Poetic Licence: a celebration of songs and words

Get ready for a surprise package at Richmond House Museum and Music Room on Sunday June 3 at 15:00! We’ve never offered a feast of songs and readings before, so are very excited to host a programme that is both local and literary.

The first half spotlights four local wordsmiths, Quentin Hogge, Shirley Marais, Harry Owen and Dan Wylie, reading their own poetry. After Interval well-known Fafa Hopkins performs his show ‘Sweet is the Fruit of the Prickly Pear’ – song-poems interspersed by humorous anecdotes set in Port Alfred, Grahamstown and SA’s hinterlands.

Quentin Hogge was born in Lesotho. He has spent most of his life in Grahamstown; first at school and university and then as a teacher at Kingswood College. He has published 3 books of poetry: ‘Of Birds and a Dream’, ‘Poems Boet’ and ‘More Poems, Boet.’ Quentin wants to retire before death, but is not too hopeful.

Shirley Marais  started writing seriously in 2012 as a means of processing the death of her spouse.  In 2017 she completed a two-year MA in Creative Writing at Rhodes University and since 2016 has had many poems published in various literary journals. She is currently teaching at Rhodes on the Creative Writing Short Course, popularly known as ‘Aerial,’ and runs poetry-writing workshops in Gauteng and the Eastern Cape.

Harry Owen, originally from Liverpool but now firmly established in the Eastern Cape, is the host of Grahamstown’s popular monthly open-floor event called Reddits Poetry. He is the author of seven poetry collections and editor of the international anthology For Rhino in a Shrinking World in support of efforts to save the rhino (and the wilderness upon which it depends) from extinction.

Harry writes a fortnightly column for Grocott’s Mail called Poetic Licence. He lives in Grahamstown.

Dan Wylie teaches English at Rhodes and has published three books on the Zulu leader Shaka; a memoir Dead Leaves: Two Years in the Rhodesian War and several volumes of poetry.  The Road Out won the Olive Schreiner and Ingrid Jonker prizes. Most recently, he has concentrated on Zimbabwean literature and on ecological concerns in literature.  He founded the annual Literature & Ecology Colloquium in 2004, and edited the essay collection Toxic Belonging? Identity and Ecology in Southern Africa.  He has edited a volume of essays, No Other World: The Life-work of Don Maclennan and Don Maclennan: Collected Poems. His latest publications are Elephant and Crocodile, both in the Reaktion Books Animals series, and Slow Fires (poems with etchings).  He has also published numerous academic articles including three on poet Sydney Clouts.

Fafa Hopkins is the stage name of the South African poet, singer-songwriter and playwright Chris Mann (Professor Emeritus of Poetry, Rhodes, and founder of Wordfest South Africa.). ‘Fafa’ has been his family nickname since childhood, and ‘Hopkins’ is his gesture of homage to the great English poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. With over a dozen books and plays in his oeuvre, Fafa is currently composing and performing an extended portfolio of song-poems set primarily in the hinterlands of South Africa. Fafa has spent nearly all his working life in small towns and rural areas. In fact, his family lived for many years in a house in the dune bush overlooking the Kowie River. His lyrics evoke classic country music themes, and their rhythms draw on the years he spent performing with a weekend cross-over band called Zabalaza. Some titles that will strike a chord with locals are Kowie Cicadas, Pineapple League Country Cricket, Dancing in the Grand Hotel, Graduation Song for a Son, Late Night Grahamstown Berg Wind Blues and The Shades that Abide in the Blaauwkrantz River Bridge Pool.

Tickets @ R55 go on sale from Friday 4th  May from KNA (Kowie News Agency, Port Alfred). Out-of-towners may phone KNA (046 624 2036) to reserve their tickets, but they need to be collected and paid for soon after. Tickets include a programme and a welcome drink. Venue: 19 Wesley Hill, Port Alfred. Other enquiries: Sue 082 4567 437

Join us for an entertaining afternoon of fun local flavour touched with nostalgia.

Sue Gordon.


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