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Read the Three Poems in the Running for the 2015 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award

2015 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award Winners Announced
The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology 2011The Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IIThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IIIThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology Vol IVThe Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Anthology

Jacana Media has shared the three winners’ poems from this year’s Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award.

The 2015 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award winners this year, as chosen by head judge Mongane Wally Serote, are Jim Pascual Agustin, for “Baleka, What do You Know of Tenders and Thieves? Or Cockroaches for that Matter?”; Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese, for “A Portrait of a Mother and Indiscretion”; and Athol Williams, for “Streetclass Diseases”.

How these poems have been placed, and the overall winner, will be announced at an event hosted by Poetry Africa at 6 PM on 17 October, 2015, at Rivertown Beerhall in Durban. The anthology will be launched at 3 PM on the same day, at 8 Morrison Street, Durban.

Read the poems:

* * * * *


Baleka, What do You Know of Tenders and Thieves?
Or Cockroaches for that Matter?

Jim Pascual Agustin

“If food is scarce, adolescent cockroaches can live on a very reliable resource – their parents’

There are lessons that a parent
can teach a child. The first few steps,
how to listen, read, and write. Seldom
how to be tender as you plunder
and rape, how to deal with the spoils,
the leftovers, something sharp
scraping the bottom.

“The New Zealand Y2K Readiness Commission gave out a recipe for cockroaches
in case the world ended on New Year’s Eve, 1999. ‘Simmer cockroaches in vinegar.
Then boil with butter, farina flour, pepper and salt to make a paste.
Spread on buttered bread.’”

You are suspicious of concoctions
from the West, for there are countless
ways of nourishing a nation. You
have secret recipes you’re unwilling
to share. We’re eager to know what lies
squirming in your mind. What’s that
bulging under your sleeve?

“Scientists claim some female cockroaches prefer weaker partners because they like gentle sex.
A University of Manchester team has concluded stronger male cockroaches are too aggressive and often injure their partners.”

There are consequences, you say,
for not heeding the pliant rod
of your word. In a chamber
echoing an empty order, no king
will want to speak. So you had to
stamp your feet without even grinding
your teeth this time around.
A flick of your hand and the beating
instantly began.

“A cockroach could live a long time, perhaps a month, without its head.”

Thugs go through the academy of thuggery. The ABC’s
of how to swing a stick, a panga. How to aim a gun
that need not be fired, except on a whim. One head
may roll, and another. Yet bodies keep kicking,
running even, as if they weren’t missing anything.
Because cockroaches breathe through the holes
in their skin, living on nothing for weeks
on end. But they do, eventually, wilt.

“Cockroaches have been present on the earth for more than 400 million years.”

How did you get so far up
that ladder, appearing to know
so little? Perhaps your mind
cannot even go back as far
as Rwanda, when cockroaches
were grafted onto human flesh.

Quoted cockroach facts from Thaibugs.

Poem refers to Baleka Mbete calling Julius Malema a cockroach.

* * * * *


Portrait of a Mother and

Sindiswa Busuku-Mathese
My mother smells of indiscretion
– in fact she smells of strange
things. Not camphor or Zam-Buk;
not of anything familiar.

My mother walks slowly,
crossing the bedroom in high-
heeled shoes. In my grey window
I see the sky. In the sky the moon
is round. She hides her smile
behind the curtain lace and
whispers, “My child sees

I’m waiting for her to hang her
winter coat. I am eager to
glimpse her body. Her buttons
fall away. She is kneeling at my
bedside, upright. Her hand on
mine. It’s raining. She is
lipsticked and caressing my face.
The moon is dead. Her hands
don’t feel the same anymore. The
stars have gone out. I turn and
bite her sad hand; she flies
backwards. I am loud and yellow
laughter. I whisper back, “My
mother wears a disguise for my
eyes only.”

My mother is an old woman. She
is no longer young. Yet I smell
her indiscretion. I have smelt it
on her for days. She has been
laughing and smiling without


* * * * *

Streetclass Diseases

Athol Williams
Abeeda’s toothless mouth sprays saliva as
she paints a picture of her thirteen years
on Cape Town’s streets. He feels her spit in
his face, on his nose, on his lip, arousing
his middleclass concern over streetclass
diseases. At sixty two, she’s never been
to a doctor or hospital; he goes twenty times
a year. Distracted by her dark purple
gums, he misses part of her sermon chastising
him for his pagan life of walking past sick
children drowning in ponds and admiring
his large shadow on cave walls and buying
signed first editions of dead poets while
old women starve on Cape Town’s streets. She
tells of her walk with her god, her simple
life beneath bridges, clearly boasting
about her immunity to his diseases. He offers
her cash. She scoffs and carries on digging
through the garbage bin where he found her.

* * * * *

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