Wednesday, 19 November 2014

McGregor Poetry Festival

In October I had the privilege to participate in the McGregor Poetry Festival.
I presented a piano recital continents of sound on the Saturday night at the beautiful Wahnfried hall and a poetry recital into the deep salt of the ear and paper / in die diep sout van die oor en papier on the Sunday morning in the Caritas library.

Here the logo for this year's festival <

What a blessed thing this poetry festival is. I was surrounded with like-minded people -  poets struck to the core by words and metaphors and itching to express it all, poets incantating from deep within their bowels and psyche the words we all need and want to hear. Words of healing, of beauty, humour, seriousness and purpose. As all good poems and poets do to me and hopefully do to the rest of the world - they bring forth an awakening of lessons and perceptions. 

I felt that I was given the best medicine during the three days of the festival.

I heard readings by Diana Ferrus, Toast Coetzer, Douglas Reid Skinner, Bruce Haynes, children reciting William Blake's Tiger Tiger with rhythmical beating of hands on hearts, poetry written on tables and walls, poetry hanging from trees and chalked onto sidewalks.

Ian McCallum's reading was a definite highlight. It is the second time I heard him perform - and still I am struck by what a formidably inspiring man and poet he is. Some lines made the tears well up from a deep wild recess in my soul. Here one of his poems he recited <

The rising

One day
your soul will call to you
with a holy rage.
"Rise up!" it will say ...
"Stand up inside your own skin."
Unmask your unlived life ...
feast on your animal heart.
Unfasten your fist ...
let loose the medicine
in your own hand.
Show me the lines ...
I will show you the spoor
of the ancestors.
Show me the creases ...
I will show you
the way to water.
Show me the folds ...
I will show you the furrows
for your healing.
"Look!" it will say ...
the line of life has four paths –
one with a mirror,
one with a mask,
one with a fist,
one with a heart.
One day,
your soul will call to you
with a holy rage.

In my own poetry recital I performed 19 of my poems selected from the last 6 years of writing. I was given a full hour slot - the first time that I was given this opportunity to fill this much time with my poetry! I performed in Afrikaans and English. I delighted in returning to the essensuality aspect of my poetry - tactile, edible, smellable; ritual and theatre of the tongue. With all the books and papers filled with my poetry I also packed in garlic for my Ode to Garlic and olives for my Poet-tree (see this poem at the end of this post) and filled a ceramic bowl with water for my Water poems. Here one of them < 


you are the fill
of my hands
with the delight of
on my tongue
and makes
the tremor
on my
the spin
in my head
to make
the celebration
of my
break open

I was so glad to get a cokey pushed in my hand and be requested to write on the wall of a restaurant

In the main road of McGregor you felt the poetry dripping from the lampposts and trees

...and we could write on tables

Ansa Smit gave a breathtaking performance of poems and unaccompanied songs in The Well in the Temenos Gardens

Here KwaZulu-Natal poet Bruce William Haynes who wrote the following poem for me during my poetry recital <

Lara, self-proclaimed garlic of poets
barefoot, airborne, volcano
how can one help but feeling boring before your
burning restlessness
let me lead the scientist
searching for the definition of life
here into Caritas
at this McGregor Poetry Festival
to observe
your urgent bellows intake of breath
at the small of your neck
as you kneel
wide eyed in the dirt
before the fire of your life
Thank you Lara
for the gift
of the sparks
of your short-lived stars

Thank you Bruce! What a joy to be gifted this poem by a superb poet like you.

Photo above - around the table of two incredible McGregorites Jo Nowicki and Mike Kamstra reading stories on topics such as women's beautiful breasts and "dode-rokke"

And here my poet-tree that I recited while feeding my audience with local McGregor olives <

>>> this poem does not work without an olive in your mouth <<<


my poem is the olive which i lay down on your tongue
you need no ears to hear this poem
you need no eyes to see this poem
my poem is the olive which i lay down on your tongue

this olive-poem is not shy to caress your tongue
like the fertile earthiness of tiny breasts
shameless in the weighing of its warm oily weightiness
in the hollow of your mouth

feel the olive
roll it between your teeth
press it against your palate
cuddle it into your saliva glands
feel the rhythm of the seasons playing in your throat
hear the songs of tree and wind resonating through your blood

this olive is the poem which i lay down on your tongue
feel the insuppressible growth of seed and
 stem and root and soul breaking 
through your buds
feel each olive-syllable dissolving
and merging with your flesh
and becoming
if only for one peristaltic moment..

all that remains is the pithy pip - 
weigh its lightness on your tongue
let it go
spit it out wherever you want
and pray a poet-tree
will grow there soon

A special thanks goes to Billy Kennedy, the visionary behind the Festival. Here an extract of my letter to him: I have felt such a deep connection with the Festival and you and the Poets that were involved in their magical ways and words.  I can not start to put in words what this type of event has meant for me - it was definitely a highlight of my year. I can say with utter conviction that McGregor was like a type of homecoming for me - and my poetry. A place where my voice could find air to rise in its fulness. These sacred places created for the performing arts and especially for poetry are rare. So I can only fold my hands (and feet ;-) together in a great gratefulness to you for playing such a significant part in the creating, holding and cherishing of this space. And thanks also goes to festival organiserJennifer Johnson and all the others who have been involved pulling strings, visions, emails and other comms together to orchestrate this awe-inspiring expression of poetic voices.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful! I hope to make it to this fest this year.
    Happy writing and look forward to seeing you perform one day.
    Sincere wishes, Tatyana