Thursday, 5 November 2009

Another myth

Speaking of myths, there is another South African myth, one seized and twisted by every media vehicle you can imagine, that I do prescribe to wholeheartedly.

Yes, I admit to a case of Madiba Feva. While the arguments I gave against the 1995 Rugby World Cup fever could apply to this one, I think arguing these points would take a whole blog post, and this is not my aim. I am aware of dominant narratives in this story. Not all South Africans think he is a hero. I accept that.

The point is, that behind all the hype and confusion, Mandela is just a man, as fallible as you and me, but he happened to make some choices and stand for some things that I admire. That, and he has an infectious charisma, and when it comes down to it, you can't argue with emotion. When I see him on tv I can't control the emotions that flood my peanut brain.

The reason I bring him up is because I just finished reading his autobiography. I am not sure why I waited so long to read it. This is a recurring pattern in my life, being x amount of years too late with everything. I found it in my parents' house and finally read it.

I enjoyed it very much. I know autobiography is biased by definition, but all other biographers are likely to be as dizzy as me with the myth. His autobiography is low on worshipful hyperbole.

My finishing his autobiography coincided with me starting a poetry writing course at the local university.

Good grief, you can see where this is leading, can't you just?

Apparently novice poets like me write poetry that is too personal.

So I decided that if I was inspired to write really personal poetry, I would do it to get it out of my system, but I would not hand it in. I could then focus on writing decent poetry to hand in.

Sooo, I was perhaps a little obsessed with a certain subject as I tried to write my first poem... it was far too personal a poem to share with my class. What I wrote was raw and unfinished, inspired by the moment.

I do believe that very few people write poetry only for themselves. For some reason I want to share this poem. I have questioned my motives and I think I just want it to be known that I had this strength of feeling. A blog is a good chronicle for that kind of thing. I am usually a coward who does not offer up strong views. Also I cannot publish this poem anywhere, it is not good enough, nor would I want to.

So I'm putting it here. I think I may regret this later. And I am closing the comments because I am too embarrassed and sheepish to deal with comments. I am a coward after all. Not that I am not interested to hear what you think about the Mandela myth. I think it would be fascinating to hear other views on the subject. But as I said, that belongs to another post.

So without further ado,
I shall bid you adieu.

UPDATE: ok I opened the comments. I am going away for 3 days so am still in hiding anyway. Still sheepish too. No cow ever had a bigger ward than me.


Life is a sentence.
Can a sentence contain a small man
bent over a hammer
crushing stones?
A sentence cannot bind a man
whose roughened hands remould
the dust and gravel and blood and bones
of a wasted, sentenced place,
a man whose tongue digs past words
in men whose words are shackles.

He whose tongue plants hope in stony ground
cannot be stopped or forced to pause by loaded terms
that conjugate divisions and subjugation
into the revisions of the times.

There are no words
he needs no words
his face is our face
he is engraved in our hearts,
a man, an old man bent over a hammer
crushing stones.

A sentence can be very long
A sentence can last 27 years
But no sentence can withstand
your hammer - Amandla!
You who dared to pull
a branch of the tree.
Enkosi utata Mandela.


Helen said...

I think the fact that he is just an ordinary man is what makes him so indpiring.

And I think the poem is amazing. Really.

Really really.

P.S. Word verification 'reverser'
is that some kind of a sign?

po said...

Helen: I think you hit the nail on the head.

And thanks, I was afraid to open the comments in case people thought I was fishing for compliments. But I want this page to be here forever so I can come back to it and remember that I was moved to write it:)

LadyFi said...

Hurray - you opened the comments! I thought this was a wonderful poem! Wonderful!

I am a Madiba fan too - in fact, my son is named after him.

DT said...

Your killing me Po! I literally went cold reading your poem. Oh my.
'a man whose tongue digs past words
in men whose words are shackles.' What are you doing working in a lab? Please for the love of all that’s good – send this to someone - a white South African girl in the UK – your heart is still here in so many ways, it is almost unbelievable.Makes me proud.

po said...

LAdyfi: really? Now that is special!

DT: Aw your comment made my day. A comment like that does not come around often. Hell it made my week. I think blogging is worth it for comments like that :)

Thank you.