Most perfect description of the human voice – ever.

Sometimes there are people in this world who understand language, words, form and creation better than others. I have many favourite writers and poets that fit into this description. But no one more so than Jennifer Lean, a Cape Town poet whose words will leave you breathless. Somehow, in the fewest words possible she manages to cut you to the bone, strip away all pretenses and defenses, and lay bare the human condition. Her point, sharp as a fencer’s blade, is always made with perfect weight and delivery in the last line. She reaches a core in a reader’s heart, soul and spirit in a way that is indescribable to us mortals. But you will know it when you read it. I will simply leave you to digest.

What must stay

I live dutifully in my sunlight liquid spaces.
Daily I rinse traces of myself away.
Wash imbibed memories down drains.
Sometimes I baulk. Watch for days
as a feather brought in on a breeze
whispers its way along stretches
of my carpet. Watch spillages of books
heap where they hope not to be
in the way. Am seduced by
the singular perfection of a fossilised gecko
on a windowsill.

I watch the sooty stain above my fireplace
grow year by year.
Some signs of what one cannot see
must not be wiped away.


And then this extraordinary comment on Salli Terri’s voice:

From this to those

(Salli Terri, Bachianas Brasileiras No 5 – Aria, Heitor Villa-Lobos)

Salli Terri’s voice is unearthly.
It gathers up the scorch
of these fireside coals,
this sky, indigo
beyond the colour,
this inscrutable substance
of moon.
It gathers up all yearning,
this sound within wings, and flies.
It stretches itself infinitely
upward, infinitely outward,
becomes thin, ever thinner,
eventually evaporating
into those unknowable silences
where the human voice


And here is that music that inspired these beautiful words: Salli Terri

Listen – and read. It will blow you away!


Review: ‘The Hare with Amber Eyes’

I’ve  started my New Year’s resolution with fanfare, having read this extraordinary book, The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, winner of the 2010 Costa Biography Award. It  is one of those rare books that you can’t forget once you’ve finished – a poignant, gentle restructuring of lives gone by, of art and the joy of art, of the strange dichotomy of human nature: the love of beauty and ruthless pursuit of power.

We follow the journey of a collection of Japanese netsuke – small, meticulous carvings of animals and people – a journey which is closely bound to the story of Edmund de Waal’s influential European family. In learning about the art and origins of the netsuke, we discover the family’s story – their rise to wealth and social success, and the descent into chaos during the war. And through it all, the remarkable survival of the netsuke – travelling from Japan to Paris, to Vienna, to London, back to Japan – and finally back to England.

This is not your average, quick read: Edmund de Waal’s writing is rich, poetic and evocative. It is a book both mesmerizing and heart-rending. It is the meticulous truth of a family’s history. For me, it emphasized that mysterious link between pure creativity for the sake of art and the desire to possess; the creator and the buyer, the gifted and the collector. Why do we want things so much – to hold, to touch what we feel is the ultimate in creative beauty? Is it a way of making emotion material, collectable, a thing to possess? Is it at heart, love?

The Hare with Amber Eyes is a five-star read. It will enlighten, intrigue, sadden and delight. It will make you think.