AVBOB Poetry. Persvrystelling

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021






Released: 20 September 2021


An unsettled time – an invitation to reimagine heritage with Simon van Schalkwyk

How do we celebrate Heritage Day (24 September) in an unsettled time? In the face of a pandemic, ideas of identity seem as superfluous and dangerous as flames on “Braai Day”. The AVBOB Poetry Project exists to put poetry in reach of those who grieve. It also serves to educate and encourage aspirant poets to expand their horizons by studying excellent poetry. Simon van Schalkwyk’s debut collection, Transcontinental Delay, is the most fitting recommendation in Heritage Month.

“Has there ever been a time in South Africa that has not been unsettled?” asks the poet, whose work explores the loss of language and culture and the nostalgic sense of settled time. He studied at the University of Cape Town, has travelled widely and now lectures on American and world literature in the English Department at Wits University.

As a so-called ‘coloured’ with a traditional Afrikaner surname, Simon van Schalkwyk is sometimes perceived as ‘white’. In a fabulous interview with Lidudumalingani in the Johannesburg Review of Books, he answers the Delphic question, and it is from this position that he is especially well placed to explore the themes of disrupted time and language. Implicit in the title of his book are issues of delay – the one-way-ness of language, the impossible slowness of translation, of decolonised identity, of colonial redress.

Transcontinental Delay, published in March this year by Dryad Press, explores experiences of internal and external location and dislocation wherever the poet finds himself, both home and away. The collection traverses continents and ages, compressing transcontinental and tectonic shifts into translucent verses. It’s as if the elemental delay that is our human history underpins each poem while inherently questioning: Who knows what happened next? Who visited them? as if the poet is investigating the meaning of belonging and connectedness in every poem – to the place where he stands, to the country, to the time, to the other (beloved or not), and even to the earth.

The volume is suffused with a definite geography, revealing the influence of his mentor, Stephen Watson. Various towns, rivers and vistas appear alongside the fault lines of who we are – where we come from, our multiple identities and various histories. Considering that all our ancestors were travellers – both those who arrived on ships and those who roamed the continent – the poet invites a new reading of migration.

Simon says, “I like the idea of ‘fault lines’ as a way to think about the relationship between place and identity. WH Auden, for whom questions of place and landscape are arguably vital, says somewhere that we are ‘faulted’[1] into being. The geological and moral dimensions of ‘fault/faulted’ speaks to the relationship between place and personality: they never quite match up, can’t be easily reconciled.”

“‘Floating Points’ was an attempt to signal some sense of drift as much as to suggest that one carries one’s personal and political history along like luggage, and that one can unpack this in and onto places that seem quite far afield from ones’ personal concerns – but then also to recognise that and to try to leave the baggage ‘at home’, so to speak; to try not to burden other spaces, places, or things with personal preoccupations, if only to see some elsewhere more clearly.”

“But, of course, the fault here is that one invariably fails to do this. I am less preoccupied with ancestral histories because of this commitment to faults: I am more interested in differences and failures than similarities, commonalities, successes.”

The yearning for rootedness and the tendency towards rootlessness are curiously competing dimensions of human nature and feature consistently in the collection. Simon wonders whether that yearning is for some kind of return to a lost place or history – a lost home, if you will – or whether it’s a yearning for some kind of liberation from place, history, home. He consciously kept this question in mind.

He says, “The collection depends on a tension between, on the one hand, an attempt to acknowledge how familiar places may be decidedly undesirable and unsatisfying and, on the other, that unfamiliar places may be as desired as they are discomforting.”

The poem ‘Infauna’ has an ancient quality to it, as if it might have been written by a Strandloper, whose signs are now lost, whose language of clicks was rendered too late with apostrophes and slashes, dashes and exclamation marks.




Cloudless before sunset, a day without fog,
clear as white handkerchiefs waving away
ships and present commitments.
An apostrophe also for the duneless future.

Who wades, shin-deep, between sculpins,
silver and quick, in the pellucid shallows
of the Kromme? What are these murmuring flues,
submerged corridors, enclosed labyrinths,

suggesting a deeper habitat? Inter-tidal plateau,
crystalline floodplain, freshwater, salt,
stray aquarelle of urchin, isolated hydra, detached
polyp, sessile and repeating: the ghost crab’s lair.


Speaking about this poem, Simon says, “A sense of inability to see clearly, or perhaps to imagine clear alternatives to what seems to be an increasingly claustrophobic contemporary moment is evident in ‘Infauna’. The poem speaks to the idea of somehow knowing that there are these other spaces, that there are other modes of life and living…”

“Reading this as written by a Strandloper works as a suitable allegory – the detached polyp speaks to the kinds of detachment and alienation I was aiming at when developing this particular poetic persona. Given the scale of our current global ecological crisis, I increasingly feel that it might be time to discard allegorical readings and recognise the natural world – such as that evinced by the poem – as alternative spaces of life and living that are profoundly more than human and which are perhaps best left alone.”

What the poet touches, what is left alone, and where his gaze falls must be experienced first-hand. Read the work, or better yet, hear the poet reading it himself. You might have a visceral sense of the ground beneath your feet dropping away, of falling into a reality from which you have become estranged… Transcontinental Delay could be a homecoming, even if its words and vistas are utterly new to you.

Do you have a poem that explores other modes of life and living in a time of crisis? The AVBOB Poetry Competition invites poets to submit poems of hope and comfort in all 11 official languages. The competition closes at 23h59 on 30 November and poets may enter up to 10 poems each. To register and enter visit: www.avbobpoetry.co.za.


 [1] Auden’s “New Year Letter”, line 1110.


Simon van Schalkwyk





Johann de Lange wen ATKV-woordveertjie

Thursday, September 16th, 2021



Die digter Johann de Lange is vanjaar die wenner van die ATKV-woordveertjie vir poësie. Hy wen die prys vir sy bundel Die meeste sterre is lankal dood.






Pampoendag: Breyten Breytenbach verjaar

Thursday, September 16th, 2021




Dit is vandag die verjaarsdag van die digter Breyten Breytenbach. Die Versindaba-redaksie wens hom van harte geluk met dié dag wat net eenmaal elke jaar kom en nooi alle lesers uit om hom persoonlik geluk te wens deur van die kommentaar-funksie gebruik te maak.


UKZN-Press: Spesiale aanbod

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021



September is Heritage Month in South Africa and UKZN Press honours the work of our authors in the field of history and heritage, such as the eight volumes in the series Publications of the Opland Collection of Xhosa Literature. This series highlights the early writings in isiXhosa, recouping a rapidly diminishing heritage of indigenous knowledge and culture. These books reproduce the writing in the original isiXhosa – as they were written – with English translations, thereby preserving the history and bringing these texts to a new audience. We are offering a Heritage Month promotion where the titles in this series are being offered at a 30% discount for the next month. This is a once-off opportunity to acquire these volumes at these prices.


This special offer and other UKZN Press titles can be ordered here.















Nuwe Bundel. Eddy van Vliet: Na die wette van Afskeid en Herfs

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021




Na die wette van Afskeid en Herfs

Eddy van Vliet

Vertaler: Daniel Hugo


Die Vlaamse digter Eddy van Vliet is een van die kragtigste stemme in die Nederlandse digkuns van ná die Tweede Wêreldoorlog. Sy gedigte word gekenmerk deur universele temas soos die liefde en dood. Die digter bou met beeldende taalgebruik ‘n brose binneplaas in ‘n bedreigende wêreld, ‘n tydelike verblyf tot en met die onafwendbare verval. Sy bundels De binnenplaats (1987) en De toekomstige dief (1991) is hoogtepunte in sy oeuvre. Saam vorm hulle ‘n tweeluik van opbou en afbreek, van orde en chaos, van herinner en vergeet.

Van Vliet se gedigte is intens outobiografies, veral ten opsigte van die afwesige vader. Die digter is ‘n romantiese genealoog wat diep put uit ‘n veelbewoë lewe, maar hy bly weerbaar met ironie en selfrelativering.
– Yves T’Sjoen (Universiteit Gent)



[Protea Boekwinkel 2021. Prys:R200.00. Formaat: Sagteband, 100 bladsye. ISBN: 978-1-4853-1179-9]



Nuwe Bundel. I Wish I’d Said… Vol. IV (anthology)

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021





I Wish I’d Said… Vol. IV


Life under lockdown has been a dramatic event. The fourth annual AVBOB Poetry Competition coincided with the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Yet the competition attracted a record number of entries. An excess of 41 000 poems were entered by writers between 7 and 98 years of age. Six specially commissioned poems by established poets in each official language (66 poems with English translations) appear in this volume, as well as the three winning poems in each of South Africa’s 11 official languages (33 poems with English translations). To round out the collection, those 99 poems are completed by 4 contemporary Khoikhoi poems. As voices from the past reach into the present, so the voices in this anthology will stretch into the future, when they will be read as a reflection of this terribly interesting time. These words of beauty and balm by some of South Africa’s finest poets will offer readers a definite taste from diverse voices. The poems on these pages will comfort and console the bereft. Immerse yourself and be inspired, as these flights of imagination uplift your spirit.


About the compilers

Johann de Lange made his debut with Akwarelle van die dors (1982) for which he received the Ingrid Jonker Prize. In 2009 he received the Hertzog Prize for Poetry for his volume of poetry, Die algebra van nood. He lives in Cape Town.

Dr Rethabile Possa-Mogoera is a lecturer at the University of Cape Town in the school of African Languages and Literatures. She obtained her Ph.D. at the University of South Africa in 2013.


[Naledi 2021. Prys: R240.00. Formaat: Sagteband, 210 mm x 148 mm / A5. 360 bladsye. ISBN: 9781928530541]



Pieter Fourie oorlede.

Monday, September 13th, 2021


Pieter Fourie




Versindaba het met groot hartseer verneem dat die dramarurg en digter Pieter Fourie gister, 12 September 2021, oorlede is.


Wenner van haikoe-wedstryd

Thursday, September 9th, 2021





HEIN VILJOEN is die wenner van Versindaba se haikoe-wedstryd met sy 5 haikoes:


kaalvoet in ‘n poel

sit sy aandagtig en staar

skuim spat op haar dy




blos op die wange

kronkel skielik oor haar maag

‘n flits in ‘n grot




jou hand streel vlugtig

oor sy wang sy skurwe baard

warm soos son oor klip




jou glimlag sprei langs-

saam oor die hoek van jou mond

sonneblom vol son




sy stap die kamer

in weerkaats die son kil soos

volmaan bo ‘n rant


© Hein Viljoen, Augustus 2021