At the Poetry in McGregor 2017 Festival, Lara Kirsten presented a Performance and Installation – “The Poem as Mirror” – in the Spiral Forest of Temenos Gardens.

From the branches, she hung printed poems and numerous shards¬ of mirror, each measuring about the size of notebook pages. These reflected sky, foliage and light as they moved gracefully in breezes; or with strength if the wind came up. When the air was still, they were like sentries. Glass squares were placed around the perimeter of the Spiral Forest and they too were filled with sky.

Walking the spiral of the forest, thinking you were alone, you might come suddenly face-to-face with someone and, with a start, realise it was yourself looking at you from one of the mirrors. You might see a perplexed face, or one that appeared lost, or one with frown-furrows upon it. Seldom, at first glance, would you see a laughing face. But then, if you stood before that piece of mirror, your expression would soften and your eyes would speak back, always, strangely, with truth. Continuing the walk, looking at all the reflections of yourself – at all the ‘self-visions’ – became a most forgiving experience.

The pieces of mirror, as an installation, hung for the duration of the poetry festival. I returned frequently to them, to their metaphor of ‘self-reflection’, soon finding that they activated a meditation upon that which was ‘outside’ of me and my inner being.

For her performance, Lara lay at the centre of the forest. She was covered with carefully placed shards of glass. Her body-form thus reflected the sky and the foliage, beguiling her audience who sat in a circle around her.

At a certain point, she leapt up and all the shards – the reflections, the pieces of sky – flew from her. This gave the sense that the sky had been torn to shreds and fallen to the ground, that light itself had been torn. The ‘body form’ had, quite literally, broken. What emerged was ‘the poem as mirror’ as Lara began to recite, the words of six distinguished poets, as well as some of her own, in English and Afrikaans.

These poems are listed below and I draw a line from ‘Lady at a Mirror” by Maria Rainer Rilke –
“At the bottom of her mirror she finds candles”, adding to it – “At the bottom of the mirror she finds poem and metaphor.’
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The Poems:
NP van Wyk Louw: Uittreksel uit ‘Ballade van die Bose’
Ian McCallum: Feral Twin; Nature; The Rising
Ingrid Jonker: Bitterbessie dagbreek; Dubbelspel; My omhelsing het my verdubbel; Plant vir my ‘n boom; Vyf lewens: As jy weer skryf
Sylvia Plath: Mirror
Maria Rainer Rilke: Narcissus; Lady at a mirror
Lara Kirsten: oer-sprong; breek; van die grond leer sy; poet, poet, speaking bright; cabaret-poësie; street woman; self-beeld

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Lara Kirsten is a pianist and performance poet. She holds a BMus and BMus Hons, both cum laude, from the University of Pretoria. Her poetry has been published in numerous anthologies.
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Photographs by www.danisphotos.com/la-galleria

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