Patricia Schonstein X Jacob van Schalkwyk – Poetry Reading and Walkabout

Jacob van Schalkwyk, “Regrowth”, 2016, Lithographic ink on paper, 760 x 560mm


On Saturday 1 October 2016, Patricia Schonstein, our poet in residence delivered a poetry reading to accompany Jacob van Schalkwyk’s walkabout at his current exhibition, Sunsets. Schonstein elaborates further:

Sunsets comprises of a series of six drawings on paper done in lithographic ink. They are landscape-influenced and carry a sense of turbulence, fire-destruction, decay and rebirth. The heavily-layered and contoured colours are reminiscent of Table Mountain in all seasons, particularly the Silvermine area.

The 13 poems I chose are not literal descriptions of the art-works although two do relate directly to the piece REGROWTH. Quite by chance the poets, Margaret Clough and Adre Marshall, as well as the artist, all independent of each other, captured the rebirth of flowers after recent, devastating fires on the slopes of the mountain. All three express orange-red resurrection on a terrain rendered black by conflagration.

I followed these with a poem by Don Pinnock, set in the Cederberg, which captures ochre and other versions of red. The fourth poem, by Yewande Omotsoto, took us to the cooling colours of sea.

The next were a series of love poems mirroring the turmoil of longing and love that envelope the six paintings. My final reading, by Anton Breton, summed up an erotic undercurrent. I should just mention, that not all the colours captured in the art, are named in the poems. Even so, one ‘heard’ the same layered silver-blues of the sea; white of stars; mauve of heartache; and the erogenous exploding-red of life in Jaco’s work.

Patricia Schonstein

Following is a list of the poems read by Patricia Schonstein, most of which can be found in anthologies published by African Sun Press available at David Krut Bookstore at Montebello Design Centre and 151 Jan Smuts Avenue:

From Stanzas Four, a poetry quarterly:

  • Silvermine, April 2005 by Margaret Clough
  • Sugarbush by Adre Marshall

From Africa! My Africa! An anthology of poems:

Alone in Riemvasmaak by Don Pinnock

  • Letter to Njabulo Africa! by Lucas Delisa Zulu
  • Mashiya by Siyabonga Sibiya
  • The bridge by Allan Kolski Horwitz
  • This Life by Andries Walter Oliphant

From Heart of Africa! Poems of love, loss and longing:

  • The sea has two mouths by Yewande Omotoso
  • Let them know by Yewande Omotoso
  • The old couple by Jeremy Gordin
  • Blue eyed boy by Pam Newham
  • Dining with Neruda by Cornelia Rohde

From 99 Poems in Translation

  • Freedom of love by André Breton translated from the French by Edouard Roditi

Two of the poems recited were:

Silvermine, April 2005

By Margaret Clough

A famous winner of the Nobel prize preferred
leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves
but that’s because she’d never seen
a pale pink amaryllis stretch
out of bare earth to unzip, one by one
its shiny perfect petals, or
on a mountain path, discovered
a fleshy Haemanthus cup and looked inside
to see small paintbrush florets there.
She never knew
how, after every living thing
that once grew on this mountain slope
had burnt to death, there rose
from blackened soil and ashes,
on tender naked stalks,
fields of blood-red fire lilies.

Freedom of Love

By Andre Bréton

(Translated from the French by Edouard Rodti)

My wife with the hair of a wood fire
With the thoughts of heat lightning
With the waist of an hourglass
With the waist of an otter in the teeth of a tiger
My wife with the lips of a cockade and of a bunch of stars of the last magnitude
With the teeth of tracks of white mice on the white earth
With the tongue of rubbed amber and glass
My wife with the tongue of a stabbed host
With the tongue of a doll that opens and closes its eyes
With the tongue of an unbelievable stone
My wife with the eyelashes of strokes of a child’s writing
With brows of the edge of a swallow’s nest
My wife with the brow of slates of a hothouse roof
And of steam on the panes
My wife with shoulders of champagne
And of a fountain with dolphin-heads beneath the ice
My wife with wrists of matches
My wife with fingers of luck and ace of hearts
With fingers of mown hay
My wife with armpits of marten and of beechnut
And of Midsummer Night
Of privet and of an angelfish nest
With arms of seafoam and of riverlocks
And of a mingling of the wheat and the mill
My wife with legs of flares
With the movements of clockwork and despair
My wife with calves of eldertree pith
My wife with feet of initials
With feet of rings of keys and Java sparrows drinking
My wife with a neck of unpearled barley
My wife with a throat of the valley of gold
Of a tryst in the very bed of the torrent
With breasts of night
My wife with breasts of a marine molehill
My wife with breasts of the ruby’s crucible
With breasts of the rose’s spectre beneath the dew
My wife with the belly of an unfolding of the fan of days
With the belly of a gigantic claw
My wife with the back of a bird fleeing vertically
With a back of quicksilver
With a back of light
With a nape of rolled stone and wet chalk
And of the drop of a glass where one has just been drinking
My wife with hips of a skiff
With hips of a chandelier and of arrow-feathers
And of shafts of white peacock plumes
Of an insensible pendulum
My wife with buttocks of sandstone and asbestos
My wife with buttocks of swans’ backs
My wife with buttocks of spring
With the sex of an iris
My wife with the sex of a mining-placer and of a platypus
My wife with a sex of seaweed and ancient sweetmeat
My wife with a sex of mirror
My wife with eyes full of tears
With eyes of purple panoply and of a magnetic needle
My wife with savanna eyes
My wife with eyes of water to he drunk in prison
My wife with eyes of wood always under the axe
My wife with eyes of water-level of level of air earth and fire




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