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African Renaissance

Good advice: Rilke’s Gift to the World

Abigail George

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So all I see is young artists and they ask me how they can publish their work, how they can become better writers? It has nothing to do with becoming better at it. They are already there. You have to be committed to your craft. You have to take vows. There is a sacred contract between a writer and a book.

Some of us become so wounded in the process of rejection (we see it as abandonment) that we never go back to what we have been called to do in the first place. We forget we are poets and that being tormented and unseen at the same time is part of the seam of the process. We are writers. We are struggling iconoclasts. We are all part of the iconoclastic-family. We are futurists. We are sculptors. We are already there. We just needed the ‘elegant mathematics’ to help us along.

Sometimes we neglect ‘the gift’. There is a kind of alchemy in your head when you begin to write. It has its own machinery, its own wheels and all it asks of us is this? Write anything. Do not edit, decipher yet anything that you write. Just do not censor yourself. You need grit. It is going to take you far wanderer like Moses in the wilderness. All compositions aligned for art’s sake will result in its own rewards. In hardship, trial and despair, that desperation, sly in the voice and mind of the cuckoo living wasteland of the tortured poet is mine. Mine for the taking. Breath taking as impoverished courage might seem to be sometimes it is worth it. The festival of it amuses me, pours itself into me, the physical me, it is all the elements. Greatness lies in the peace it gives me.

Read much. Read everything you can get your hands on because it will not just inspire you. Inspiring your imagination and your subconsciousness. Perhaps silence is the best answer, (guardian angels have swords and humanity has silence). Do not spend all your time thinking of all the negativity in the world. Laugh. Smile. Become aware of just how much you have to be grateful for, for every lesson is a breathing lesson, a celestial navigation on this patchwork planet (my entire favourite reads by Anne Tyler).

Just think of what came before is now gone. Past is past. Intellectual thinkers, ego, psyche, that ‘psychological framework’. Well now, there is only personal space, future living and soul retrieval, consciousness travelling across the globe. What I believed to be before, as truth has become knowledge and isn’t knowledge powerful? Knowledge of the present situations taking place all over the world mostly conflict, mostly war, mostly brutality from man against man and vulnerable women and children caught in the middle.

I remember great poets, and I recognise that I am getting older. More set in my ways, moving forward towards something impenetrable, invincible. Protected in this mysterious world. Projecting myself forward into a future not filled with spiritual poverty, or wealth known as prosperity. Grounded by the gravity of Mother Earth, joy. (Beethoven, Tchaikovsky), the Russian writers (Nabokov’s Lolita which wounded me, and that taught me that we learn from our scars, we are not our scars, we are not our wounds, it is just part of our personal journey, our psyche, the teeth sunken into my personality), and Kubrick.

Failure can hurt. Young girls who think they will be goddesses forever can hurt you just like publishers with their neatly typed (by their secretaries who wear their hair in chignons), rejection letters (forgive them for they know not what they do). Other writers who have won more prizes than you have, who have the world eating out of their hands (forgive them for they know not what they do)? Do you understand that? Do you understand compulsion? Do you understand the complexities now in the mind of the poet and that there is an unstoppable fine line, a psychological thread that borders the finesse of the writer and the instinct of the poet?

Then there are films, which are at the very fabric of our human nature. They are like a flame. They reverberate with a kind of poignancy. Meanwhile poetry is like an invisible woman while films are the art form of this century and I have to confess that I miss it, I miss the medium. So the poets come, the greats come and they guide me on this journey, this route like Saints when they come marching through my consciousness like child soldiers. Unnatural, disturbing, an avalanche of them, an avalanche of thoughts about Anna Kavan’s ‘Ice’ or ‘Asylum Piece’. No light. Only night. The night of an insomniac and if I have to examine the unquiet mind of the poet, I would say that it is included in all of that I have mentioned above.

Despair is painful when it comes to rewriting drafts of poetry and it is easy to feel disillusioned. It is easy to become a Buddhist monk in a second but keep at it. Do not retreat. Keep at it. Because believe you me you will reach a stage where what you are writing as a poet, that is which is hardwired to your brain, that which is authentic, will suddenly become brilliant on the page and someone will take knowledge away with them from something that you thought was nothingness. It is powerful to be honest. There are not a lot of honest people left in this world. Write and as if by Cheshire cat magic, possibilities will appear.

Abigail George is a feminist, poet and short story writer. She is the recipient of two South African National Arts Council Writing Grants, one from the Centre for the Book and the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council. She was born and raised in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape of South Africa, educated there and in Swaziland and Johannesburg. She has written a novella, books of poetry, and collections of short stories. She is busy with her brother putting the final additions to a biography on her father’s life. Her work has recently been anthologised in the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology IV. Her work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She briefly studied film.

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African Renaissance

The Chosen Family from Church to Earth

Abigail George

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Guess at the intensity behind my words. ‘Give me a place to stand,’ said Archimedes, ‘and I will move the world.’ After all that is said and done, Rome was not built in a day. I want to forget Africa as a place of weeping. Listen to this quotation. ‘If Athens shall appear great to you,’ said Pericles, ‘consider then that her glories were purchased by valiant men, and by men who learned their duty.’ What is the source of all greatness in all societies? Our artists. What is the key to progress in our time? Our artists. I consider artists, and performers valiant men and women.Two words. Moses Molelekwa. The pen is mightier than swords.

The thing about being a tortured genius is very real. Your man is not going to be superhuman all of the time. Within every man is a bored and tortured genius waiting for the woman who will understand he is flawed. He also needs to be loved, understood. If you need therapy,and I’ve needed a lot of it over the years, make the call. (Think Hemingway and Salinger, brilliant men, tortured geniuses) who will live for posterity. The gifted, tortured ones always will.You will live for posterity in the lives of your children.Your wife at your side, the people that you work with. What is the legacy that you will leave behind?Two words.

Moses Molelekwa. The thing about being a tortured genius is very real. Your man is not going to be superhuman all of the time. Within every man is a bored and tortured genius waiting for the woman who will understand he is flawed. He also needs to be loved, understood. If you need therapy, and I’ve needed a lot of it over the years, make the call. (Think Hemingway and Salinger, brilliant men, tortured geniuses) who will live for posterity. You will live for posterity in the lives of your children, your wife at your side, the people that you work with. What is the legacy that you will leave behind in the lives of the people who love you, who care for you? The sharpest words cut an artist down, depression, mental illness, and poverty.

(Whether it is clinical or manic, the spectrum of mood disorders that affects the nerves in the brain (nor-adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine). Time is longer than rope, and it will do us the world of good to remain cognisant of that fact. I’ve lived in poverty for most of my life.We (not forgetting that this is a global phenomenon, to be loved, to be kind, to be humble), artists, are not strangers to the dark. People who are broken, broken-hearted (and I am using the example of artists here use their pain, the locus of their external environment to create world that few of this world, they feel that no one will love them.

No one will accept them as they are (here I speak for myself). I am scared of being seen as an artist. Artists are scared to be seen. They fear people will always judge personality over and above, not adore, worship, or praise them. Artists (here I speak for myself) are afraid of the wolves. Remember Patrice Lumumba, Stephen Bantu Biko, Samora Machel, Chris Hani, Kwame Nkrumah, Ken Saro Wiwa, Frantz Fanon, Bessie Head, Dambudzo Marechera, Sol Plaatje Albert Luthuli, Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee all of them marched to the beat of their own drum. Let us remember South Africa’s Nobel Laureates. Let us remember.

Let us remember Robert F. Kennedy’s speech at the University of Cape Town.The artist (they have their reasons), broken-hearted (they have their reasons), the extraordinarily gifted (they have their reasons), all have a voice that needs to be seen, and heard.I am an ex-presidentMandela, Mbeki,Zuma, and president-elect Ramaphosa loyalist too.I’m a Julius Malema loyalist, a Winnie Madikizela-Mandela loyalist. My loyalties are aligned with that of the African continent, from the east to the west, the African Renaissance, negotiation, diplomacy, and reconciliation. What my Saint Helenian ancestors believed in, on that island.

What my elders, and statesmen believe in, what our leaders in the cabinet, and our leaders in government believe in. Here, I am speaking about world leaders as well. It feels to me as if we are facing, standing on the brink of another World War. I say look (back), take stock (ownership), and I ask myself this? Has the revolution finally, finally come to an end, and what will become of the revolutionaries, if writers, and poets do not celebrate their life and death, their fight and the struggle?Struggle to me means the art and seduction theories of survival. I think of the cosmos. How does war, and death, bloodshed fit into this cosmos.

For isn’t all of life infinite? I speak for myself. How I see the world. The world of artificial intelligence, the computer age, the digital divide, the dissemination of information knowledge systems, technology, the age of the robot, advances in the medical field. We have come so far, but we think that we have forgotten the psychosis of our veterans. For me, our absolute existence is not just on earth. It is aligned with the universe, the cosmos, and the paradise of heaven. There lies the Einsteinian-truth. Albert Einstein, a clerk envisioned the theory of relativity. Our experience of time is relative. We live in the present moment, and yesterday.

And our tomorrows are non-entities. I am trying to fight the pain of losing you, you all, believers and non-believers, estranged family that I have loved unconditionally for years. I think of winter tress when I am sad, and Sylvia Plath’s ‘botanical drawings’, and what exactly are these winter trees made of in the dead of night, in the dead of winter. I have fallen in love again, and the world is as it should be. I am writing again. Mind, body, breath is reality again. The non-reality of the psychosis of the bipolar mood disorders inside has become like the rain, pavement, drains, and darkened alleyways. In past wars we have gone from protest.

To challenge. In South Africa we are moving beyond apartheid, and Black politics (are we, are we), the makings of the African working class (we are all comrades, and compatriots in Africa). As I write this, new laws are coming into being. Gender-based violence is being addressed. There is an unquiet revolution from within (always remember that the pen is mightier than the sword). The unquiet mind of the artist, poet and African writer. I think of the fragments of human bodies in war, reconciliation and peace in the African Renaissance. So, today my keynote address to you is the African Renaissance, a Jabez prayer for the youth.

A prayer for the dying youth of the Northerns. I speak now of my own background. A sub-economic hovel, the Northerns, that is my home. I think of the Coloured psyche, ego and identity, the near wasted generation, the duplicity, and promulgation of the Group Areas Act, and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Sometimes, on every inhale I watch the sky, the cloud people, the illusion of it all, that war, and not the Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to feed the world. Politics is not going to feed the world, agriculture, and trade is going to do that.I am fighting the war of all of these successions of deaths. Crimes.

All of this that I see in front of me, the prophecy, all my tears, again, and again, and again. I am saying no to revolution, a life being taken again, innocent puddles of blood being shed.Equality and diplomacy is key.

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African Renaissance

The Secret Orchard

Abigail George

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She wants diamonds, to live in a mansion (she thinks that’s the perfect life), to be the hostess of parties, to run her pale king’s life. She wants to hear the church bells ringing. She wants to sip champagne at these parties. The mulatto’s pale king is at her side. The years will go on. She’ll call it depression. Poets call it torment of vertigo. But she tells herself at least have his last name; he must love me. The wardrobe is filled with clothes, but her pale king does not love her. He came home ready to fight; she hid her bruises under dark glasses. She remembered growing up in a shack. The fact that she didn’t know what a tureen was. They ate at the country club every Friday night, with his old school friends. The women ignored her every smile.

In the secret orchard, I’m here waiting for you, but you never appeared, love. You then went off to the races. Called me your Coco Mademoiselle. Do you still think about me? You were a house of fun, made me laugh, made me smile. And all I could think of was unbuttoning your shirt, undoing you, abandoning myself in your arms. But now it’s over. You left me waiting for you by the house of fun. You never came. They say you’re in therapy now. It is scary how much you can love someone. I see a protea, and I am overwhelmed by grief. She’s gone. She never said goodbye. There’s nobody calling on the phone to speak to me.When I telephone out, I’ve burned all my bridges.They put down the phone.

He keeps me away from his friends. Everything I do foryou; I do for you. Same old Abigail. Same old him. Would have been a bad mother. I know this in my bones. That is how I taught myself not to cry. He has some happiness in his life. Being wife is not for me in this life. I have to write this down. if I don’t, I’ll forget about it. I will love you in secret if that’s what you want. If that’s what turns you on. I don’t want to hear church bells ringing.I am writing against depression. Dawn is breaking. You’re not here. But I am feeling fine. You see,I’m leaving soon. I’m going far away. You’ll see me everywhere. God and guards will be on my side.Don’t kiss me. Don’t hold onto me like you did once.

And when I began to write for English class Rob Perez was always in the frame of my mind. I pictured him making his way through the papers, marking them in red pen and finally until he came across my paper in the bunch, there is where he would finally align his vision with mine. At first glance perceptions are normality not borderline or bipolar. They’re usually just realities of light and energy. I felt an undeniable (yet also unattainable sense) of magic drawing in his dance of movement and on the contemporary as he made his way between the desks in the classroom. Memory, memory, memory could hurt the eyes, could pierce the heart away in tune to their own Hiroshima, could half-drown you in desire.

There between my pages he would find ministry, meaning, shielding me (and my secret forever) and standing solid at the same time behind my descriptive words. He made everything sound pretty and as fragile as words like climate change, global warming, ecosystem, and wetlands in class, where he stood magnificent and cold upfront in the class, reciting poetry out loud, completely detached from the reaction that was being raised in the crush of my schoolgirl heart. It had brought me much undisclosed joy to watch this adult male in my hemisphere. In my dreams we would have ‘conversations’. We would talk about books. My first choice had to be William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice. I could imagine reading some of his own work, praising him or telling him what to rework, blushing that I could be that brave.

Back home before I had left. When I had been a suburbanite-townie with the infinite sea in my backyard, before I discovered ‘the’ Sylvia Plath, her husband Ted Hughes and their baby daughter Frieda in a poem in a time and place unlike any other I had never experienced again, in a country that time had for the most part seemed to have forgot. I stood on the beach, the wailing wind in my hair feeling as if the earth had been chilled by the inclement weather. Smooth, clean, washed shoreline, gulls softened feathers find its place channelled. On the beach, before I left for boarding school in Swaziland, my mother and I went for ice cream. She mother-blazed a path past me (like she did on so many other past and future-times), her mouth set in a grim, determined line. She was determined to say goodbye in her own way.

I am an adolescent girl again. Girl from Mars! in her school skirt and her summer blouse, from Ash (that Irish band). To keep my mind away from you, teacher, to stop it from enthralling me, to keep the knowledge of you clean, pure I am a collection of lost and found, an uneducated volcano, impatient smoke and the voice of denial. I have become a series of pounding satellites in orbit, the reminder of skinned knees from meeting the pavement, scary broadcasts on the evening news with the words coming out effortlessly from research. That is where I’m coming from, an illuminist. Fear from childhood gone. Troops in hardship just an imprint burned on my brain. My bedroom has become my throne room.

Here I have turned hours into a spotlight on loves, death, eternity, daughters and mothers. I wonder if he’s old now. I wonder if he’s elderly. I wonder if he’s been ill these past few years, or perhaps he’s been in perfect health. I wonder if he takes long walks in much the same way that I take long walks to combat the spells of depression. I wonder if I spoke to him in those days, would he have understood my highs and lows. The energy I would feel one day, and then, next, being overcome by tiredness and hunger. I wonder if he’s been ill in the same way that I have been ill. I wonder does he have high blood pressure or diabetes now, has he ever been hospitalised for depression, lived on and off with the stigma in the ways I have before I turn my thoughts elsewhere.

It is easy to be damaged by love. Especially when the object of your affections does not reciprocate your feelings. We have all been there. First love, first breakup, first date night, first marriage, first child from that union. Away from the moonlight, in the morning you realise you have made a mistake. I listen to rain, until the evening drips into silence. I haven’t lost the darkness since I was a child. Nobody but my biological father understands this darkness. God answers. Distance changes everything. Distance lends enchantment to the view. And when the end of love comes, it proves I have lived, and will live again. You will love again. Let the pale king live in his world, mulatto lives in yours. For both of your psyches are wounded.

Tycoons marry beautiful women. If you do not love yourself first, how do you expect to marry someone as insecure as you are. Marry a teacher, master, someone who makes you laugh, who makes you smile, who has a good sense of humour, who tells you that you are the most beautiful person in the world. Kindness, gentleness, a man who understands you completely. A man who has you at ‘hello’. Don’t marry for money. Marry for love. Woman is minor. Man is major. We only have to look at the sciences, philosophy, education, psychology, the canon of English Literature to see how Jean Rhys is minor and Dostoyevsky is major. But we write, male and female to inspire.

You didn’t want me. You didn’t want to marry me. I refused to be kept like a bird in a gilded cage. To be stroked, caressed, petted, fed titbits from the master’s plate. Once I thought you were the most amazing man I had ever met. It’s over. It’s over. You walked away from me once, pale king adored by your loyal subjects. I see now that you never loved me. Treated me kind. I came here to forget. Came here to forget that we don’t love each other anymore. There is a reason that you’re gone. The bipolar mood disorders. The clinical depression. The madness. The insanity. The sleepless nights. Insomnia, sleep apnoea, Pax, Lithium, Risperdal, and tranquilizers. I tried to kill you with kindness. I still think of you.

But I’ve moved on. And most of all you’ve moved on. You don’t love me, accept me. Never will, and I have come to some sought of sweet understanding about this. Have a child with someone else.

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African Renaissance

Beauty awakens

Abigail George

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There is my reflection in the window. She dances. She dances. She dances. Look at me, Master. I am wearing my dancing shoes. I am dancing. I am dancing only for you. Emily Dickinson has fallen in love in the prime of her life. Although the bloom of beauty has fallen away. Tell me what you want to do. And then I’ll tell you what I want to do. I just want to sit here and look at you, Master. I love only you my love. Despise all other men who think that they are above your station in life. For you I would burn in hell for an eternity. Be the love of Satan. For you I would live in the paradise valley of heaven. Sheltered by the highest angelic hosts. The angels. I would spend my days and nights singing alongside choirs of angels. It is as if the world in its entirety is mentally ill.

There is Lavinia, there stands Austin, there stands the congressman, my father, my mother is wrapped up in her little universe. She is nothing but a weakling. Infirm and unable to even stand looking at my father. She has refused for the longest time to sleep in the same bed as he does. Lavinia and I tend to her daily upon the hour. I do so love her. What is the feeling, I want to ask my mother, the sensation of carrying a child in your womb for nine months?I daren’t ask anyone else for they would laugh in my face at this silliness of a spinster called Emily Dickinson. What would I do without you, Master? What would I do if I cannot see you, talk to you, Master? How can you leave me in this state? In this frame of mind, it feels as if I am losing my mind again. It happened once before. I needed the still and tranquil surroundings of Amherst to keep it in check, all the expensive doctors that father sent me to said so. You’re an omen. You’re the hourglass that I am holding onto.

Master, you are loved. Even above that, you are cherished. You’re the winner that takes it all. I am humble servant. I am savant. Do you remember when it rained, I called out your name. I desire inspiration. You provide the desire. I want my imagination to soar, to fly, to have wings. You give me everything that I have ever needed, ever wanted, ever desired. You are the love of my light, fire of my loins. I am Elijah in your arms. Prophet and seer. Oracle in this winter maze. The tears I cry now are tears of hope. I did everything for father, but he does not love me anymore. He has never protected me. He has never sheltered me. He has isolated me from people. Which is why I am so withdrawn and serious. He has locked me into this house. This Pandora’s Box of conundrums.

Austin needs me. Lavinia needs me. Mama needs me. Papa needs me. It has all become to much for me to handle I’m afraid. I’m afraid of being left alone. So, I retire to my room to write. The poetry comes. The poetry is always there. It is wonderful. It gives me courage. I’m totally alone in that space. That space. That heavenly space is sanctified by God. I wish to give the people what they want, but it is difficult. The men that I have loved before are nothing compared to Master. Master and I make new worlds together. In one night, I can four or six poems done and dusted. Put away to be sewn together. That is the legacy that I am leaving to the world. Perhaps one day it will be significant to someone out there. Perhaps a young woman, younger than I am now. Perhaps it will impact her creativity, her imagination. That is all I want. For the legacy of my work to prosper. You’re a maze, Master. For the longest time you have only believe in me and that was enough for me. So many people have come into my life. So many have become socialites, lovers, mothers. I haven’t become any of those beings. I simply find this need within myself to write everything that is gifted to me. I look to nature.

To the ancient mists in the garden air in the mornings. No more will I protect you. No more. No more. No more. It is done. It is over. No more will I love Austin. It is done. It is over. I think of the February song in nature. Married to nature in the natural. Married to nature in the supernatural. I can handle the summer son just fine. Today I must rest. Even though it goes against every bone in my body. Yes, Master. It is my fault to worship in the totality of the inter-dependence of the birds and the sky. Birds flapping their wings. The blue light coursing through day, navigating its way like arrows. Everything must find its place in time. Once I was a beauty. Then illness struck at me fiercely. It made my blood boil. My platelets go pop. There’s a fire in my soul. I am dragon beast. Take this all my enemies. A blast of fire from my mouth. They say that I am unwell again. Sometimes I sit at my window in my bedroom and just stare into space.

The words in all their vision of loveliness comes to me then. This life, this world makes me content. I mean, sometimes I am afraid. I become frightened of the future when I will be alone. I make your life possible Austin. A father in Washington, I make his life possible too. My spinsterish life makes Austin’s life possible. My old-fashioned ways make papa’s life possible. My caring for mama has made her life easier. Her days of childbirth and child-rearing are gone away from her now. I hear voices now. Master’s voice is not so clear to me anymore. The voices are here. I tell myself they are angels. That it is the angels telling me to write. Be gentle. Be gentle. Be gentle culture. Be gentle background. Most of all I must be gentle and kind and considerate. Accommodate the afterthought that is me.

These insane molecules that is inside my head. I am jaded. I am moving mountains. Elijah fills my physical body to capacity. I am loved. Treated in much the same way the prophets were. The Amherst community of men jeers at me and all their socialite wives mock me now. As girls we were certainly friends. We are not friends anymore. I am no longer a socialite. All I wear is white. For I am in mourning. The light of day is exquisite here in Amherst. This is how I live now.The sound of silence in the rooms are invincible. I walk through the house, adjusting my eyes to the light. It is dark out. I think of the people. Their restless dreams of Amherst, the relationships that they have with their families, the hard pews in the church that made me fidget as a girl. I am cold and undone. My lover has gone. He does not telephone. He does not write.

What is wrong with me? I fall in love so easily. I trust so easily. I have no mother to talk to about this. Lavinia is even more of a child than I am. The voices in my heard share their worries and their cares and their burdens with me. I write everything done. It could be God or the angels talking to me. I am winter. Cold and undone. I am muse. I am my own muse. It comes and it goes like a flash of neon light. I want to touch the sun. I want to burn up like a volcano. Until I exist no more, no more, no more. I touch the sun. I reach out to daylight, to the light, to the sun. I will do the same. His wife is now with him wherever he goes. I will do the same one day when I am married. Master and I are no longer lovers. No longer are we girlfriend and boyfriend. Made for each other. We don’t talk anymore. I have lost my best friend. To Master, I am just a girl, even though I am middle-aged. A girl who is still in love with him. Some girl who is still in love with you. Welcome darkness, my friend. Here I am here to talk to you. A vision moves through me. Through my brain. I wanted to love you. Give you my heart. Story of my life. Can’t sleep. Can’t eat when I’m waiting for you to appear, Master. Can you also see all these inter-connecting patterns? Can you also connect the dots? Master, I am waiting here for you.

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