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New Contrast

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Four from New Contrast 144

New Contrast 144

Small Town Girl

Stuck in the big city,
unhappy holiday maker,
I send myself
postcards of home:
Wish I was here.

– Crystal Warren

The last issue of the year is a bumper one. It includes the penultimate part of Silke Heiss’ verse novel, The Griffin Elegy. (I am hoping we will find a publisher next year for the complete work.) We have reviews of five books, we have stories and, of course, we have poetry. David Medalie has won the 2008 Thomas Pringle Award in the category Short Story. ‘The Mistresses’ Dog’ was published by us two years ago. I’m sure you will join me in congratulating David.

Somewhat surprisingly, however, I’ve had feedback that people found it ‘discouraging to submit work, as the same writers’ work keeps appearing – selection seems to be limited to certain writers’. This concerned me – I need to whinge here – particularly as I have made a point of publishing many more lesser known writers. According to my records I have published 113 different writers in the last two years, 62 of whom more than once. Do let me know your view please. Is the journal illustrating too little variety of voice, energy and interest by writers local and abroad, or too much? Just enough!? Is my response to your emails too slow? Is the journal not worth R50?

The campaign to recruit subscribers continues. We’ve had some success in that over the last year subscriber numbers have nearly doubled. We are making progress but are not yet close to our objectives which would go a long way towards assuring the financial health of the journal. I hope, particularly if you are a contributor, that you do subscribe and if possible encourage others to.

I apologise to Tara Weinberg for an error in formatting her story ‘The Betting House’ in the last issue. If you would like a copy of the corrected story, let me know.


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 Open Office (which is free –, or any other 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 – do post your comments. And, of course, you can send email to the editor or to the business manager


Contributors to New Contrast 144

Rosemund Handler, Tania van Schalkwyk, Haidee Kruger, Sarah Frost, Hilda Smits, Lungelo Mbatha, Deborah Steinmair, Stephen Watson, Consuelo Roland, Thandi Sliepen, Jenna Mervis, Rosemund Handler, Mary Faragher, Gail Dendy, Nicholas Meihuizen, Eugenie Freed, Damian Garside, Andie Miller, Guy Willoughby, Patricia Keeney, Laura Kirsten, Dan Hutchinson, Liesl Jobson, Harry Owen, Lionel Murcott, Jane Bruwer, David Bunyan, Karina Magdalena Szczurek, Crystal Warren

Three more from New Contrast

A Zulu love letter

I wish you could write me a letter
A Zulu love letter
With coded colours and shapes
A diamond, for love that’s true
White, for a heart that’s pure
A ring, because endless
Blue, because thinking of me
A triangle, because heaven, earth
and sea below do know
Brown, because solid, rich, and natural
as the ground under my feet
You can leave out the yellow
Why should you love me jealously!?

I wish you could write me a letter
That I could wear around my neck
For all the flowers of the meadow
To watch with envy because of all
The colours bright
A Zulu love letter
With rainbow beads from distant lands
That the ancient old would understand
And then I’ll have such a great joy
Slowly fine tuning your tongue …
That you may be able to properly
Greet my parents in isiZulu …

– Lungelo Mbatha


from Buiten Street

All creatures on this earth, I know,
Must suffer love’s ordeal.

It is always, as they say, by chance.

The printer late for our appointment, with time to kill, I had stepped outside his shop and wandered off, empty-headed, tense, my mind snowing like a TV screen. I was walking in any direction, past those non-spaces—parking-garages, business parks—which Cape Town, no less than any other 21st-century city, abounds in today, too preoccupied to register the street I had turned into.

In our daily routines each of us inscribes a private map upon the city we inhabit. Such maps highlight the district in which we live, those roads we most often travel to and from work, perhaps a café we prefer. But they are also defined by certain blank spots—spaces never traversed or which, marked by certain episodes in our biography, we do not especially wish to revisit.

This hundred-metre stretch connecting Long and Loop Streets was a through-road I had not set foot on for years. What had begun as a conscious decision, a matter of self-preservation it seemed, had long since become part of a pattern of avoidance. Haunted or otherwise contaminated ground, it had been off-limits to me for a quarter of a century.

But it was here, in Buiten Street, that she—she and I—had lived through the winter of 1980 in one of those love-affairs whose fall-out is out of all proportion to its brevity, at least for one of us.

Now there was a skip of builder’s rubble beached in the parking-bay alongside the street door at No. 2, open wide to her old apartment up on the first floor. Over it, the beautiful half-moon of the fan-light still arced. Labourers weremanhauling a consignment of cement up a timber staircase whose slats were dry with brick-dust, dented by a century of wear.

It was 2005, late in the year, early summer. Up at the top end of Buiten Street, Signal Hill drew its own slow dented line across a sky bleached by the southeasterly. Down-wind, the traffic of Long Street was towing its own sound behind it, like a barge. I glanced both ways. And then, uninvited, unnoticed, anonymous, I followed one of the builders, his hod of bricks, up the stairs.

– Stephen Watson


from South African Suite

How can this be
the real Africa

we argue

statistics bristling
stereotypes blooming

wrong colour
too comfortable

a southern European curl
strayed to cafes and terraces
guest houses and miniature
Cape fantasies brushed white

vines stubbornly stuck in soil
by desperate Huguenots

their transplanted blossoming
an oaky history
barrel-mellow or arthritic
among eucalyptus and palm

courtyards and fountains
lavender, chiming lime
arcades and grand vistas

picture postcard bounty

blazing over shack life
shanty towns, squatter
box rubble piled high
behind fences, unoffending

bussed to cultural affairs
educational events
greedy as tourists

bussed back
wary as inmates.

– Patricia Keeney


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