Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Wednesday Challenge

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.

Ingrid Jonker
Jonker's poetry was simple in structure. She tapped deeply into her own experience and wrote most passionately about her relationships.

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

Gleaming ochre
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.


Fireblossom said...

Thank you for picking up the dropped ball, Kerry. Nice job, and I look forward to writing for this.

Marian said...

very very nice prompt! though i must say: please see ALL OF MY POETRY. :) xoxo

Kerry O'Connor said...

I know, Marian. Your style reminds me very much of Ingrid Jonker's writing :) xo

Marian said...

love her, i'm so pleased to be introduced to her. i'm linking up the poem i was working on yesterday and this morning, which actually goes a bit against my usual style. just to mix it up a bit. thanks so much for this, Kerry, VERY inspiring. xo

Janine Bollée said...

Again a fascinating step into one of the many corners of literature I had never set foot in.
I feel I am falling in love with Afrikaans, love at first sight.
Just submitted my 50thousandth nano word and getting withdrawal symptoms already.
Maybe your prompt will fit the gap.

Cad said...

My muse took off on a strange tack after reading the two poems you gave as examples...But I had to get the words out of my head, anyway...

Margaret said...

This poem needed to be written. Thank you.

hedgewitch said...

How insular the world of poetry can sometimes be--that I've never read this amazing poet before. Thank you for an especially cool challenge Kerry--like Marian, this is not unfamiliar territory as far as subject, anyway, but Jonkers' stylistic simplicity is something to envy.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

So often the most brilliant are too tender for this world. Her life was sad, but her words are brilliant, and will live long in her stead. Thanks for the introduction, Kerry.

cleemckenzie said...

It seems that the most tortured among us must become poets. Out of something painful comes something beautiful--these poems for example.

Ella said...

Thank you for sharing her with us!
She had amazing insight and I am sad to hear how her life ended~
I do think some of the brightest stars, burn out faster than the rest!

Helen said...

Her poetry is stunning ....

Hannah said...

I wrote another concrete for you, Shay!!

Kerry thank you for the prompt...I mostly followed the rules. ;)

Mid-Week-Smiles to all!

LLM Calling said...

I love her poems, always have, they speak to me. Thanks for sharing her story. The challenge has touched something deep which I'm kind of afraid to open to the public, but ut seems right. Thanks I think

Peggy said...

I did not really try to imitate Jonker's style or tone but just took the prompt at face value--wrote about a relationship. I posted it earlier and then someone commented it was "not a poem but cut up prose." So I took another look and tried to rewrite it in a more poetic way. I think it speaks more clearly to the point now--friendships despite differences.

Lolly said...

Thank you for introducing a new-to-me poet. I'll have to check her work out. Sad, how so many poets and writers end their lives. : (

Anonymous said...

I thought this was just incredibly inspiring, Kerry. I'd not heard of Jonker ever--she's just terrific. It shows how insular we are, I should say, I am. Thanks very much. k.

Susie Clevenger said...

Thanks for introducing me to Ingrid. There are so many relationships I could have written about, but my friend, Leslie has been on my mind.

adhi das said...

wishing for the best...God love u

Susan said...

Finally, I finished this poem and I am holding my breath as I post it. This prompt broke taboos and this poet rocked my world. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Beautiful, a must read!

Helen said...

Late to the party ....