Monday, May 16, 2016

Franschoek Festival 2016

I nearly didn't get to the festival. I would only have been able to make the Friday sessions in any case because of proir commitments, but when my car's clutch started to give in and my friend Jenny was not able to drive us there, I thought I would have to give the festival a miss this year. I was bitterly disappointed. Then I wondered whether my friend Sindiwe, who was taking a major part, and would definitely be there on Friday, would like to take over the tickets I had bought. When I rang her, she refused the offer, (she  had been been given tickets for Friday) but she told me that her daughter, Thoko, was going separately and would like to give me a lift.  It meant leaving quite early, but other wise was the perfect answer. So I had a great birthday after all.

I went to five discussions altogeter and all of them were worth attending.
Schools Poetry: Write Read, Hear
Finuala Dowling  discussed how to bring poetry to life with Linda Kuomo, Isobel Dixon,and Wendy Woodward. Linda talked about the Badalisha Poetry Exchange a collection in which  poets are filmed reading their work and which makes African Poetry easily available. Isobel spoke about the many opportunities for hearing and sharing poems in the UK and Wendy spoke about the teaching of Poetry, how to read it and how to write it. All of the poets talked about how the were introduced to poetry at an early age and how much this has meant to them.

Paying Tribute to Sindiwe Magona.
Elinor Sizulu introduced Sindiwe, told us something of her life and conducted the interview.. I was not very impressed with her as an interviewer. She was lucky in her subject. Sindiwe is an excellent speaker and seldom at a loss for words and she was able, with the minimum of prompting to excite and captivate her audience. There were only a few tributes  from the floor, most of them very complimentary.  There were a few awkward questions, but these were ably fielded by the speaker
She really is a pro!I noticed that all the books put out on display were sold very soon after the session ended. Most gratifying.

The language of Poetry
Karen Schimke spoke to Mbongeni Nomkonwana, a South African poet, Jumoke Verrissimo, a West African  and Safia Elhillo, an Arabic poet who lives in America and writes in her own language as well as English. They talked about the problems with translation in getting across both the meaning and the feeling of a poem,but also the inspiration and richness that comes from multilinguism. I found that this was a very interesting discussion and I was disappointed to see how few festival- goers had turned up to hear it. I know poetry is not the most popular of subjects, but these were all people who were interesting in themselves. They all three had interesting histories and fascinating stories to tell.

Crime procedural
Jenny Crwys Williams interviewed Charlotte Otter, Liad Shuham and Mark Winkler.about their crime novels. I have read Mark Winkler and admire his work, but I had not heard of the other two. Charlotte Otter lives in Germany, but her novel is set in Natal and I think was published in this country, I considered buying her book but decided that the other two seemed more interesting.  Liad Shuham, is apparently a best seller in Isreal( and probably in the UK too). He was most entertaining. I just loved him. I am reading his book now. It is very good in the Police procedural  genre,( but not better than out local crime novels.). He said he was influenced by Scandinavian crime writers, but I llike his book better than any of those I have read, I shall look for his other books in the library.

Writers of Fewer Words
Karen Szczurek hosted this one.and Mark Winkler, Nick Mulgrew and Niq Mhlongo talked about the difficulties encountered in writing short stories. They all spoke well, Niq Mhlongu was particularly entertaining. I didn't like his writing as much as I liked Mark Winkler"s, (I am sure I have read stories by Nicjk Mulgrew, but can't bring them to mind.) but he was the star of this particular show. They all cane to the conclusion that short stories were more difficult to write than novels and poems were the most difficult of all. Obviously none of them is as lazy as I am. I have yet to fiinsh a novella, let alone a full novel,  I aked Nick Mulgrew about publishing short stories. He says Prufrock does publish a few. I am going to sen them one or two of mine. Can't hurt.

With much effort and after a fight with my new phone, which has a definite mind of its own,,I was able to contact Thoko and meet her at a cafe on the Main Road. Here I ended my day at the festival being treated to white wine and red velvet cake, kindly financed by Thoko.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Being Right-handed

I have been thinking about being right-handed and how limited I am compared to so many left-handed people, many of whom are  close to  being ambidextrous. My husband used to write with his left hand, but played Squash with his right. As a cricketer, he bowled left-handed, but batted right-handed. (as an aside, our family is a perfect example of Mendel's Laws of inherited characteristics, of 4 children, two are left-handed and two right-handed)

Left hand/ right brain, is there a connection?
A writer friend has broken a bone in her writing hand. What should she do? This would not be much of a problem for me. I never write by hand, everything goes straight onto the computer screen. My left hand can take over what my right hand usually does. Of course the piece of writing would take longer, but wait a minute. Would that be the only difference? 
Thinking about being right or left handed, I remember an essay by James Barry. He was afflicted at one time with a bad case of what he called “Writer’s Cramp”.( I think that it was actually a form of arthritis.) He was forced to learn to write with the other hand. ( I am not sure whether it was his left hand, but it probably was.) Something very strange happened. He found that what he wrote with his left hand was very different to the kind of thing he wrote with his right. A play or story written with one hand had a kinder, more gentle aspect than a play or story written by the other hand.
I have decided to put this to the test with my own writing. Up to now I have typed all my stories or poems with both hands,

NEW PHONE (left hand)
The girl behind the counter was so kind,
There was a long queue behind me, but
she took the time to tell me all about
the features of  the
model I had chosen.
Pity she didn’t tell me how to use it.
Don’t ring me. I can’t answer
Don’t text; I can’t reply
I am excluded from the Net,
I’m techno-gagged and
I’ve been

TOUGH SCREEN( right hand)
My fingers are so clumsy, I can’t type
he simplest message. I do try
but why do o’s turn into p’s and why
does the whole message vanish
before I can press SEND.
Bring me someone young, I cry
Someone like the girl at our poet’s group
Who can read from her Smart phone
so many lines she has written with such ease.
I wish that  she were here,  but I reside
In an old-age complex. where technology left fogies  
far behind, a long, long time ago.
It’s no good asking them.
and all my grand-children have gone away.
The staff are much too busy
for such a trivial problem, and so
I am left lamenting, all alone, 
my new and shiny, useless, touch-screen phone
(I would say left hand does better than right.)