This slim treasure of poetry is a multi-textual collection consisting of photographs, documents, letters, poems and diary entries. I found myself mesmerised from the first page to the last. It is uniquely creative and meticulously crafted.
Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese wrote the original version as part of her Master’s thesis in Creative Writing.She has also published poems in different poetry journals and has recently been short-listed for the inaugural Gerald Kraak Award.
The poet explores a personal family history; a family history that is peculiar to South Africa where we often choose our family without requiring a blood tie. It begins in 1931 in far away West Yorkshire, delving into a far away childhood and uneasy family relationships. The photos are creased and dog-eared which contributes to the sense of long gone times. It ends in Durban in the early 2000’s with a funeral.
In between West Yorkshire and Durban, the poet documents key moments, sometimes from the perspective of the child then later from the perspective of the adult. It seems as if she is attempting to make sense of her life with its mysteries and unusualness by interrogating the lives of those who formed her. The result is one that illuminates how it is the simple things that form a life. It is intriguing to decipher the different texts to pick up a narrative thread of sorts but not one that is obvious. The links between different lives are tenuous and delicate yet deeply felt.
The Mother and the Father are the two critical important figures in this work. She deftly speaks in their voices and then switches to her own. This switch in perspective adds layers of emotion and shows remarkable insight. Another switch is that between matter-of-fact relating of events to lyrical verse that grips the heart.
A sample from Mother’s Lyric (i);
This is fevered ground
this is how the earth swells
this is the soil’s hot breath meeting the chill
Dad, after all these years, I still roll
an orange under my foot in order
to loosen the skin for easy peeling,
you taught me that as a child.
– You never told me who taught you.
Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese writes of absence and of presence, of love and laughter and of the questions which do not always have answers. All with a delicate and tender touch.
(The collection is available in Cape Town at The Book Lounge, Clark’s Books and Chimurenga. It can also be ordered online from Botsotso via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.)