Saturday, March 5, 2011

South African Poet: Ingrid de Kok - Ground Wave

Ground waves refer to the propagation of radio waves close to the surface of the earth. In this poem by Ingrid de Kok the ground wave seems to be taking the psychic temperature of this one middle class geography, and perhaps by extension, South Africa. Lemon trees, oleander shrubs, and scorpions all contain their own sort of poison -- beautiful but deadly. 

I lived in South Africa for 18 months in the mid 1990's. I had been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to study South African poetry. Ingrid de Kok was one of the poets I studied and eventually came to know. Her fourth book, Seasonal Fires was published in the United States by Seven Stories Press. Part Elizabeth Bishop, part Adrienne Rich, part Wallace Stevens -- she's a poet you should know.

Ground wave

Just below the cottage door
our moraine stairway of lemon trees,
strelitzia quills and oleander shrub
steps to the sea and deeper terraces.
The warming wind, concertina on the slope,
coaxes open the bulbul’s throat,
the figtree’s testicular green globes
and camellia’s white evening flux.
Behind the house we feel
the mountain’s friction against our backs.
Deep fissures are predicted by the almanac,
earth and trees heaving to the shore.
Scorpions come in at night
for cool killings on the flagstone floor.

Ingrid de Kok, from Transfer

1 comment:

  1. Susan, thank you for introducing this marvelous poet.

    I visited South Africa in late '90s. My memories of that trip remain vivid. I'd like to go back some day.