I’ve been reading some South African poetry from the last 3 decades of the 1900s, re-reading many favourites. I’ve also been working my way through Arthur Nortje’s Anatomy of Dark: Collected Poems (edited by Dirk Klopper, 2000). Nortje was a fascinating poet, weird, strange, feverish. I get the sense, always when reading him, of a level of impenetrability: you can see what’s going on, but there are also major parts of the engine, the pistons, say, that you can hear, throbbing like some diesel engine on a trawler bobbing somewhere on a gentle but significant swell, but which are hidden. But he also liked ‘talking terms’, using words that are a bit too poetic or smart. Anyway, I’ll come back to him, but here’s a likkle sometin’ fram him:
A Christmas Mass Message
Jesus, wave-walker and world-master,
Preacher of patient faith and peace,
Give us the faith to follow faster
Charles Parker’s music and [the] message of Joyce.
Give us upright power of a fish-fin,
Mind-peace that makes peace possible,
Pray, be in our blood when we make the in-
When we wrestle with our heart’s thieves.
We adore you Christ, this morning, this day-birth,
And we cannot ignore your being a man,
Your being baptised a man in your blood-bath,
Help us to help in our freedom then
The thieves we must drive from our holy den.
Help freedom’s disciples feed the mass hunger
With the minimum of anger.