Today I am standing in for Kenia, and it is my pleasure to introduce an iconic South African poet, Ingrid Jonker. One of Ingrid Jonker's most famous poems, "Die Kind" (The Child), was written in the wake of the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre. In this clip, we can hear it read by President Nelson Mandela during the opening of South Africa's first democratic Parliament, in May 1994. The words of the poem are found HERE.
|Her collection, Black Butterflies, translated into English.|
Although she wrote in Afrikaans, her poems have been widely translated into other languages. Jonker is often called the South African Sylvia Plath, owing to the intensity of her work and the tragic course of her turbulent life. She spoke out against injustice so her work was not well-received by the conservative white South African public in the '60s and she spent some years in England and Europe. Her love life was tempestuous; estranged from her husband she had affairs with two prominent South African writers. After Andre Brink refused to leave his wife for her, she returned to South Africa from the continent and began a new collection of poems, shortly before her death. During the night of 19 July 1965, Jonker went to the beach at Three Anchor Bay in Cape Town where she walked into the sea and committed suicide by drowning.
|Three Anchor Bay, Cape Town, SA|
These words are taken from her poem Escape, written for her 1956 collection, and considered prophetic of her death:
I am the dog that slinks from beach to beach
barks dumb-alone against the evening breeze
I am the gull that swoops in famished flights
to serve up meals of long-dead nights
The god who shaped you from the wind and dew
to find fulfillment of my pain in you:
Washed out my body lies in weed and grass
in all the places where we once did pass.
I repeat you
I repeat you
without beginning or end
repeat your body
The day has a thin shadow
the night yellow crosses
the landscape has no distinction
and the people a row of candles
while I repeat you
with my breasts
which imitate the hollows of your hands
Her mother died in a mental asylum when Ingrid was in her early teens, and she was also plagued with mental health issues all her life.
a memory of my mother
and a light breaks
from the sea.
In the back yard
somewhere between the washing
and a pomegranate tree
your laugh and the morning
sudden and small
like a ladybird
fallen on my hand
CHALLENGE: For today's challenge, I ask you to draw on a personal relationship as the basis of your poem. This could be your relationship with a family member, lover or your relationship with yourself or fellow countrymen. You may use past experience, memory or reminiscence to express your ideas.