Review of a literary Journal: Green Dragon 6
reviewed by David wa Maahlamela

Welcome to the sixth issue of the resurrected Green Dragon.” That’s the first line of the editorial of this 2003 founded literary journal. In the fifth issue the editor, Gary Cummiskey announced that he was euthenising it, and thanks to Poetry Africa festival in University of KwaZulu Natal which inspired him to carry this heavy yoke again.

The first time I came across Green Dragon, I fell in love with its layout and the use of what I regard as reader-friendly theme font, Palatino Linotype. Unlike other few literary journals, Gary is not putting his name on the cover, bolded and in caps as if it’s his own compendium. Of course working alone in a journal, one will expect common typing errors such as in the third sentence of this sixth issue’s editorial: “Producing a literary journal can a lot of work and-". I believe he forgot word such as ‘demand’ or ‘create’ after ‘can’.

A question that emerged in my mind is that how do we motivate few individuals who out of passion decide to do whatever it takes to run this few benevolent journals in the country? This came after Gary regarded it as “a thankless task”, I then realized that whatever they do; they are actually doing it for us, as writers.

Green Dragon consists of great wordsmith such as Ingrid Andersen, Janet van Eeden, Gus Ferguson, Allan Kolski Horwitz, Kelwyn Sole, Mphutlane wa Bofelo and Mxolisi Nyezwa. One other thing I like about this issue is variety of writing styles and themes used. The only problem which is not a problem is use of same writers. I spoke to several editors and realized that it’s safe to use people that you already know to avoid things like plagiarism. The only challenge is to be careful not to end up publishing names of writers rather than their products.

Former editor of New Coin, Alan Finlay’s second poem entitled ‘the flood…’ left me licking fingers. Choice of words plays a big role in this poem. Instead of saying I’m weak, he says: “my strength defeats me”. Furthermore he keeps on painting his own pictures in lines such as: "i am bitten by my own tears/ their long hot arrows, hot as sorrow…”.

As usual, Vonani Bila brings those age-restriction kind of pictorials where sensitive viewers should be cautioned. The poem, On Julie’s menu is about Julie who ‘burrows the heap of dead babies and miscarried brood at the hospital, cuts the head off, cooks and eats with pap.’ If you’ve read most of Vonani’s work, you will realize that he writes about stuff that are happening in our villages yet most writers; due to the question of credibility; avoid writing about them. Such stuff we normally talk about them in whispers, he says them loud. Poems such as Dahl Street, Pietersburg which starts with a very heavy statement; can bear evidence: “Sex-worker are burgers/ we chew the fresh ones…”. Mbengwa, Mpho, Hola Gazi and Porto Alegre Prostitute support my argument.

One poem that will adhere to your teeth is ‘homicide’ by Cecilia Ferreira. The poem is about a person who’s about to be judged or interrogated yet deep down confessing that he/she won’t sell out whatever secret he/she is keeping.

my tongue
is on a butcher’s board
(it’s not dead yet)

my tongue
is going to be slaughtered
(for dinner tonight)

my tongue
will be a platter
(with secrets on the side)

my tongue
is poison
(when silent)

Gary Cummiskey’s poem, Afterwards, just like Aryana Kaganof’s poem, The man without skeleton have something in common. One may think I’m say this hence they both use the f- language; but that’s not my focus. Of course in Gary’s poem there’s a line: “when we fucked against the wall” and in Aryan: “instead of booking into a cheap hotel and fucking the bejesus out of each other”. What I personally liked out of these poems is that they are able to take one into emotional situations and make you feel what the person felt. The use of simple or basic vocabulary enables them to be easily understood. Basically they used simple words in an artistic craft.

List of sound effects by one of the editors I respect the most, Kobus Moolman left me groping for understanding. The style of writing he applied; the same as the one on Alan Finlay’s first poem return (that’s after reading full version on Green Dragon blog), are broadly ambiguous. There are both advantages and disadvantages of this style. They are flexible to fit any situation and they turn to be relevant to any other occasions even after ages. The disadvantage is that they have many possible meanings in such a way a reader might misinterpret them.

The next poem is Visiting Hours by David wa Maahlamela – Oh it’s me! Well as much as I would like to chop myself, I don’t think I’m brave enough to do so. I will leave it for other critics. (the poem is great, actually it is very relevant around this time when government is discussing issues of a National Health Insurance. I’m not giving kudos to this poem simply because David wrote this review but the first thing that came to mind at reading it was ‘how can it be relevant to the doctor’s strike and rhetoric coming from Luthuli?' David shies away from confessing that he, like Vonani seem to have appointed themselves as carriers of the ghetto cross, all the way to the Mount of Olives. If I had to chop the poem it would be an injustice, however the jury is out and anybody who has read Green Dragon is welcome to taunt the poet – Editor)

Tania van Schalkwyk’s Hierophant is also one of those poems you would enjoy reading again and again. It’s nice to see how a person fears the presence of a ghost yet not happy when it has to leave hence it’s someone beloved.

In The Litchis’ song lyrics I married a goose emerges the type of ambiguity I personally prefer. Goose here can imply in two ways, as a bird and informally as a stupid person or person from a stupid race. A persona might be in love with this bird in such a way that people do not approve their bond or he might be in love with a person of a different race and people of his race not approving this cultural interaction. In conclusion he says to his own race:

“If they grew feathers
If they grew a beak
Then maybe from them
A wife I would seek”

Joop Bersee portrays a descent sexual scene in his poem, A game. His second poem, Crap Pizza beautifully tells of a woman’s worth. How what we regard as small things like cooking counts in the absences of the wife. On the second line there’s what I assume to have been typing era: “the pizzas are coming un” I guess it was suppose to be “in”.

Colleen Higgs in her short story, The poet and the woodcutter which in the index list is spelled as ‘woodcuter’ with single‘t’, is short and straight to the point. The story is alerting writers not to end up living writing in such a way that they will not even lighten up for their spouses when they deepen themselves in to the world of muse. It is true, most writers find themselves at times having to answer the “between me and your writing/poetry, whom do you love the most?” question.

Anton Krueger’s poem, Naked also stole my heart. To be honest, short poems like haikus are not my thing, that’s why I find it difficult understanding poems by Mick Raubenheimer. Below is one of them entitled Loci.

there is no inside
there is no outside
even is
is taking things
a bit far.

Having said that I still enjoyed his last poem entitled Hoove print. So gently romantic in a form of questions, the person asks his “tenderest creature” if she enjoyed what he calls “monstrous sensitivity”. He beautifully asks: “does your body still throb with echoes…?”I really saw and felt what was happening that evening…that urgent net.

The hip-hop influenced poet and founder of www.kasiekulture.blogspot.com, Goodenough Mashego is sharing shame of his neighbourhood in a poem shatale (part two).

nothing you get in here only weedsmoke & AIDS
the girls ain’t giving us love they steal our cash get us poisoned
though it’s my hood i swear to god i’ll catch the first plane out

Goodenough’s poem reminds me of the inferno which was burning me recently. Most established writers are into weed nowadays. It is believed that it results in writing quality stuff. Bob Marley and poets such as Han Shan, Mafika Gwala, Dambudzo Marechera but to mention a few, were writing best under the influence of either marijuana or alcohol. I really don’t know if that is a right way to inspire the coming generation.

…I ask lots of difficult/ questions most of which/ I cannot answer myself” That is a quote from Aryan Kaganof’s second poem, Letter from a girl with no head. Aryan’s short story, Glock for sale literary made me to read it again. He tells a sad story comically. The story is about a person who got mugged by “the tall so-called black” while he was in position of his glock.

It’s hard to argue with the barrel of a 9mm in your face and the very tall so-called black man in front of you looking nervous and his finger wriggling itself all over the trigger.

He kept on creaming the story with light jokes and informality. Unlike the conventional way of quoting where we normally say: “like said so-and-said…”, Aryan gave a quote and later he said: “You might have noticed that the previous sentence was written by a much smarter person than myself, and it was.” They say as long as the lion can not learn how to write, the hunter will always be the hero in a Lion & Hunter story, but with Aryan is the opposite. He kept on sarcastically criticizing his failure in sentences such as this: “I probably couldn’t kill myself if I tried putting the barrel in my mouth and pulling the trigger”. The quote I loved in conclusion of the story, which made me understand why he kept on saying “the so-called black man” is the following: “There are no so-called blacks or whites anymore, just a dirty shade of grey called reality” (one rapper I love, Immortal Technique says there are no longer Blacks, Whites, Coloureds and Latino but only rich and poor people, I found that quite intriguing – Editor)

Megan Hall’s poem Valentine’s Day portrays contradiction of the haves and the have-not. How relaxation time to the have is working time for the have-not.

Neo Molefe Shameeyaa also outstood herself with her documentary poem; I heard fame and fashion calling your name. In this poem she just explains things as they are without giving any input. It is written in a dream-kind of style where one is just duplicating a picture without adding any personal colours.

Arja Salafranca concludes by reminding me of James Matthwes as she embraces age in her poem Chapped hearts, observing changes on her body and memories in the heart, bearing testimony to thirty-seven year she’s completing.

All in all, I give thumbs up to this resurrected Green Dragon issue and wish it could forever conquer death. For more information on Green Dragon, visit the following blog http://www.dyehard-press.blogspot.com/ . Mo Faya!

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8/14/2009

    “un” on Joop Bersee is not a typing error (not era), it’s deliberate. 3 spelling mistake but all in all, a good review. Good job Dave.


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