{Poem} We Have Lost

I started writing this at the peak of the third wave in 2021, when everyday brought with it the name of someone no longer with us.

We have lost

My mother writes the names
of everyone who’s passed
on since last year

These times are the strangest
to now; lists to aid mourning
more deaths than grocery trips

Our friends are losing their parents
our parents are losing their friends
we are losing our friends

What to say to make it less?
soundless nothing words
sepulchre for a throat

There is no getting used to grief
in compound form loss
upon loss without pause

But here we are. What to pray for?
Can you still? Breathe in a time of fettered air
enough to write out our lists of love

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

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

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.