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New Contrast

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Four from New Contrast 151

New Contrast 151

Contrast was first published in the Summer of 1960 and its fiftieth year concludes with this rich Spring issue. The next issue, the 152nd, will be the first of its next half century.

We have cause to celebrate. First, that we have made it here at all: there have been moments of doubt. Second, that we have energetic and imaginative supporters.

UCT always help with substantial funding and are our main sponsors, I thank the university and, in particular, Stephen Watson and Rob Baum at GIPCA for their support. There are a good number of individuals who have helped down the years and continue to do so. I must, though, mention two dear friends: Patricia Schonstein and Karin Schimke. Patricia Schonstein for her ideas and application to the task of recruiting more subscribers. Patricia has been instrumental in setting up the project to obtain money to buy subscriptions for high schools who have few resources. In so doing, helping both the schools’ and the journal’s health. She instituted the ‘Bell Jar’ (after Sylvia Plath) at Off-the-Wall poetry readings in Cape Town which has resulted in over R2000 being contributed by the audiences for these schools in the last month. Karin Schimke, who is my partner in crime at Off-the-Wall poetry readings, has actively supported the Bell Jar and used her Facebook contacts to recruit both new subscribers and sponsors.

It is inspiring.

Enjoy the read. Oh, Sogenaamd Sestiges, and others, enjoy Stephen Watson’s essay on Leonard Cohen.


Contributors to New Contrast no. 151

Geoffrey Haresnape, Abdul Ali, Sarah Frost, Brett Beiles, Esther van der Vyver, Grace Kim, Karin Schimke, Jenna Mervis, Madeleine du Toit, Chad Pressman, Beverly Rycroft, Michael Bernard, Emily Buchanan, Jason Rotstein, Azila Reisenberger, Ken Barris, Austin Kaluba, Dj Protest, Brian Walter, Andries Samuel, Vonani Bila, Jonty Driver, Arja Salafranca, Bob Commin, Sara Dias, Marí Peté, Heidi Henning, Lawrence Dugan, Consuelo Roland, Marianne Burton, Martha Evans, Mea Lashbrooke, Eugenie R Freed, Stephen Watson, Johan Geldenhuys

Four from New Contrast 151


om aan brons te vat
is soos om ’n geliefde
aan te raak
die silwerbruin
soos ’n siel gegiet
teen die verderflikheid
selfs die voorafgaande
kleiwerk; hard en kwaai

soos die van god
of minstens die van ’n smid

jy kan nie aan ’n prent vat
soos aan jou beminde se gesig nie
soos die kleur van lippe wyer
as lippe se tekstuur
of ooglede op wangsag glasuur –

wanneer ’n prent jou beminde
se gesig in het,
is dit maar net
omdat jy haar nooit weer gaan sien nie

of is dit bloot net omdat
jy eenvoudig nie kan vat
aan ’n prent
soos jou beminde se gesig nie

Andries Samuel


The Pig

I checked his shoes –
Rough and wild

And the nails –
Long and dirty

That’s how I notice a pig
Even in parliament

Too greedy
He even kills the piglets.

Vonani Bila


from “Leavening” by Eugenie R. Freed

Being different, irrevocably different, was a way of life for Annie Berger’s family. The Berger children had always known, for instance, that they should refuse the wors or chops at a neighbourhood braaivleis. Meat for the Berger household came from a butcher in Cape Town, and arrived by ox-wagon every week in oilskin packages under a melting block of ice wrapped in dirty sacks. Saying ‘Nee dankie, Tannie! Nee dankie, Oom!’ to the aroma of wors sizzling on the braaiskottel was hard enough, but it was even more of a deprivation when the Berger children did not get presents at Christmas-time, since all their friends did. It was an inescapable part of their being different.

At the same time, Annie shared with her sisters and brother the unspoken understanding, handed down to them by their parents, that although they were different and always would be, they must take great care to appear to be just the same as everyone else in the Boland town where they lived. Annie’s parents, Ben and Sarah, spoke to one another in Yiddish at home; but if a neighbour came in, they immediately reverted to broken Afrikaans, even when they addressed each other. Annie had once asked her mother why they did this, but her mother only shook her head and said ‘Shh-shh, Channi, shh-shh, mein feigele.’

It wasn’t so much that the Bergers looked different from their neighbours. Annie didn’t. Her best friend Grieta Holtzhausen liked to joke that she and Annie could almost be mistaken for sisters – except that Grieta’s long blonde hair was straight, and Annie’s fell naturally in curls. Grieta and Annie were inseparable; they shared a desk in the classroom at school every morning, and spent their afternoons together as well, whenever they could. The two girls would braid one another’s hair and wind the plaits around each other’s heads in identical hairstyles. Annie was the youngest child of the Berger family. She was eleven, fair-haired and pale-skinned, with her mother’s deep blue eyes. Sarah Berger’s graying fair hair, always pulled back into a bun at the back of her neck, framed a plump gentle face with broad high cheek bones and a flattish nose, and those astonishing eyes. Annie had her mother’s colouring, but her father’s clean-cut features. Sarah would sometimes look at her youngest daughter, thinking – such a pretty girl, this feigele Channi! They would have to be so careful with her!

Ben Berger, known as ‘Oom Ben’, was a small man. His littleness of stature and build marked him out in that community of big-boned boereseuns and their equally sturdy womenfolk. Charlie, the coloured man who worked for Ben in the shop, called him ‘die Oompie’ – sometimes, ‘daai Joodjie’ – but never to his face.


from “Leonard Cohen and Longing” by Stephen Watson

It is the improbability that still commands attention. Even he would be quick to agree that he could not sing (though he would add that he was one of those people, nonetheless, ‘whose voices are connected to the heart’). He, too, would say that, as a musician, he was no virtuoso (though, characteristically, he would also affirm that he knew five chords on the guitar rather than the three with which others credited him). Nor was he uniquely talented as a poet, despite the acclaim that would greet his first volume of verse, Let Us Compare Mythologies, in 1956, and his rapid ascension to the status of culture-hero in his native country. For the most part, his verse would remain resolutely minor, often lazy, facetious, meretricious—the squibs and doodles of a self-confessed ‘pseudo-poet’, its political sheen as thin as the radical chic of the times.

Yet all along something else was there. No one, perhaps not even he, could have foreseen that there would meet and fuse in him a number of elements which, drawing on his abilities as a poet yet distinct from them at the same time, would turn him into a great song-writer. While it was easy to compare his poems with others (Allen Ginsberg and the Beats were an obvious presence), the songs would be, like all things truly original, sui generis: there was literally nothing with which to compare them. At the outset he would be likened of course to Dylan, particularly because of the poetic nature of his lyrics. And in his career, as with the latter’s, there would be periods—whole years when, written off by the critics, and doubtless by himself—he would seem to be dead and buried, another instance of road-kill on rock and roll’s ever-potholed road to glory. But really, the comparisons ended there. More and more, with the years, it was his difference, essential, unrepeatable, that was to become clear.

That he should now be universally recognised and acknowledged as one of the glories of popular song in the twentieth century and after—one of the few, moreover, to have survived the last century, both his physical self and talent intact; that he himself should be admired as a man not only of unusual artistic talent but of a certain spiritual stature; and that his current global concert tour* should have been received by critics and audiences alike as one long victory march—there must be, so one likes to think, moments when he himself stands amazed by the unlikelihood. Against all the odds, he had become Leonard Cohen, a life, a fate, which had turned into a destiny.

Preview & purchase this issue

New Contrast 151


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    October 15th, 2010 @17:55 #

    Congratulations New Contrast and Hugh, and kudos to Patricia and Karin for their sterling backroom work, too. True labourers in the literary vineyard.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Louis Greenberg</a>
    Louis Greenberg
    October 15th, 2010 @21:28 #

    Great work, Hugh and the team, for keeping this wonderful establishment alive in trying times.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    October 16th, 2010 @11:23 #

    Seconded, H and L!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Amitabh</a>
    October 16th, 2010 @19:03 #

    Hugh is the best

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    October 18th, 2010 @11:23 #



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