Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I’m thrilled to feature poet Linda Ann Strang.

Linda lives in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where she’s been a university lecturer and academic writing consultant.  She writes poems and short stories, many published internationally.  In 2007, the editors of Poetry Kanto nominated her poems (“The Feathered Saxophonist” and “Where They Say: Don’t Touch”) for a Pushcart Prize.  Linda, together with artist Stephanie Liebetrau, curated an ekphrastic exhibition called “Transfiguration” in 2010.

[Read about ekphrastic poetry on the 7-11-12, 7-25-12 and 8-8-12     posts on this blog.]

Linda Ann Strang’s poetry book carries an intriguing and playful title: Wedding Underwear for Mermaids.  When asked to talk about her title, Linda answered “You’d have to be a woman wearing a sequined g-string to understand.” [Now this is an I-wish-I’d-said-that moment!]

Critic Grady Harp, an Amazon Hall of Fame and Top 50 Reviewer, calls Wedding Underwear for Mermaids “as rich a collection of meaningful and dazzling poetry as has been placed before the public in a long time.”  Alan Botsford, editor of Poetry Kanto, in his review in Carillon, explains: “Cinematic in quality, if not in form, her poems jump-cut from scene to scene, with cultural allusions layering elliptical narrative arcs through multicultural distances and multi-ethnic relations, sometimes at warp speed.  High-voltage sensuality is delivered via visual collage in an everyday performance not only where Africa and the West meet, but also where colors and textures rich and sensuous translate into a cohesive choice of words, born out of the poet’s command of the senses.”

Wedding Underwear for Mermaids is available in print and Kindle versions.

Click here to see Linda's book (paperback edition) on Amazon.

Click here for the Kindle edition on Amazon.

Click here to go to Honest Publishing for Linda's book.

I’m pleased to present to our readers two of Linda Ann Strang’s poems, both with African themes.

The Snapdragon Peace Accord

South Africa, 1974

The lemon trees have bumpy leaves.
My grandmother brushes

unbaked scones with milk,
her hands all flour and age spots.

Sweet peas scale the chicken wire.
Grandmother Ivy bottles ginger beer

and draws a hand across her forehead.
Sharpeville revs its cutting engine.

There are violets around the birdbath.
Ivy, Edwardian, unties the knot

only of her homemade apron.
Cancer is the upstart in her uterus.

We are little girls.  We sing “Ring O’ Rosies,”
fall down in the garden laughing.

Later we push immature fingers
into the mouths of snapdragons,

who say aah without breathing fire.
Our stethoscopes are anemones.

Each mind a handful of sand,
let us go at the funeral.

Skinning our knees, dresses riding up,
we climb the wooden fence –

it has compound fractures
and it pickets the end of the world.

[Note: "Sharpeville revs its cutting engines": Sharpeville refers to the 1960 massacre of black South Africans peacefully protesting state-imposed passbooks and, in this poem, is a symbol of political conflict in South Africa.  In 1974, that political conflict revved up again, when the government declared that it would implement the instruction of Afrikaans in black schools -- which eventually resulted in the riots and bloodshed in Soweto in 1976.]

(a shorter version was published in So To Speak, summer, 2011)

Here is Linda Ann Strang’s villanelle:

Song of the Émigré

We want to eat but there’s blood in the bread.
The rioting crowd finds a fence to trample.
The phoenix is anemic; the rivers are red.

Fashion dictates: dress yourself in lead.
Crows bestow unction in the pale temple.
We want to eat but there’s blood in the bread.

Lights fall.  Andromeda burns a hole in our bed.
A jazz song lacerates the night like bramble.
The Phoenix is anemic; the rivers are red.

Sirens are the food with which terror is fed:
our thoughts in a knot that we can’t untangle.
We want to eat but there’s blood in the bread.

A man with a knife finds a woman to wed,
her broderie body a pattern of shrapnel.
The phoenix is anemic; the rivers are red.

There’s a curse on our country where every tread
takes you closer to death – that stale angel.
We want to eat but there’s blood in the bread.
The phoenix is anemic; the rivers are red. 

[Note: The word “broderie” refers to broderie anglaise, a form of needlework on fabric which features embroidery, cutwork and needle lace and is characterized by round and oval holes, or eyelets, grouped in a pattern.  In the poem, it is used to indicate the “body” is full of holes.]

Recently, Linda was the coordinator of Women’ Scream International Poetry Festival 2012 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.  Women’ Scream is an international coalition founded in 2009 in the Dominican Republic.  Its mission is to honor women poets, and artists, and to create a conscious outcry against violence toward women, through art and poetry during the whole month of March.  This year 90 scheduled events in 30 countries (on five continents) were part of Women’ Scream 2012.

Linda explains, in a piece she wrote for So to Speak online, why this is important to her:
“I live in a country where, as a woman, you have to be crazy to be a feminist and crazy not to be one.  Feminism is frowned upon by many people, including females, so admitting to being a feminist draws a lot of hostility and ridicule, as I know from experience.  That’s why it’s crazy to be a feminist in South Africa.

This is why it’s crazy not to be one: South Africa has been called ‘the rape capital of the world’ (its main competitor for this ‘honour’ being the Democratic Republic of Congo).  It’s been said that a South African woman has a better chance of being raped than she has of completing secondary school; and this isn’t just some arbitrary information for me.  I’ve witnessed the suffering of my neighbours and friends.  One acquaintance was raped and strangled.  Another was raped and stabbed in the throat –  but she survived.  Yes, South African society is characterized by crime and violence.  But the women here identify vigorously with their aggressors – and, quite frankly, I do too most of the time.  So feminism for me is not so much about theories as it is about surviving another day and holding onto a bit of self-respect.”

One book review said, “One would think that with experiences such as these Strang would offer poetry that is heavily accented with loathing, but in reality the opposite occur.”

To read this review and 2 poems, click here.

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