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New Contrast

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Four from New Contrast 142

New Contrast 142 - Cover


exercise 2.5.4: starling

you starled and then you lawnded. i breathed smoke
and, while you floraged, drained my coffee-cup.

you startled then and, fleeing, rooted up

the quiet thing you’d come here to evoke.

–Robert Edward Bolton

If you like what you read in this journal and you don’t already subscribe, please do. If you think magazines like this, New Coin, Carapace, Botsotso, Chimurenga and others like them are important to our culture and you don’t already subscribe, please do. If you contribute your work to this journal and receive two free copies in gratitude and don’t already subscribe, please do. If you receive a complimentary copy of New Contrast please share it and encourage others to subscribe to the magazine.

Reading the many submissions I receive, these many voices, makes the task of editing a labour of love. I enjoy all of the stuff I receive whether it works for me or not. I know, of course, that I will disappoint some and delight others by my decisions, but I hope nobody is ever discouraged. If I cannot use the work you send to me this time, send me other work you would like me to consider. Sometimes I may suggest changes, but generally the editing is as light as possible: I want your voice to be heard, not mine.

You can help me too. Please send me electronic copies of your work. I never have time to transcribe from paper to MS Word. If you have no access to a PC at an Internet Café, I will still read your stuff, but your chances of being published are significantly reduced.

Send me a separate document for each piece of work: I want five documents if you send me five poems: zip them together. If you have no access to MS Word, use any text writer, such as Notepad, or send me an RTF. Make sure your name, postal address, email address and telephone number are on every page of the document: use the footer in MS Word to record the information. Make sure you complete the Properties tab in the document. Send me a brief biography: it can be as formal or not as you like. I will edit it.


We recently received information regarding the above prize offering a first prize of £10,000. Plus a study bursary to an entrant aged 18–25. Judges include Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker and Carol Ann Duffy. There is an entry fee. All rules and other details:
Deadline for entries 1 August 2008.


Feedback: send me a letter by email or snail, but preferably the former. Interesting comments or suggestions I will publish.

Reviewers: I receive books for review regularly. If you would like to write a review, let me know. At this stage, I cannot pay you beyond the two free copies of the magazine every contributor should receive.

Do note the old web page is not functional, but I have acquired a new domain. I will let you know when the web site has been reconstructed. I monitor conversations on this blog regularly. And, of course, you can send email to Michael King, our Business Manager, at and to me at

Your comments on these matters are always very welcome.



Contributors to New Contrast 142

Barbara Fairhead, Alessio Zanelli, Dawn Garisch, Doug Downie, Terence Beney, Stephen Watson, Danya Ristić, Abbey Khambule, David wa Maahlamela, Elizabeth Trew, Gus Ferguson, Karina Magdalena Szczurek, Liesl Jobson, Alan Galante, Kobus Moolman, Charl-Pierre Naudé, Elmi Badenhorst, John Eppel, Dorian Haarhof, Gerhardt Will, Christopher Gregorowski, Allan Kolski Horwitz, Gail Dendy, Mark Robertson, Robert Berold, Douglas Skinner, Gill Gimberg, Elisa Galgut, Silke Heiss

Excerpts from the current issue


To compress a single human being
eliminate all that is between
baryons, leptons, thoughts and dreams.
Keep only the bits. You end up with
far less than a single grain of wheat.

For we who believe implicitly
in the undeniably corporeal
nature of head and body and feet
are almost nothing, mostly nothing,
the merest whisper in the street—

not quite a nothing nothing,
an utter absence of anything,
but rather a fleeting, possible something
that before you stoop to take a peek
exists and doesn’t, equally.

– Douglas Skinner


from “Hannah Hunter Watson”

It was into your mother’s eight month when we travelled up to Hogsback, the hill-station where we had been married two years before. It was there, high in the mountains of the Eastern Cape, that we were to spend a final two-week holiday before returning to Cape Town for your birth. I remember taking long walks in the morning while your mother, ill with flu, lay in the bedroom of the house, its windows shaped as in a chapel, overlooking the Tyume River valley far below. The floor of the cloud forest through which I climbed, mud in summer, was long since dry. The grasses, alpine in their lushness through the rainy season, were now brown and brittle from the frosts, dust-caked from the winter berg winds; the higher I climbed, the darker they were burned. When one emerged from the trees, coming out along the skyline, there was always a view of the hills of the border country one hundred kilometres to the south, almost as far as Grahamstown. From day to day, they waited there, pale in the south, chalk-white, immaterial as the daylight moon.

It was one of those periods both strangely weighty and weightless at the same time. The days of waiting. There was a silence to them, unfamiliar, always deepening. It was not the silence of the winter light along the escarpment, the way it drifted each afternoon, becalmed in its own substance. It had to do with your mother, who was now the bearer of a mystery. And it was your silence too: the silence of your forming deep within her, by day and by night. I sensed this as one does those things one knows with a quiet but absolute certainty—a certainty that has about it the silence which attaches to anything of which one is absolutely certain, assured—that a great longing was about to be fulfilled. We were living, your mother and I, in the anticipation of love.

All the while other things were changing between us. Each relationship has about it its own characteristic focal length. It is like the diameter that fixes the circumference of a circle. But now this distance was contracting. Your mother was growing into herself, drawn down, her deepest life now underground, and I could feel myself drawing closer to her all the time. She was no longer lover, wife, but mother-to-be. I, too, (though in ways as yet unknown to me) was about to be altered, no longer a partner, a husband, but a father. I was living on the outskirts, already, of a word that had long since been a foreign country to me—the word ‘family’.

– Stephen Watson


Ons praat al klaar oor sneeu

Ek en jy
My treë na jou deur
Breek deur die ritme van
Die winterwind
Die son
Klim in kruise
Om my nek
Vlam ’n laaste keer my woelkoop oop
Ons praat al klaar oor sneeu
Ek en jy
En ek weet
Soos ek blaai van hemp na trui
Die nuwe seisoen
Gaan in yslemme
Om my polse kom bly

– Elmi Badenhorst


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