Arthur Nortje, A Christmas Mass Message

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-
accessible accessible,
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.

About these ads

6 Responses to Arthur Nortje, A Christmas Mass Message

  1. Peter Horn says:

    Good that somebody remembers Arthur Nortje.

  2. Good that somebody does because others like myself discover him, to get some of that “upright power of fish-fin”. Startling.

  3. Dingaan Mookudi says:

    Can you please email me the in exile poem by arthur Nortje, I need it urgently as I have to complete my assignment.

  4. RK says:

    Uhm, sorry, you want me to type out a poem and email it to you?

  5. Mervyn Rousseau says:

    I knew Arthur better than most, as friend and ‘brother, his remonstration had much to do with his mixed birth! Jew father and çoloured’ mother! She raised him sinle-handedly, he never met his father! He grew up in a country where one’s race bedeviled one’s life!

  6. RK says:

    Thanks for dropping by, Mervyn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 117 other followers

%d bloggers like this: