Last Year, This Time

I’ve been trying to write a poem about my aunt, my fathers’s sister, who passed away on July 21st, 2019.

I can’t quite distill this feeling of having her with us and now not having her with us. Of course everyone dies, but my aunt was someone you could never imagine being extinguished. Her energy was too strong, too vital. To know my aunt was to know a force who swept through spaces and left them keener and sharper. There was nothing Fazila could not do, nothing she was not good at.

More than my mother’s, sometimes, her approval meant everything to me.

Her face is the face I’ll have at 50, at 65. Now I can’t see what I’ll look like beyond that.*

*An edit to this, that dilutes this statement somewhat, I also closely resemble my paternal grandmother who passed away in November last year, from the same kind of cancer that claimed my aunt. There are too many parallels here that I’m not quite ready to countenance.

 

 

ZIKR wins 2020 Ingrid Jonker Prize

Press Release
Ingrid Jonker Prize 2020 goes to a poignant collection of poems distinguished by a
photographer’s instinct

The winner of the Ingrid Jonker Prize for a debut volume of poetry in English published in
2018 and 2019 has been announced. The winner is Saaleha Idrees Bamjee for her
collection, Zikr.

‘Bamjee writes poignantly of longing and loss. She figures the female body—her own and
that of others–and explores the difficulties of being Muslim while also celebrating her
reverence for her religion and the Arabic language.’ (2020 Ingrid Jonker Prize judge)

“I’m very proud of Saaleha. Her collection came to me during uHlanga’s open submissions
period in 2017, and I was immediately impressed by the texture of her poems, her
photographer’s instinct for image, and her composure in writing about heart-wrenching
experiences. Zikr is a testament to poetic restraint, steady hands, and gentle eyes – three
rare and powerful things in these times.” (Nick Mulgrew, founder of uHlanga Press and
publisher of Zikr)

Eleven entries were received by the committee for this year’s award, and the competition
was stiff. Zikr made it to the shortlist along with All the Places by Musawenkosi Khanyile,
Everything is a Deathly Flower by Maneo Mohale, and Skeptical Erections by Mxolisi Dolla
Sapeta.

Bamjee will receive a prize of R10 000, donated by the Pirogue Collective.

According to the rules of the prize the judges have to be published poets, since it is a prize
from poets to poets. This year the judges were Vonani Bila, Wendy Woodward and Sindiswa
Busuku.

Ronel de Goede convenes the Ingrid Jonker Committee. Finuala Dowling is the convenor of
the English prize. The other committee members are Vincent Oliphant, Kobus Moolman and
Marius Crous. A former chairperson Danie Marais acts as advisor to the committee.

The prize is alternately awarded on an annual basis to a first volume of poetry in Afrikaans
or English – the two languages in which Ingrid Jonker herself wrote.

Publishing News: ZIKR is here

ZIKR is my debut poetry collection, published by uHlanga Press.

This work has had a long gestation and incorporates poems founded during my Masters in Creative Writing programme at Rhodes, as well as more recent work.

It should be out in bookstores soon. Copies can also be ordered via nick@uhlangapress.co.za

There will be two launches in Johannesburg. Details below. We are still working out the logistics for Durban and Cape Town.