Wednesday, February 27, 2013
SOUTH AFRICAN POETS III: JUDY CROOME
Meet Judy Croome, a South African poet and fiction writer. Although she lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa (which she describes as the economic powerhouse of Africa), she was born in a little village called Zvishavane in Zimbabwe and as a child played out in the Zimbabwean bush.
Judy stresses the focal point of her writing: “With the beat of Africa in my blood, my poetry and my novels are set in this continent, which has deep passion as its heart. The driving motivation of my characters is the search for love in all its forms.”
From her book of poems, a Lamp at Midday:
A PRAYER FOR SOUTH AFRICA
Nkosi, you have brought us so far.
Nkosi, you have guided us through
Years of suffering.
We rose in rainbow queues,
Snaking along the parched dry earth.
We stood under the smiling sun,
Warming us with hope.
We rode in rusted wheelbarrows,
On rickety bicycles and in
Long silver Mercedes-Benz cars.
We signed up for a paradise:
A return to Eden.
Nkosi, your beautiful phoenix falters,
As the new and old colours of hatred wind
Sinuously through our hearts.
We forget to ask our ancestors and you:
Nkosi, yizwa imithandazo yethu
Nkosi, sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.
[Note: isiZulu, from the first verse of the new South African national anthem, which is a combination of a hymn composed in 1897 by Enoch Sontonga and an Afrikaans poem, written in May 1918 by C.J. Langenhoven. The words mean “Lord, hear our prayers / Lord, bless us, your children.”
and another of Judy’s poems:
THOUGHT ON THE NEW SOUTH AFRICA
Two thirds of my life was white under white
One third is white under black.
Hoping to find unity
I see the same old divisions changing faces
From Eugene to Juju.
Too many of our rainbow people
Wretchedly cling to the myths of a departed age.
Victimhood is the new badge of courage.
All cry about their past pain,
And, in so doing, let their wounds fester and
Infect all that is hoped for.
The violent struggle of evil versus good
Blinds them to the promise of the only lasting freedom:
The liberation of the soul
Which, passing through the convulsed pains of re-birth,
Tames the turbulent savagery of both past and present lives
And, when calm again, wins the unity of the self.
Judy Croome’s book, a Lamp at Midday, is a personal collection of poems. One reviewer describes it as “a hauntingly beautiful volume of poetry that speaks to our deepest emotions.” Another reviewer characterizes the book as “a snapshot of real life, and unfortunately death.” Especially in the first section (about her father’s approaching death), these poems speak with a brave and earnest voice.
Here is a poem from the first section of Judy Croome’s book:
The sacred three is certainty and power:
Three fairies, princes, witches.
Thrice-greatest Hermes. The Holy Trinity.
The cock that crowed three times in denial.
Yesterday you had another major stroke:
The third one.
Now the little of you we had left is lost.
Your arms and legs rubbery
And your tongue thick and silent.
Your eyes … oh, your eyes
Continue infinite sorrow.
Your hands reach up to my face
I hold them, to find their power vanished.
How can a child protect a father?
I am yet strong and healthy.
Although weak with grief
Let me protect you,
And keep you safe,
As you have done for me.
Only tell me how
I can close your eyes
And let you rest in peace.
Judy Croome’s poetry collection, a Lamp at Midday, is available through Amazon (in paperback and Kindle versions).
Click here to see the book on Amazon.
Judy Croome, on why she writes:
“I write because I believe that words have great power: they can bring comfort, joy and hope. They can reveal secrets and lies. And, while they may not change the world, they can – at their best – change people’s lives, even if for a moment.”