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Robert Berold

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Photos: Pretoria Launch of Two New Titles from Deep South

Robert BeroldBernat Kruger & Sunica Schreinerthe deep south national poetry tour july 2008

launching bernat kruger’s never and robert berold’s all the days.

alicedale station is dominated by a small dry mountain. right next to the station is an enormous steel structure. the train arrives at 3.30pm.

it travels all night. the blankets on my bed are thin, and the heater in the compartment isn’t working (or as bernat says in one of his poems in true south african idiom, it doesn’t want to work). when I wake up we are nowhere near joburg. running four hours late. I borrow the dining car waiter’s cellphone to inform michael in joburg.

the joburg launch is at the wits writing centre run by the ever-helpful pam nichols. it’s a place where writers can come to read and write. zweli the rasta poet is there, getting ready for the jozi spoken word festival. I remember his lines from years ago: I don’t feel gooood I don’t have fooood. this time he does. they have laid on lots of snacks and fruit juice. where are the people? not many. only about 15 people. but they listen.

the pretoria launch is two days later. cafe riche on church square, a sunny saturday afternoon. nobody’s there, not even bernat at first. then liesl jobson arrives with her daughter, gail stacey. they and michael, who came with me, are our audience. we sit round a table and start reading. then some friends of bernat arrive, including sunica who he dedicated his book to, and the kritzingers. wine and snacks and a very enthusiastic tiny audience who have some special requests for poems. listening definitely compensates for numbers.

next day we get on the train to cape town for a 26hr train journey. I’m getting flu. bernat has a huge dictionary which he lugs around. he’s reading kerouac, I’m reading ari sitas’s manuscript, a novel. bernat and I have a small literary argument about the merits of harry potter. the train passes krugersdorp, klerksdorp, kimberley, de aar. at klerksdorp station someone has left their bags and a wooden leg dressed in a sock and shoe next to a bench.

next morning we wake up near worcester, soon we are in cape town station. I’m feeling sicker and my wallet + credit card is gone. lost or stolen in joburg? stolen from our compartment while we were sleeping by the bedding attendant? surely not.

mindy is there to meet us at cape town station. that evening we go to off the wall, hugh hodge’s live poetry venue in observatory, bernat is the featured reader. a large and attentive audience, who listen and respond. nadine botha is there. bernat’s readings have started off mumbly, but they are improving every time we read.

two days later, cape town launch at the book lounge. hey, cape town has much better audiences! are they more poetically astute, or just better organised? or maybe we didn’t know how to market to a gauteng audience? anyway the place is full. I sing larry’s composition of my poem my death, a fast blues, accompanied by thomas cousins, who went over the chords with me the day before. all my cape town family are there, and several friends. the book lounge is a great venue, and mervyn a good host.

two days later we drive out to stellenbosch. dirk klopper, the head of the english department, looks much the same as he looked ten years ago. no students, but a small and attentive staff. a fully transformed department, all races, makes rhodes english department look distinctly colonial.

friday, bernat is on the train back to joburg. we are driving home. mindy’s phone rings. it’s inspector nel of de aar police. someone in the spoornet ticket office found my wallet on the platform. inspector nel went to the bank and got my contact info. I’m touched by all this honesty and helpfulness, which is already organising itself into a found poem for my found wallet.

I’ve posted copies of our books all over the place, even america, even turkey, even china. to journals and newspapers and friends and bookshops. our books are launched! now what? we wait for our poems to do their work, whatever that may be. I know that every year at least we will get unexpected responses.

Michael Jaspan & Bernat KrugerAlta & Klippies KritzingerMarlize Hobbs & Leandi ErasmusSunica Schreiner, Sean Reynolds & Johanna KrugerRobert Berold & Gail Stacey

Book Details

Thanks to Liesl Jobson for the photos


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