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Read the Three Poems up for the 2014 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award

The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IVJacana Media has shared the three finalists’ poems for the 2014 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award.

The three finalists, as chosen by Mongane Wally Serote, are Rochelle Jacobs, for “Something Other”, Thabo Jijana, for “Children Watching Old People” and Jim Pascual Agustin, for “Illegal, Undocumented”.

The winner will be announced on Tuesday, 4 November, at the Goethe Institut in Johannesburg, and the award will be presented by ambassador Roeland van de Geer, Head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of South Africa.

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Read the poems:

   * * * * *

Illegal, Undocumented

The light from your helmet
flickers to fading. The eyes

of the other miners, stars
as the sky clouds over.

You have lost count of the days
underground. You can no longer tell

who is trying to stifle a cough.
Dwarfed by the growing darkness,

memory takes your earth-encrusted hand
to a place where ferns dampen

your skin as you run, the shrill
cries of birds and vervets

filling the air. But you know
only the rough faces

of rocks surround you,
silent and still as minerals

that have lost all value.
You dare not move
a breath as voices
depart. The ladder

to the surface they leave,
a new trap.

Jim Pascual Agustin writes and translates Filipino and English poetry. He grew up in the Philippines and now lives in Cape Town with his Canadian-born wife and their twin daughters. His fifth and sixth poetry books, Kalmot ng Pusa sa Tagiliran (poems in Filipino) and Sound Before Water, were simultaneously published in 2013 by the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House in Manila. These books will be followed, in 2015, by a new collection called A Thousand Eyes. He is currently at work on two other poetry manuscripts as well as a new project: blending history and poetry from an immigrant’s perspective. Read more on his blog:

   * * * * *

Something Other

I am not
Any one thing
And I am not nothing.
I am not broken
Or fixed but I
Still need some fixing.
I am not brave or
A coward, angry or sad
And I am not
Going to lie, I am not
Much to look at.
I am not very clever
And I am not stupid either.
I am not at all guilty
But I am damn well ashamed.

All I want is to be something –
Any one thing –
Make me anything
That’s different from nothing;
To be something and feel
Like that is ok.
I don’t care if it’s angry
Or sad or forgiving. All I want
Is to be something,
Not defined by that One Thing
You did to me that day.
I know I could be something –
Even the guilty are that one thing –
And I know that I’m not guilty
So why am I ashamed?

Rochelle Jacobs is a 23-year-old student in her final year at Stellenbosch University studying a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She is fairly old for a student but that’s because she took four gap years where she spent some time overseas learning to fly helicopters but mostly working at a bookstore. Generally, she blames this indecisiveness on the fact that she’s always been a writer – she just didn’t know it yet. Her passions boil down to three things: helping the world, getting the adrenaline flowing and literature. Greatest among these is literature, but she finds that writing works best when all three are present.

   * * * * *

Children Watching Old People

malume* drinks
the last of his chibuku beer
as though he were
knocking out
bone marrow,
hitting the carton
against the
palm of his hand
& licking
        the score

*Malume means uncle in isiXhosa

Thabo Jijana is a writer whose work, as shown in the poems he submitted for this year’s award, is informed by his upbringing in rural Eastern Cape. His poetry has appeared in several publications including New Contrast, The Kalahari Review, Poetry Potion, and most recently (in book form) in the The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IV. He attempts, in his writings, to shine a light on extraordinary events, such that he highlights a truth about general life. A journalist by trade, Thabo lives in Port Elizabeth, the coastal city.

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Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    October 31st, 2014 @19:45 #

    Wow, these are great, but the first one does it for me... congratulations to the shortlistees.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Rustum Kozain</a>
    Rustum Kozain
    November 2nd, 2014 @10:14 #

    I concur.

  • Alan Muller
    Alan Muller
    November 3rd, 2014 @07:39 #

    I understand that there will be a Johannesburg launch for the anthology. Any idea if there might be a launch in Durban?


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