Writing News: 2014 Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology


I have three poems included in this year’s Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology; By Heart, Kisses and Secret. They are all  fiddled-with reworked versions of work from my MA Creative Writing thesis collection that have met rejection in some form or the other from various lit journals. The lesson here is to edit, edit, edit and edit until the very soul of a piece is bared to its teeth.




The anthology is a curated selection of entries for the annual Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award. This year’s winner is Thabo Jijana for his poem, Children Watching Old People. Second and third place went to Rochelle Jacobs and Jim Pascual Agustin respectively. Read their short-listed poems here.

Copies of the anthology are available online through Kalahari.com and Loot.co.za

Chap Book: The Heart on Training Wheels


I took advantage of a 2-for-1 print promo over at Orms Printroom to create my first personal chapbook.


In it, arbitrarily selected images from my archives pair with couplets written for the 2014 Ramadan-Photo-A-Day challenge.


IMG_1585 (2)






The Orms promotion added a free 200mmX200mm photobook onto every 300mmX300mm order. I haven’t quite decided what I should do with the smaller book (keep/gift/something else). I’m open to any suggestions.

Ramadan Photo A Day 2014: Days 21-30


Days 21 and 22: Fear and Hope
This world is not safe for children.
Children could grow to save this world.


Days 23 and 24: Gentle and Harsh
My faith; the cool spots under pillows.
So far from yours; damning and bludgeoning.


Days 25 and 26: New and Old
You are still my fresh horizon love,
an accomplice to set these years alight.


Days 27 and 28: Remembrance and Forgetfulness
The Almighty knows best of human caprice.
When we are ready, He is there.


Days 29 and 30: Temporary and Eternal
These sticky things like pain and doubt,
They too lose tack and flick away.

Ramadan Photo A Day 2014: Days 11-20


Days 11 and 12: Perfection and Imperfection
This before, this was an unwritten universe
And now my hand, fails the page.


Days 13 and 14: Moon and Sun
For two coins, writers scrape the skies,
to spend on love and other tides.


Days 15 and 16: Dependence and Independence
Your heart is on training wheels until
you choose the person it beats for.


Days 17 and 18: Give and Receive
In sincere communion; two hands embrace unknown
whose is the one that has given.


Days 19 and 20: Individual and Collective
There’s nothing original about sin or suffering.
Lead-heavy our souls, we bear together.

Ramadan Photo A Day 2014: Days 1-10


For this  year’s Ramadan Photo A Day challenge, I decided to write and photograph 14-word couplets inspired by the binary prompts.



Days 1 and 2: Light and Dark
The cup on the counter holds shadows,
We sip its spiced secrets from saucers.


Days 3 and 4: Movement and Stillness
The dervish does not dance, he knocks
at the door of God, and listens.


Days 5 and 6: Balance and Imbalance
Things they don’t teach in journalism school;
Whose children are worth more to advertisers?


Days 7 and 8: Feminine and Masculine
You outgrew colour coded uniforms. You wear
all strength, all tenderness on one arm.


Days 9 and 10: Completeness and Emptiness
You and I, we make perfect circles,
Generous spaces for our genes to pool.

Writing News: Writivism Short List and poems for Pen Powered Mic 1

The writing life is rough. Gritty as sandpaper against the skin of all four of your cheeks. Some people talk of bleeding onto pages, they’re not that far off from the truth. It really is messy work. And so emotionally complicated. You are only as good as your last thing. Validation becomes lip-balm, continuous application is required. Especially during  a dry season, when poems pool in puddles unfit for mosquitoes. Everything; every word, every image, every idea is slack and windless and your submissions to journals crash into thick-bricked silence.

And then some nice things happen. You get invited to participate in an online literary seminar, sharing the platform with a range of highly-articulate women who express themselves in boldly unique ways. And a short story you wrote is shortlisted for a prize.

To read “Out of the Blue”, my submission that made the short-list for the 2014 Writivism Short Story prize, click here. If you like, leave a comment with your impressions in the comment section underneath the story.

Here follows texts of some of the poems I read for Pen Powered Mic I. Most of these have already appeared on this blog in some form.

After the Miscarriage
It is all for the mother
the glossed eyes
the quiver at the edge
of sympathy and bakery biscuits
for the mourners at tea time.
The door to the nursery is closed.
The talk is of other things except
for that one aunt whose needles
punctuate compassion
have another one soon, it will be good for you.
The father slips out
to hold his nose to the blankness
of the brand new baby wrap.

Arabic lessons in Egypt
At a masjid in Madinat Nasr
just before Maghrib
I find Jidatee with her nose
in His signs while a metronome
of bone on bone
keeps time
with each fatha
with each kasra
she breathes, those knees creak
as much as the scuffed plastic
of the chair under them.
She’s not really my grandmother
I hear only one word out of her hundred.
Ana la atakalam arabiyya the guidebook told me to say.
Ana talibah, min junoob iffrikiya was from today’s class lesson.
Jidatee, who’s not really my jidatee
fingers the dark cloth of my jacket
before pointing to my skin trying to ask:
South Africa but how, you are not black?
Ummi’s ummi’s ummi min Hindeeyah I stumble
I haven’t yet learnt the word for great-grandmother
Jidatee brings her finger to her forehead
makes a little circle with it in the middle
La, la, Muslim I say
sounds a bit like a song.
We laugh before we pray.
When I return home to the real jidatee,
I tell her the Arabic words for jam, love and need
are the same as the ones in Gujerati
and that her prayers asking Allah
to strengthen her in old age
were already made
by a woman in a mosque in Cairo.

I cannot eat dates without wondering
I often feel warm at Muslim funerals.
It must be the black cloaks of the women mourners
enveloping their embraces on the thin grey blankets
spread around the coffin
febrile tears disintegrating fisted wads
of pink and white tissue.
My very first funeral was cold though.
I look back to the camphor and calico,
my father anointed and wrapped
like an offering.
The final kiss on stiff lips.
The crystals of evergreen frost on his eyebrows.
My mother too young, far away in another room,
her world tossed into a corner.
Always in the aftermath of sorrow
guests are fed blankets are folded
the furniture is re-arranged
prayer books get piled up.
And those date stones we saved
to tally our blessings for the dead and to God
return to their plastic buckets.

Growing Bones
Bones begin soft and unknit
to mould through mothers
to start this work of hardening frame
growing upwards to fall free when six
from the top of the world, fracturing fear
and breaking it in three places
a school-term cast in plaster
scribbled on with fruit-scented markers.
Bones, I drink to your strength.
The milk, always, in tall glasses
good for glugging in one go
and skillful lickings
of wet-white milkstaches after.
Under stretched-out bras and holy panties,
I scribble bones into perfumed diaries
that close with a heart-shaped lock
pickable with a paper clip.
Bones, you make good backs
built to bend
under the weight of adolescence
and spring up
when the world becomes
ready for a woman.

My Mother
softer than stone
and stronger,
has run between
Safa and Marwa
for as long as
I’ve breathed.
At her feet
gush the springs
of home and hereafter.
It is as if she has lived five times over,
moving from mountain to mountain,
carrying our hearts on top of her own.

I seek you out
in the cradles of hands
between the creased ditches
and the padded mounds.
My thumbs are search parties
covered in prophets’ ink
rubbing through the woven pile
of a prayer mat.
In a palmful of Joburg snow
children see you clearly.

things to eat & feel in Egypt
you are;
viscous hibiscus
the found ground
in cardamom mud
sentimental syrupy semolina
the crazy comfort of koshary.