I’m delighted to announce that the manuscript of the third anthology in my Africa! series is  complete. I had the privilege of giving readings from it at one of Hugh Hodge’s recent Off-the-Wall live poetry events.

The anthology, now sitting on my designer’s table, waiting for cover and layout, is titled Heart of Africa! Poems of love, loss and longing. It opens with Richard Whitaker’s translation from the Septuagint Greek of selections from Solomon’s Song of Songs; and closes with his translations of Four poems by Callimachus and Three poems by Dioscorides.

Callimachus (310-240 BC) was from Cyrene in ancient Libya. He was a noted poet, critic and scholar at the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. Dioscorides (3rd century BC) wrote epigrams. He lived and worked in Egypt.

I placed these sensuous, sometimes witty love poems from Antiquity at the beginning and end of the collection to form an embrace, within which to hold contemporary poems, all touched by Africa.

Initially, while I gathered the poems, love’s dark side emerged as a storming force. Strong, harsh expressions eclipsed gentler, romantic notions. Poets revealed deeply private feelings of betrayal, loss, remorse and spent passion.

At times, I felt like an intruder, entering scenes where by rights I should not be – places of emotional wreckage and pain. I stood among shredded love letters, stained sheets, discarded vows and melted down wedding rings. I noticed, in dark pits, the glitter of diamonds torn from engagement rings. I watched lovers weeping at the loss of the one they held more precious than any other.

At a certain point, the questions arose: ‘Is this what love is about? Is it all hurtful, dark-matter?’

This proved not to be, for, as the collection slowly grew, it began to reveal the infinitesimal detail of deep, intricate and true love.

We find the unadulterated first kiss, first touch and first breaking of all things virginal and are thus reminded of love’s sweetness.

There are some bursts of eroticism. Beautiful body-forms are draped on couches and beds or across wilderness settings. Wet and pulsing corporal landscapes serve as boudoirs. Some surprising details of bedroom intimacy are shared as well as a lot of imagined, longed-for love. There is the occasional touch of humour with some make-believe and pretence too, in unexpected milieux.

Running through all the poems, like an underground river or an electric charge, is the longing that we all have to be held by another; the longing to find meaning in that other; and to give back meaning in return.

It is the yearning for the Beloved and it is always the Lover speaking.

 

An exchange between an anthologist and a gentleman
At a literary tea party
Ivydene, Rondebosch 2014
Patricia Schonstein

‘I sent out a call for submissions,
For love poems.
Hundreds came in – well – that is, heaps were sent,
Yet, how strange, not one of them celebrates the male torso.’

       But my dear,
Homosexuality was criminalised until fairly recent times.

‘Yes, but surely, if the gay fellows are not ready to express it all,
One of the lady poets could do something with pecs and abs,
With those firm six-packs we always hear about,
The smooth skin, the male nipples …

‘I mean, I’ve been presented with a surplus of the female landscape –Breasts, thighs, that gentle curve of the armpit,
The down-below areas …
But no male plateau, no male terrain, no dunes, no crevices,
None of the potent man-musculature …

‘Sorry, I’m going on a bit.
It’s just
That’s where my thoughts are at the moment.
I hope I’m not being too frank – gosh we’ve only just met!
But it’s a problem, you see,
Because, as it stands now, the anthology is weighted one way
Mostly, it’s sad women lamenting loss.

‘I’ve been scouring the city, looking for poems,
Listening to people speak, finding poems in their words,
Without hearing any erotic celebration of the man-body I’m looking for.

‘Surely, somewhere, there’s some Adonis,
Some Atlas, some Mark Anthony, some hot … hot …

‘Oh, I can hear myself sounding rather … I’m sorry …
Please excuse me.’

       Yes, I see. Shall we have another cup of tea?

 

 

 

Heart of Africa! Poems of love, loss and longing
ISBN 978-0-620-60850-3
African Sun Press
Due for release December 2014 but we are now taking pre-publication orders

Africa! My Africa! An anthology of poems
ISBN 978-1-874915-20-1
African Sun Press

Africa Ablaze! Poems & prose pieces of war & civil conflict
ISBN 978-1-874915-19-5
African Sun Press

The Unknown Child – Poems of war, love and longing
ISBN 978-1-874915-15-7
African Sun Press

Please send your orders to: afpress@iafrica.com

Painting by RB Kitaj

 

Comments:
  1. Name says: June 24, 20146:00 pm

    dear Patricia
    i can’t wait for the final copy i wish December was just around the corner keep up the good work what is the next theme of your anthology ? Lucas zulu

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