Antjie Krog at Shakespeare & Company
Review and photographs by Kate Noakes.
Shakespeare & Company played host on 21 October to one of South Africa’s greatest writers, Afrikaaner poet Antjie Krog. She read from her newly published selected poems in English, Skinned, which covers a range of topics from politics, to love, to old age, to a bushmen sequence. Her reading was suffused with song, emotional cries and controlled use of the f-word. Being a mindful swearer myself, this particularly appealed to me.
She was introduced by means of her own quotes ‘to be vulnerable is to be fully human, it’s the only way you can bleed into people‘ and the hopeful ‘you will survive the tide.’ Krog is a fine poet, yes, but she has had a full life as a political activist, Truth and Reconciliation commissioner and now, University lecturer.
She read political works: Land ‘I want to go underground with you land that would not have me’; the noteworthy Lament for Rwanda, where death trots through the poem; and Litany, again with an effective use of repetition. In one bushman poem ‘the stars curse the eyes of the springboks,’ just so, while in her cacophonous narrative from the Stone Desert, ‘you need terrifying amounts of booze.’ Family, illness and ageing followed with a personal favourite, The Sonnet of the Hot Flushes.
It was a great reading: Table Mountain ‘a lump of grief against which everything flounders’ to explain the terrible continent, yet overwhelmed by love. A privilege to hear.