The Red Wheelbarrow held their first poetry competition and announced their shortlist of eleven poets from which the prize winners will be selected. Congratulations to these fantastic poets, among them Stephen Symons, the author of FOR EVERYTHING THAT IS POINTLESS AND PERFECT!
Stephen Symons will be the featured poet at The Red Wheelbarrow next week.
Stephen Symons is a graphic designer and Postdoctoral Mellon Fellow at the University of Pretoria. He holds an MA in Creative Writing (UCT) and a PhD in History (UP). Symons’s poetry collections (Questions for the Sea, 2016 & Landscapes of Light and Loss, 2018) and short stories have been published locally and internationally. He was short-listed for the American Hudson Prize for Poetry (2015), Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry (2017) and the Ingrid Jonker Prize for Poetry (2018). His third collection, For Everything that is Perfect and Pointless was published in 2020. He lives with his family in Oranjezicht, Cape Town.
**As always, the reading by the featured poet will be followed by an open mic session for poets from the audience. Poets are welcome to read from their own work as well as from the work of a favourite poet**
My mother’s garments
never seemed to grow old.
Slack suits and twin sets
from the seventies,
woven from some synthetic
substance that did not wear
or tear, unlike the natural fibre
of her skin. My aged mother’s
delicate covering bled
every time she stumbled.
Worn out; worn to shreds.
— "Going home", Disturbance, Dawn Garisch
It has just gone six a.m. I walk my son down the road to the corner where we wait for his lift. The sun is rising, the light streaking the horizon gold. I comment on the morning buzz, the company we keep, power-walkers, the dog walkers, workers and school kids heading for the train. ‘The day carries on.’
Without you, the day must carry on.
Al says, ‘Of course, but let me remind you that you’re wearing pyjamas.’
— Death and the After Parties, Joanne Hichens
They fled with nothing, never stopping. Not even when his mother tripped, his sister, tied to her back, knocking her head so hard that a bump rose immediately. She had been crying, now she screamed. Yet still they ran, amid their own blood and spittle, as the black cloud of the burning valley hunted them, chasing them forward, forward, towards the blue sky.
— An Island, Karen Jennings
Now Shirley, you know, became a mother quite young – sixteen or something like that. She ran away from home with newborn Jason; his naeltjie at his belly hadn’t even fallen off yet. Came to Cape Town where she thought no one would find her. The Northern Cape was far.
— "Homeful", Let It Fall Where It Will, Lester Walbrugh
Lexi shrugged off her coat. She heard the rustle of beads as her mother, Sandra, came through the hippie curtain from the kitchen at the end of the long hallway. Like the town was bisected by a highway, so was their house by the passage.
‘I thought you would be asleep by now.’ Lexi feigned surprise.
‘I waited up. You’re my responsibility now.’ Her mother was in a kaftan, her hair long and loose. She looked like she’d escaped from the Mamas and the Papas.
‘Yay.’ The joys of being dumped and fleeced by her husband never ceased.
— A Fractured Land, Melissa A. Volker
I still remember my mother’s words when we got in the car to go to mass. ‘It’s Christmas, Mary, not a funeral.’ But I’ve always worn black. I would have said she was tempting providence, if that wasn’t exactly the sort of thing she would say. I should have, though. When we got home, a bunch of armed response cars were blocking the gates to the complex. The police were there. Men in bulletproof vests. Guns.
— A Hibiscus Coast, Nick Mulgrew
Not a word was exchanged between us as my mother and I made our way home. She must have seen how disappointed I was for, as soon as we walked into the house, she turned to me, demanding – ‘Where is the form?’
Puzzled, I looked at her. What use was that form now? What would she do with it? Only my father could sign it; and he had flatly refused, hadn’t he?
‘Give me the form, Thembi.’
My mother forged Baba’s signature.
I applied for a passport, astounded by my mother’s actions. She had shown me a side of her I didn’t suspect existed.
— Theatre Road, Sindiwe Magona
The lagoon has
like a son
forgets his father
but never his mother
— "Port is red and starboard green", For Everything That Is Pointless and Perfect, Stephen Symons
But tell me this: where is his irrepressible, eternal soul? Because that is what interests me more. Where is his spirit, free of the gritty, grey residue of his body, which I have felt with my own hands? Because I, with the five senses of a woman, and undeniable sixth one 16 of a mother, cannot fathom the dimension within which my child now exists.
— "Lost", Earth to Mom, Sue Brown
A magical evening! Earlier today, we launched FOR EVERYTHING THAT IS POINTLESS AND PERFECT by Stephen Symons at Wordsworth Books Gardens. Real bookshop, real people, live poetry reading! Stephen was in conversation with author Paul Morris and read from his stunning poetry collection as well as yet unpublished poems, which will feature in his forthcoming book … Watch this space!
Our gratitude to the booksellers of Wordsworth Books Gardens for their dedication and support. Thank you, Stephen and Paul – it was wonderful to listen to you talk about poetry and its magic. And thank you to all who attended the event. It was so good to interact with readers in real life again! Thank you.
The intricacy of a body in the dark
These are the days of the clouds
and colours of his childhood,
of the secrets of forgotten garages
with unwilling doors
and small-paned windows,
of the mysteries of broken glass, rust
and enigmas of dust,
And of the sides of houses too,
of shadows leopard-crawling over mossed brick,
and cool green thoughts and concrete
crumbling to nothingness at the edge
of tired swimming pools
spun with holiday light.
The intricacy of a body in the dark,
how it reminds him of a life
lived a lifetime away, where memory
tastes of salted skin
after a day at a beach,
part sunlight, part ocean,
and at the tip of its tongue
the bitterness of its end.
He stands, looking out at the waves
and last scraps of surfers,
imagining someone else watching him
flared against sky leaking into cobalt.
He has been turning
a perfectly good key in a lock
over and over his whole life
but the door remains locked.
He imagines she stands behind the door
brushing the years between them from her hair.
Now everything is silent and made of first light,
except for the sound of that key turning helplessly
and the distant keening of gulls.
— Stephen Symons
“Stephen Symons’s new collection is engineered for flight, gliding its way between the heavy and the weightless, memory and forgetting. It is a self-proclaimed ‘language of feathers’ that makes this flight possible, a spiritual athleticism that brings to mind George Herbert, whose idea was that the ‘fall furthers the flight in me.’ Symons’s skill is in creating a fathomable sphere for the dimensions of war, contextualizing the enormous facts with small detail, whether referencing Amichai’s ‘diameters of bombs/and sadness of open closets’ or exploring the weightless dross of childhood in the beautiful piece ‘My son was conscripted.’ Symons creates an epicentre of violence by means of an exquisite prose poem sequence that reverberates even to the quietest poems in the book. But the work, as in all of Symons’s poetry, keeps thrusting us back into the present with all its perfect natural math as counter to aftermath: a child’s laughter; sunlight trickling over mossed stones; a ballet of cormorants. This is a beautiful book by one of South Africa’s most tender poets of witness.”
— David Keplinger, author of Another City (Milkweed Editions, 2018), and The Long Answer: New and Selected Poems (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2020)
Publication date: 9 November 2020.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
STEPHEN SYMONS has published poetry and short-fiction in journals, magazines and anthologies, locally and internationally. His debut collection, Questions for the Sea (uHlanga, 2016) received an honourable mention for the 2017 Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry, and was also shortlisted for the 2017 Ingrid Jonker Prize. His unpublished collection Spioenkop was a semi-finalist for the Hudson Prize for Poetry (USA) in 2015. His second collection, Landscapes of Light and Loss, was published by Dryad Press in 2018.
Symons holds a PhD in History (University of Pretoria) and an MA in Creative Writing (University of Cape Town). He lives with his family in Oranjezicht, Cape Town.