjare gepas het. Roer my ouma my bloed? Roep sy my naam?

Ek het nooit Amelia “Millie” Jobson (gebore Wege) ontmoet nie en daar is nie ‘n enkele foto van haar wat word in my ouers se huis vertoon nie. Ouma Millie is oorlede in haar vroeer-vyftig jare toe my pa elf jaar oud was. Vier van haar ses kinders is oorlede – twee het saam verdrink. Was dit borskanker of ‘n gebroke hart wat haar so vroeg weggeneem het?
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Getting Boekbedonnerd in Richmond

Wagon Wheel, RichmondLilac Tree, RichmondExcelsior Garage, Richmond

Ten days ago, I left home at 4am and drove 800 km to Richmond, with my friend, Isabella. Truth is she drove in her very nice BMW, and the combination of a nice car and being driven was too marvellous for words.

My contribution to the road trip was to unscrew bottles of water, holding the bag of biltong open periodically and reading aloud from a rather lovely collection of short stories, The Children’s Hours: Stories About Childhood. I glanced up now and again to peer at a passing windmill or admire the vastness of the sky.

I find reading aloud one of the best ways to really hear how a story works. Some other part of the brain must get engaged. Or would that be the ears, maybe?
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Hello Weekender

I went to a fascinating poetry evening hosted in conjunction with The Weekender and the Wits School of Literature and Language Studies a while back. Rehana Rossouw kindly encouraged me to write up the event and here it is.

The sad part of the story is that the memory card in my camera had a meltdown and I lost all my photos and video – the latter was intended for the next issue of Poetry International and would have conveyed the remarkable nature of the poetry.
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Doorknobs & Bodywhat?

doorknobs & bodypaintDoorknobs & Bodypaint is a quirky name for a journal. Their submissions guidelines are no less eccentric. For example, the editors are currently looking for stories under 250 words for their next issue. Additionally, the sub-theme is “exuberance” and the year is 1929. Within the story, you must use this text: uninhibited enthusiasm. Make of that what you will but I dare you to have a go. Submissions close October 26th.

Similarly, the journal Tattoo Highway, invites writers to respond to a given picture. This device also appeals to me. I entered some years back and won second place there back in Issue 11, receiving a $20 Barnes & Noble voucher for my effort.

It might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but for me it does indeed raise “uninhibited enthusiasm”. Working from prompts, whether a list of words, an image, or a set of odd-sock criteria is all a way to trick myself into writing. I approach the page as a kind of game, a way of getting the story underway while my inner critic is checking to see that I’ve obeyed the rules of the game.
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August Bounty: Book Launch, Wigleaf and an Interview with Karabo Kgoleng

looking-over-my-shoulder.jpgAugust has been kind, starting with the launch of View from an Escalator at the Jozi Spoken Word Festival which was very well attended. Launching a book is always a turning point and the sense of completion that ensues was, once again, a terrific relief.

I really like this photo because it shows who’s looking over my shoulder. The muses that emerged in this artwork that formed the backdrop of the reading sure have teeth – somehow that encourages me.
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Book Launch: View from an Escalator and Botsotso 15

View from an EscalatorBotsotso15 Botsotso Publishing invites you to the launch of two new titles, View from an Escalator, my first collection of poetry, and Botsotso 15, the Botsotso collective’s latest digest of fiction, poetry and essays.

This joint launch is part of the Jozi Spoken Word Festival 2008. View is my second book: 100 Papers, a collection of prose poems and flash fiction, was launched at the Cape Town Book Fair in June.

I look forward to seeing everyone there.

Event Details

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Ready, not-so-steady, go!

100 Papers is here at last. Its presence surprises me and I feel a bit self-conscious. I catch myself stealing surreptitious glances at the copy sitting on my husband’s bedside table. I try to pretend I’m not waiting for him to laugh at the funny bits when he reads in bed, and I hardly bother to conceal my delight when he does.

I never quite believed it would happen, but now, like the new mother consumed by the exquisite beauty of her offspring, I feel quite wobbly in the head.

I’m also rather flattered by the invitations to read this week – tonight at the English Academy conference alongside luminaries Sindiwe Magona and Lynette Hlongwane (6.00pm at Oom Gert se Plek, University of Pretoria) and at Writers 2000 (Saturday, 28 June at 2.00pm at Elphin Lodge, Edenvale.)
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