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BOOKED @ Muse: Gabeba Baderoon

Gabeba Baderoon

Gabeba Baderoon is a 21st century “art-cademic” whose contribution to the poetry scene rediscovers and intertwines the lives of everyday strangers. She is the author of three poetry collections, The Dream in the Next Body (2005), The Museum of Ordinary Life (2005) and A Hundred Silences (2006).

The Silence Before Speaking, a selected volume of her poetry translated into Swedish, was published by Tranan in 2008. Gabeba’s poetry has appeared in New Contrast, World Literature Today and Carapace, among other journals.

The Dream in the Next Body was a Notable Book of 2005 in the Sunday Independent in South Africa and a Sunday Times Recommended Book. A Hundred Silences was short-listed for the 2007 University of Johannesburg Prize and the 2007 Olive Schreiner Award. In 2005, Gabeba received the DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Poetry and held the Guest Writer Fellowship at the Nordic Africa Institute in Sweden. In 2008, she received a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship in Italy and a Writer’s Residency at the University of Witwatersrand.

Gabeba has read at international literary festivals such as Winternachten in the Hague, Spier, the Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica, the Franschhoek Literary Festival and Poetry Africa. Her short stories and essays, including “High Traffic,” “Approach” and “The History of Intimacy” have appeared in anthologies and art catalogues in South Africa, Australia and Norway. She is currently based at Pennsylvania State University as Assistant Professor in Women’s Studies and African & African American Studies. See and Gabeba Baderoon @ BOOK SA.

In the meantime, Gabeba is reading Only Half the Picture by Zanele Muholi, Berni Searle’s Recent Work, and A Rain of Words, translated poetry by women in Francophone Africa, edited by Irene d’Almeida. She tells the muse that “I am immersed in brilliant and evocative images by women artists and writers.”


Memories of a blue fortnight

The sea is blue and perpetual
around us.

Days peel apart like the tides
and return again.

Laughter and silence
are the same texture.

I want to hold you this way
for a few years.


Other Horizons

The tides wash here like memory
against the concrete banks.
A flood stole the streets in 1974.
Now the city turns its back on the river.

The moat that is now a street curls
into a second circle and the tramways,
orderly and tangled, form
boundaries, cross them.

No. 11 carries everyone, briefly, together.
Die stad is vir iedereen, says Wim,
marooned here.

The carriage sways round a building
and the city of Rubens and lace reveals itself.
“Kill cops” scrawls the graffiti
on a milk-white wall next to old stone.

We pass the Hasidic neighbourhood
and its old ordinariness,
then the Moroccan one. Bakkerij Mustafa
and Auto Onderhoude in Dutch and Arabic.

A mother in a black scarf pushes
a pram, and a boy runs ahead,
wheeling his bicycle.

From the window, I see a florist pour
water from a bucket into the sloot,
a Madonna rounding the corner
of his building, and the cathedral above everything.

The water flows down the cobbled streets
towards the Schelde and Rhine, giving
Rembrandt van Rijn his name, and the name
of the cigarettes my grandfather smoked.

I follow the lines home
through the railway to Holland, and further,
to where the delta calls, and from there, open water
insistent as the birds, the seasons.

The port cities sing of other horizons,
and their steep memories.
Piesang, kris, amok, the words in our mouths
pull homeward.

From the decks, the lights in the harbour waver
on the horizon.
From the shore, the ships dip
beneath the waves for small eternities
then rise again.

The port cities confess their names.
Rotterdam, Leiden, Cape Town,
place of rats, place of suffering, place
facing the sea.


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