the author’s perspective of another poem as part of the guided tour through the collection Zero Gravity

Poem for Lucky Dube (page 83)

This poem was published in the letters/opinion section of the prestige weekly South African newspaper, The Mail and Guardian (October 26 to Nov 1 issue). For non-South African readers who are not fans of reggae, his name might be unfamiliar, but for practically all South Africans, especially the lovers of reggae music amongst them Lucky Dube was a huge musical star. The horror, sadness and anger that was felt in South Africa at his death – murdered by a car hijacker – cannot be overstated. Here was a terrible example of how deeply the country was (and still is, six and a half years after the incident) afflicted by crime. I did not try to capture or reflect this in the poem – I simply felt it myself. As irony would have it an important rugby match and a big victory drew the attention of some South Africans away from Dube’s tragic death. He was 43 when he died – and my overwhelming feeling was one of loss and of near despair at the terrible waste.

The sports connection was tailor made for the satirical irony that emerges in the poem – I used the idea of the loud crowd noise at a rugby or soccer game and connected it in the opening lies to the idea of noise being used to chase away demons (“ blast demons hence with vuvuzelas*”).The poem exploits discordance in sound from the very opening words “Clack dustbins.”) As an undercurrent, I used the situation for an attack on populist politics and spin doctoring – so prevalent in South African political life. The poem exaggerates our security (“ there/is no more fear//nothing left to fear) but moves into the folk radical prophet mode associated with the songs of early Bob Dylan, referencing his song “ A Hard Rain is Going to Fall” with “..a hard as hail poetry is/going to fall like rain.”

* South African plastic trumpet used at soccer matches.. I own one (orange in colour).

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