Renowned South African poet Antjie Krog is set to launch one of her most famous works, Lady Anne: A Chronicle in Verse, in English this month.
The idea, says Ms Krog, came about when she was visited by Professor Greg Clingham, director of the University Press and Professor of English at Bucknell University, at UWC, where she teaches, two years ago.
“He was interested in publishing the poetry volume, a kind of epic poem on Lady Anne Barnard’s life in South Africa in English.
“He himself was working on her, knew about a coming new book about her life and thought the volume would fit in somewhere.
“So over the year I had translated it, poet Karen Press saved it with her editing and it is now being published in the US with a South African co-publication by Human & Rousseau.”
The Oranjezicht resident is a prolific writer, having published works of poetry, novels and academic work. She is perhaps most well-known for her novel Country of My Skull.
Lady Anne (1989) was one of Ms Krog’s last volumes of work to be translated into English. In an attempt to make sense of her own existence, Ms Krog compares her own life in the midst of a world of racial injustice to that of the life and times of Lady Anne Barnard, of Scottish descent, during her stay in the Cape Colony in the late eighteenth century.
The poetry volume, she says, follows the style of an epic poem but in a post-modern way. “There is a hero, in this case she is female and an historical figure of whom we learnt at school nothing more than that she gave wonderful parties at the castle. Like in classical epic poems, there is also a ‘bard’ – which is me – a poet living in a small rural town during the height of apartheid.
“So the volume tells the story of Lady Anne in the Cape from March 1797 until January 1802, but it is interspersed with the pressure on the bard to do justice to the harsh political climate of the 1980’s.”
She said she thought it was important to tell the story from a woman’s perspective.
“I thought it an interesting juxtaposition of two white women living in their own times of constraints and demands. What do we do with our lives and our whiteness?”
She added that young poets were taking the field into a new direction.
“The field of poetry within the context of social media and writing schools has become so foreign to me, that the once crucial advice of reading, reading, reading seems completely old fashioned. The young poets do things differently and good for them.”
* The book will be launched at the Book Lounge in Roeland Street on Wednesday March 22. To RSVP for the event email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 021 462 2425.