6/19/07

REVIEW

FARE THEE WELL GENTLE DRAGON


Naspers boss Kobus Moolman was quoted in last months's The Media magazine as having once said that all magazines have is a lifespan. He reportedly went on to explain that the only difference is the number of years some will put between birth and death. Some few months ago one of the most revered Afrikaans magazines from his Media24 stable, INSIG folded. Reasons given were that while its readership was sound, but it was not complemented by its ability to spin revenue. INSIG died because it was haemorraging badly. It actually bled to its death.
The same feeling of loss didn't strike me when I got my latest copy of
Green Dragon and read on the editorial that this was 'the fifth - and last - issue of Green Dragon'.
Maybe it was because I was warned about it a week earlier. It did not feel shocking very much because the first thing on my mind was that founder-editor Gary Cummiskey was taking the honour of personally euthanising it. Green Dragon died surrounded by 22 wordsmiths who are amongst the hordes who loved it intimately. I cannot start to imagine how it feels to pull the plug on a baby you created and loved.
However Gary is very composed about it. Me going through the editorial informs me that the beautiful anthology is going to mutate into something else, maybe even bigger than what we are crying over now instead of really ceasing to exist. He said his main reason is because it is consuming so much time that should be dedicated to other Dye Hard Press projects.
His other reasons are that bookstores (for reasons known to the managers) are reluctant to stock literary journals. This is a point that requires further interrogation since the same apathetic stores are quick to stock shelves with magazines with the same front covers, but editorial and content. Then the editor says that the most probable way to go is online ala Botsotso, Chimurenga, kasiekulture and donga. Maybe this is the way to go given that the biggest criticism of online newspapers is their failure to commit dedicated online editorial staffs that will break stories before radio and television. The online versions we have in South Afrika are a replica of the print, except for a few well-resourced newspapers like the Sunday Times. With literary journals such can be achieved because there'll be more ways of cracking literary news and readings at book fairs without the complication of print. If a poet said something very interesting in a reading captured on a cellphone video it won't take me thirty minutes to post the exclusive on kasiekulture but newspapers will need to report about it tomorrow, literary journals when funding allows them to come out.
Green Dragon, which I'll like to believe is moving online as well has had its run between its birth, christening and death. The biggest criticism ever leveled against it has been that it kept a circle of regular contributors and used them excessively. For issue number five, the one under review kasiekulture dispatched invitations to as many self-confessed poets as possible and even questioned the elite attitude of so-called black poets who enjoy preaching to the converted. I was surprised that while they are good at portraying the Dragon as exclusive, they themselves keep exclusive circles. You know them, they always travel with crowds, use punchlines and play for the media. They also don't recite for free or send poetry to journals that are not read by government people who can invite them to inaugurations of anything from the president to a dam.
Green Dragon five is not different from the other dragons that came before it apart from a few new good poets who are unfortunate to attend the funeral instead of the second, third and fourth birthdays. And as a moving tribute to the journal that has done so much for so many bards we are going to preview every single contributor to this last issue. There is Arja Salafranca (who has contributed to almost every Dragon). Arja's poem is titled Pet Shop in Malaga and it's typical of her style, something between free verse and abstract. It's about an encounter between two strangers with assumptions.
Then there is well-known literati Kelwyn Sole, whose poem The Fall does not give away much about this literary genius who is brilliant in analysing the artform you'll be forgiven for mistaking his long thesis for epics. 'give me your hand/ before i'll even think of making love to you', he writes.
Born of a woman in a vice-filled world is Goodenough Mashego's contribution to Green Dragon Five.'lord forgive me/ for i'm tired of being poor/ so if poverty is my destination/ sorry i'm fucking with your plan', he writes. The poem, together with another one in the anthology titled Lesego are also contained in his second anthology of poetry Taste of My Vomit (10workers). 'your smile intoxicates like an ounce of weed', goes the opening line in Lesego.
Fidelities editor Kobus Moolman makes two contributions in Absense and Solitude retreat. 'a hole opens in my hand/ with the sound of your wet eyes', Moolman muses in Solitude retreat. The two poems feel like love verses penned in hours of serious need.
Centre for the Book's Colleen Higgs' Spying is a very catchy prose in first person. It comes across as one of those writing that require repeat reading to figure out the essense of the words conjured in the name of a narrative.
Motjidibane Bapela's I went to old Auntie Lily's one day will remind a seasoned poetry lover of Vonani Bila's A visit to Oom Brown. However it's a relief that Bapela's aunt is not as superstitious as Bila's uncle Brown. Her aunt is in love with quitness and serenity.
This anthology is made up of beautiful poetry and prose from Karen Press (Hotel Rwanda, January 2006), Kaye Axon (Dance Class), Dawn Garisch (Night Passage), Lauri Kubuitile (Four dimensions of righteousness), Haidee Kruger (tripping the razorwire trapeze), Joop Bersee (i look at my hands), Tania van Schalkwyk (Eva), Phillip Hammial (Good work). Pause right there as there's also an interview that Gary conducted with Hammial which reveals a lot about this poet and his muse.
Let's move along; there's also Hazel Frankel (I am no van Gogh), Abbey Khambule (the night at gloria's), David wa Maahlamela (Madness of Poet Han Shan), Allan Kolski Howirtz (Accidents), Richard Fox (Mugabe - my warsung hero), Amanda van Rooyen (Tarnished), Gary Cummiskey (Today) and finally Liesl Jobson with Vessel.
These are the wordsmiths at Green Dragon's bedside as Gary euthanises it. "I thank all readers and contributors who have supported Green Dragon", he writes. And this is how it died. Fare thee well Gentle Dragon.
Immediately it goes online we'll be the first to give you the domain name and link. Dye Hard Press titles (including this collector's item) are available at P.O.Box 783211 Sandton 2146 South Africa.

1 comment:

  1. Fuck, I just love poetry

    Satan Lucas

    ReplyDelete

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