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Link Love: The Common Literary Journal Shares Its South African Poetry Edition Online

The fourth issue of The Common literary journal, published last year, features a 90-page collection of South African poetry, compiled by Kelwyn Sole. The journal contains work from 24 South African poets that was previously unpublished or had been published in the last three years. These poems are now being shared on The Common‘s website.

Absent TonguesA hundred silencesAll the DaysHandsome JitaImprendehoraOther SignsThe Girl Who Then Feared to SleepHomemaking for the Down-at-Heart Glass Jars Among Trees100 PapersOne Eye'd LeighGroundworkLushTilling the Hard Soil

Here’s a selection of poems from ten of our Books LIVE members, as well as Sole’s introduction to the issue:

Liberation in South Africa and the first free elections, in 1994, unleashed a social and cultural energy and sense of possibility. In the two decades since then, there has been an explosion of innovation in South African poetry, with a number of poets experimenting with fresh perspectives and themes. In a society still bearing the effects of deep division—most obviously, but not only, racial—poetry has become one of the cultural media through which individuals from previously antagonistic groups can share and explore their feelings and emotions, thereby, at times, creating bonds of mutual sympathy. At the same time, the social and political foci of pre-liberation poetry have remained but have been transformed and augmented by a number of fresh areas of concern.


“Tin Roof” by Sole:

Autumn works away like a carpenter
dismantling the promises of spring—

our shelters brought so slowly down
it’s hard to recollect when each wall

“Why I Am Not an Engineer” by Robert Berold

I am not an engineer. but I studied
to be one. those days, the ’60s, we
went to varsity in shorts and long socks and
threw paper aeroplanes in class. chem.eng.
was a tough course. the theoreticians did well
but the real engineers, the guys who drank beers
and fixed their own cars, failed.

“Widowhood in the Dementia Ward” by Finuala Dowling

“Oh my God, I’m so pleased to see you,”
she says from her nest of blankets.
“I’ve been meaning to ask—
How is your father?
How is Paddy?”

“12 Anxieties for April 12th” by Liesl Jobson

On my side of the glass
are burglar bars
on the other side
a grille

“He Pleaded Ignorance” by Kobus Moolman

He did not know what the sky was made of.

He did not know what fire tasted like.

He did not know how far away from the earth the truth was.

“This is the Sea” by Rustum Kozain

There is that sea, deep sometimes

as the heart at dusk,

the shine on its face soon to fade.

There is that caravel drifting in

and all it brings: a load of good

and the bad unreckoned by the quartermaster.

“Suspension” by Malika Ndlovu

1st May, 12h38

I’m navigating in and out
Of mental combat
Trying to figure
Exactly what station I’ve pulled into,
How to answer that simple question
How are you?

“Farting Knees II: Talking to My Lover” by Makhosazana Xaba

When I vomit
it will be through my forehead.
Be warned, stand far off
because the vomit will not spare you.

“Remembering S-21, Cambodia” by Fiona Zerbst

This was a school

before it was wire and silence.


scented the sunlit courtyard.

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Recent comments:

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    January 25th, 2013 @15:08 #

    Instarecommended reading for the weekend. Kelwyn has put together a fine issue of The Common. Congratulations to him.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    January 26th, 2013 @10:10 #

    I'm enjoying it. On first read my favourites are Sitas, Press and Nyezwa.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    January 27th, 2013 @14:38 #

    Lovely. Like visiting with friends, old and new. Thanks.


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