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New Contrast

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Four from New Contrast 143

New Contrast 143 cover


round the corpse of the hero
dance the flies of nostalgia

– Kelwyn Sole


We are making changes at New Contrast. Before I go into those, enjoy this issue: fattened with prose – stories, reviews and an interview. There are still lots of poems. I have almost six hundred submissions in the pipeline. The effect of this encouraging material is that work sometimes takes a while to get published. Be patient if you have submitted work to me: I am anxious that your voice is heard.

First among the changes is a reshuffling of people. Michael King, our Business Manager, has passed the running of the business to Sonja Wilker and myself. Michael remains on our Board of Directors, and Mike Cope whose father, Jack, was our first editor in 1960, has joined the board.

Second, our website at is now operational, although still ‘under construction’. And there are now new email addresses, although the old ones still work.

The website is an important vehicle in our campaign to revive the (financial) health of the journal so that we can afford to pay everybody involved – from contributors to staff. Although donors have kept us alive through their generosity and love of literature, and various agencies such as the National Arts Council have saved the day for us on occasion, we cannot plan around intermittent funds when we are running a regular journal.

You will almost certainly received emails from me, if you have not already done so, encouraging you to subscribe if you don’t, and get your friends to subscribe if you already do. A number of people, by the way, buy subscriptions for friends and family to celebrate special occasions. And we are making subscriptions more flexible. For instance, you can now subscribe for the ‘next four’ issues rather than a calendar year, if that suits you better. You can also negotiate a deal: a long subscription, say two years, would be discounted. Your help and suggestions are invaluable.

A further benefit to the subscriber is, and will increasingly be more so, access to the Contrast Archives. These are the full text and images which are available online to subscribers only. Already, three or so issues are available to read at the website

Contact me to get access ( You will need a free ‘gmail’ (Google mail) account. (If you represent an institution such as a school, we will let you use two gmail accounts.) The archive is available at no extra cost.

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.

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.

I monitor conversations on this blog regularly. And, of course, you can send email to the editor or to the business manager



Contributors: issue 143

Elisabeth Hallet, Johan Geldenhuys, Danie van Jaarsveld, Mark Robertson, Danya Ristić, Alex Smith, Arja Salafranca, Ken Barris, Alan Galante, Consuelo Roland, Jonty Driver, Dan Hutchinson, Tara Weinberg, Geoffrey Haresnape, Tania van Schalkwyk, Melissa Butler, Rosemund Handler, Jenna Mervis, David Medalie, Michael Boon, Sarah Frost, Robert Bolton, Karin Schimke, Ron Irwin, Tracey Farren, Silke Heiss

Cover art: “Tsunami” by Mimi van der Merwe


Three more from NC 143


He sees no runaway
no self-absorbed
aging white chick
bristling with

but a soul mate

an evasive twitch
to gold
wills his visibility
asks to walk with me
friend he says

not my friend

shows me the
contents of his bag
a pair of new boots
a gift for his son
in Cameroon
I know only

Joan Baez’ distant rainforests

tells of his son
beloved mistake
shaking his head
that a careless night

should yield such abundance
walks easily

alongside my closed ear

his longing impervious
resisting my resistance
to his need
for an open body
that will close tight
over him

for a while

parsimonious I say
goodbye now
he’s had
all I can spare
perhaps we’ll meet again

not altogether insincere

he asks softly
for my number
I wish him a good life
cross the road
half-turn think

about waving

– Rosemund Handler


The weak spot

There is a place for him in her heart.
A weak spot
like a sprained wrist that
years later
gives way under an impromptu handstand.

– Danya Ristić


from Tussenfontein

The shadows stretch over the swimming-pool. The water is chilly on his skin as the afternoon retreats. He hears the sporadic beating of wings as, one by one, the guinea-fowl settle for the night in the bluegum trees.

‘I still bake,’ says Libby, ‘but nothing tastes right any more.’ She looks at Sam with those cloudy blue eyes that he has known since he was a boy. ‘Maybe it’s the butter,’ she says, sighing. ‘Or the flour. Or the eggs. It might even be the oven. I don’t know. All I know is that it just doesn’t come out as well as it used to when I baked everything in the old Aga stove at Tussenfontein.’

Whatever the topic, sooner or later Libby will make a loop back to Tussenfontein. Her conversation, on her annual visit to South Africa (Libby has been living in Sydney for fourteen years) is divided sharply between her new and old lives. Her new life is for informing: Sam, despite repeated invitations, has never been to Australia. Her old life is for reminiscing. In her presence, Sam returns to Tussenfontein, where he spent huge chunks of his childhood and adolescence, visiting Libby’s sons, Danny and Wayne.

‘Johanna and I were the only ones who knew how to get that stove going,’ says Libby. ‘Do you remember how temperamental it was? But we understood its moods. “Ons ken hom, Mis’ Libby,” Johanna used to say. “Ons ken hom. As ons praat, dan luister hy.”’ Libby likes to talk Afrikaans; she’s proud that she still speaks it with a good accent. ‘What roasts we used to make in that old stove!’ she says. ‘And what baking we used to do!’

Libby is famous for nostalgia.

Sam, however, has qualms. He understands the impulse to be nostalgic. When a smell or a song or a saying takes him back to something warm, he feels that Libby is wise. She knows that nostalgia is what helps us findour way back – that it’s all we have.

But at other times, especially when the night wind is very cold, and the stars seem more than usually inhospitable, he’s inclined to think that nostalgia is just a story we tell ourselves so that we don’t have to admit that we will not be able to find our way back. And that’s because we were never there in the first place. With Libby, though, he has no choice. He can interact with her only on her own terms. And that means nostalgia unabashed. She knows no other way.

It’s years since any of them havehad anything to do with Tussenfontein. Libby sold the farm after her husband’s early death – neither of her sons wanted to go farming. For decades they have all lived urban lives. But Libby’s memories are rural. She lived in a townhouse in Johannesburg for twenty years, followed by fourteen in a flat in Sydney; but she’ll always be a farmer’s daughter and a farmer’s wife.

‘Spring is such a dry season on the highveld,’ she says. She squeezes Sam’s hand and puts her arm in his. But Sam isn’t sure whether it is the adult Sam, whom she sees once a year, of whom she is so very fond, or whether this is an overflow of the affection she felt for the young boy who used to come to Tussenfontein to play with her sons. ‘Do you remember,’ she says, ‘how we used to wait for the first spring rains to soften the ground so that the ploughing could begin? You can’t really expect rain before the tenth of October – what used to be Kruger Day. That’s what my father used to say. Rain before the tenth of October is a pasella. But now it seems as if the spring rains come later and later every year. Even the weather is changing.’ She sighs. ‘When they abolished Kruger Day,’ says Libby, making a rare joke, ‘they abolished the rain.’

Sam remembers the arrival of the first rain: the dank, forgiving smell of it. He recalls the sudden emergence after the rain of the flying ants, their discarded wings lying like scraps of silver in the moonlight. Their short, frenzied lives used to distress him.

– David Medalie


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Mike Nicol</a>
    Mike Nicol
    October 9th, 2008 @15:51 #

    Hi Hugh - just been reading 143 and came across a rather nice krimi poem by Karin Schimke. Would really like to run this on Crime Beat - with all due acknowledgements and links to New Contrast - and wonder if you could direct me to Karin. Or maybe she's one of the BookSA trusty community already? Will check. Anyhow, once I have her permission all I need is yours. Ta - Mike


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