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We chat to 4 local poets ahead of their performance at the McGregor Poetry Festival

2015-08-28 10:27

Cape Town - The small village of McGregor, near Robertson, in the Western Cape is hosting the 3rd McGregor Poetry Festival from 27 to 30 August.

There is once again a great programme offering lovers of poetry a wide selection of events to attend. Festival attendees can look forward to attending poetry readings by Ian McCallum, Antjie Krog, John Maytham, Adam Small, Lara Kirsten, Patricia Schonstein, Petra Müller and Gert Vlok Nel to name just a few.

We had some quickies with 4 of the poets set to perform at the festival - Kerry Hammerton, Mavis Vermaak, Ansa Smit and Hugh Hodge.

Check it out here:

Channel24: Why do you love poetry?

Kerry Hammerton: I love reading poetry because it speaks to me in a way that nothing else does, it is a way for me to corroborate my own feelings, thoughts, ideas, experiences and emotions. I love writing poetry because it is a way for me to connect my feelings, thoughts, ideas, emotions and experiences with the rest of the world. I love poetry because it can be as silly and irreverent as Purple Ronnie or as heart rendering as Ingrid de Kok’s poem Small Passing.  Poetry is yoga for the brain.

Mavis Vermaak: Other people’s poetry inspire me and offer new perspectives on life. Writing it is like therapy, it allows me to really process (and sometimes sublimate) my own experiences.

Ansa Smit: Poetry speaks directly to my body and soul. In a world where most of us get taught to only cultivate and operate in the mind/thinking/logical space one is left sometimes disconnected from the body. For me poetry is an experience of feelings and images being dropped into my body ever so gently, sometimes fiercely. A knowing and resonance within the flesh and heart. Poetry is nourishment for my soul.

Hugh Hodge: Love is the best place to start poetry.

C24: Which of your poem collections will you read at McGregor Poetry Festival?

Kerry: My second collection The Weather Report (2014) will feature in my reading but I will mostly be reading unpublished and uncollected work.

Mavis: I will mostly perform the poems of other poets that have inspired me. These include Rumi, Rilke, Mary Oliver and Ingrid Jonker. I will also perform some of my own writing set to original music.

Ansa: Those that speak to me most at this moment in time.

Hugh: The one I haven't written.

C24: Which other poets would you like to go and see at the Poetry Festival?

Kerry: I am going to see Harry Owen and Helen Moffett, and listen to Liesl Jobson. Antjie Krog is a must see. Local McGregor poets Hester van der Walt and Suenel Bruwer-Holloway always have something interesting to say. Khadija Heeger is amazing. Cowboy poetry looks like fun… there is so much to listen to that I will probably be exhausted at the end of the weekend.

Mavis: As many as possible. Some names that stood out are Antjie Krog, Gert Vlok Nel and Petra Muller – poets whose work I love.

Ansa: If time would allow I would be at every poet's reading.
Hugh: All of them.

C24: How does poetry and songwriting differ?

Kerry: They can be the same thing – there is often poetry in song lyrics, and I am sure that there are many poems that could be (or have been) sung.  I think that they come out of the same creative impulse and probably are informed by the same muses. You could also call a collection of poetry an album or an album of songs a collection. The advantage of poetry is that a poem can be as long as a novel or as short as one line, but a listener expects something different from a song.

Mavis: For me, writing a song requires far less crafting and intellectual consideration than writing a poem. The music adds a lot of emotional impact and tends to carry the words.

Ansa: Music is poetry. Poetry is music.

Hugh: Do ice and water differ?

C24: How would you sum yourself up in 3 words?

Kerry: Deep. Eccentric. Creative.  

Mavis: Me? Good grief.

Ansa: Curious. Attentive. Colourful.

Hugh: OMG.

C24: How would you sum life up in 3 words?

Kerry: Challenging. Mystical. Enigmatic.

Mavis: Life is Life.

Ansa: Delicious. Adventurous. Blessed.

Hugh: OMG.

C24: Seeing that the theme for the McGregor Poetry Festival is “Growing Poets”, what would your advice be for kids that would like to write poetry?

Kerry: Read (a lot) and write poetry. Have fun. Repeat as often as possible. Don’t let anyone tell you ‘you can’t’ or ‘that’s not poetry’.

Mavis: Pay attention.

Ansa: First and foremost would be to put all the advice and structures aside – to look within themselves. To listen to the inner body feeling to what wants to emerge, write from that inner place. Even if unsure. Especially when unsure. To respect every single creative act coming from yourself – that does not mean you have to share everything or like everything. But to try and understand that creativity is always a gift – and if treated with dignity, consideration and respect it will respond and blossom, bringing to your life depth and sustenance. Secondly, when you write - do not try to write to impress the world or others or get stuck in what is right or wrong, for the way of the world can be a false sense of affirmation and guide. Rather write from your own heart, knowing that the mere act of cultivating the creative fire and allowing it to burn is an act of beauty in itself.

Hugh: Get started.

Festival details:

Date: 27 – 30 August
Tickets: R50 per show and available via Computicket.
Click here for the full programme.

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