Kelwyn Sole, Another version of melancholy

22 June 2011, 7:23 am

Another version of melancholy

1

The South-Easter’s here:

a vacuum in the air
announces it’s coming.

It really is something.
With a pale light infected
my soul sighs, dejected -
molehills, dead weeds,
wattles (no seeds)
bear thorns. The Flats
shift old sand, while rats
twitter on church spires
like sparrows. New fires

are set, arsonated.
No one’s over-elated
with this turn of events,
this oozing sense:

my sensitivity deflates.

The wind never abates,
stays on the increase;

no chance of release.
Relentless, rainless,
verging on brainless,
the ice-cream queue
is blown right through
the gulch in the mountain
to Rondebosch fountain
from Sea Point. Slow
the sand turns to dough:

you might not care
but I stop and stare -

for this cultural experience
is completely at variance
with most people’s notion
as they rush to the ocean

and (so easily) forgotten
by South Africans besotten
with politics, books,
films or sultry looks
at each other. For
who’s wise in this zephyr?

As the wind howls the keener
I gaze far to Messina
from my home on the hill.
All hope is as nil.

2

While apartheid is lessening
my gloom’s only strengthening;
quite different from Sartre
unrelaxed on Montmartre
this bad feeling of mine
‘ll beat his every time:

with De Klerk’s new reform
my nausea’s now the norm.

It’s not quite as viscid
it’s a thinness, so gelid…
though you never quite realise
it has ice-crazed your lives
with bad videos, and shopping
and new hair-do’s: not stopping!
As you walk in the street
it nibbles you, discreet -
watch out! frère, semblable!

when I considered you able
to have fun and repine
at this vision of mine -

you’ve stepped in a huge turd
of the existentially absurd!

3

Our Nature’s too exotic.
It’s not democratic
like the stuff in Westminster.
It’s so left, it’s sinister -

the bad vibes will shiver
your soul from Hex River
onwards. Telephone wires
and bursting car tires

till the doom-drenched poet
pops in his (her?) throat
a pus of aridity
like psychic acne…

The sky! the sky!
Too high, too high!
and all those plains
just boil my brains;

that frost-glazed grass
where bottles wink
their shattered glass,
and stinkblaars stink;

the meaningless fucks
in chintzy halls,
with plaster ducks
climbing the walls:

while an orange dust
(nature’s pollution)
decimates your lust -
so that’s no solution.

Off the national road
you learn to inhale
a despair you’ve sowed
in plastic and shale.

Though you aim to squirt
your hose on your flowers
and try to flirt
with a neighbour who glowers
each time that you smile:

as the hot stones pant
and the evening sun,
scowling, begins to run
pastel in the dirt
on each moribund hill
towards nothing. Still
gathers our spiritual
night…

Your leers beguile
only that which, small
stands ready erect
outside of her home.

It’s not what you’d want
to expect:
it’s not much fun,
it starts to pall,
seducing her kinky garden gnome.

4

Jacobson gets it right
where he writes from his white
domicile (Golders Green)
he sees what I’ve seen:

the land’s people all sad -
every one a nomad -
homelessness transcendental -
as they hurry pell-mell

from that this to this that:
while the true artist Goldblatt
points his lens (between yawns)
at Boksburg’s drab lawns,

to capture the essence
of our mass deliquescence
of culture (no one can beat
the cul-de-sac street

which ends in the veld
where sensibilties melt).
Read Nicol the poet -
he’ll shove down your throat

the cluttered shop-windows
of ignorance. He shows
in one-dimensional verse
what’s one-dimensionally worse:

and, faint through the fear
of flat Coke lurking there,
shows via the sublime
failure of his rhyme

the real haunting sound
that bores through our ground.
No one can aspire
to anything higher,

take this fact from me:
I’ve tried, as you see…

5

If you were like us
you’d make quite a fuss:

but there’s still the enigma
that you read the dead dogma

of that putrid Karl Marx,
and quote Fanon’s remarks;

the extreme melancholy
implicit in the folly

of that ideologue Louis
Althusser, who’s screwy.

Who imagines it’s svelte
to Foucault in the veld?

Won’t you cast off the fetter
of not wanting verse better?

I enquire, really, truly,
can you tolerate Mbuli?

(I’m getting so cross
my great mind’s at a loss.)

6

Yet, despite your indifference
some of us will continue
to do best what we do
with such dogged persistence:

our acumen will not be
unremarked, unrewarded;
each poem’ll be hoarded,
a trove for the cognoscenti.

Posterity will gather
our art’s far superior
to the blatant hysteria
of ideological blather;

then, our genius unfurled
and the hoi polloi gaping,
just watch us escaping
your
(so passé)
Third
World!

Kelwyn Sole, Projections in the Past Tense, Ravan Press, 1992


V.S. Nightfall 2.0

10 June 2008, 9:46 pm

At the recent Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica, Derek Walcott reportedly had an audience riveted when he lashed out at Naipaul in the form of satirical verse. Here is an extract from the poem, “The Mongoose”*, grabbed from The Guardian and where you can also read a report on the event by Daniel Trilling:

I have been bitten, I must avoid infection
Or else I’ll be as dead as Naipaul’s fiction.
Read his last novels, you’ll see just what I mean
A lethargy, approaching the obscene.
The model is more ho-hum than Dickens;
The essays have more bite, they scatter chickens
like critics, but each stabbing phrase is poison
Since he has made that snaring style a prison.
The plots are forced, the prose sedate and silly
The anti-hero is a prick named Willie
Who lacks the conflict of a Waugh or Lawrence
And whines with his creator’s self-abhorrence.** (The Guardian, 1 June 2008)

* As the reporter points out, the Mongoose was brought to the Caribbean from India, by the British.

** The extract is probably as transcribed by the journalist; my version differs from The Guardian’s in that I have rearranged line-breaks according to the rhyming couplets.

And here’s a different extract, pulled from the New Statesman, but as reported by the same Daniel Trilling:

So the old mongoose, still making good money
Is a burnt out comic, predictable, unfunny.
The joy of supplements, his minstrel act
Delighting editors, endorsing facts
Over fiction, tearing colleagues and betters
To pieces in the name of English letters.
The feathers fly, the snow comes drifting down,
The mongoose keeps its class act as a clown.
It can do cartwheels of exaggeration;
Mostly it snivels, proud of being Asian;
Of being attached to nothing, race or nation.
It would be just as if a corpse took pride in its decay
After its gift had died and off the page
Its biles exude the stench
Of envy, “la pourriture” in French.
Cursed its first breath for being Trinidadian,
then wrote the same piece for the English Guardian.
Once he liked humans, how long ago this was
The mongoose wrote “A House for Mr Biswas”. (New Statesman, 29 May 2008)

The press was actually scooped on this story by a blogger in Kingston, Jamaica, Annie Paul. You can listen to a podcast of Walcott’s interview with Kwame Dawes and reading poetry at the Calabash Festival at Open Source.


Satiric Flash Animation

17 April 2008, 5:07 pm

Ever since I saw it a few years ago, I’ve never failed to laugh at “I never copped a feel”, a flash animation music video featuring a cartoon Michael Jackson singing and dancing to a parody of one of his songs. But I only discovered today who the creator of that video is: Dominic Tocci. His website features a host of his animations and the two I like best so far are “D.R.A.F.T.“, a ridiculously funny one with Bush rapping to a Fifty Cent song (apparently around since at least 2005; how did I miss it?);  and “Everybody hates Saddam“, a rap featuring the said former leader of Iraq. But do take a few minutes or an hour to check out the rest.


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