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South African Woodcut


Sudeep Sen
South Africa
Date published
1 May 1995

Based on the experiences of a lecture and reading tour in South Africa, these poems deal with the state of a society just unfreezing from apartheid, but in indirect ways which illuminate by their obliqueness.

Mario Relich writes in Lines Review: 'The poems deal with that landscape, each one like a sharply etched woodcut, ranging from a fine tribute to a poet caught "under the strong shaft of the Johannesburg sun"" of this politically volcanic city, to a "frozen image" of sacred ibises in Durban’s Botanical Garden. None of his poems is tendentious, but each is tense with quiet intensity. The political is not overtly obvious, but emerges obliquely, as in the following couplet from "South African Daguerreotypes": "Afrikaans is as far apart from English. / as Xhosa is to Sotho, and that to Xulu." This poem ends philosophically with a startling image: "Can one arrest the ancient restlessness of the sea?"

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Sudeep Sen

SUDEEP SEN [www.sudeepsen.net] is internationally recognised as a major new voice in world literature and one of “the finest younger English-language poets in the international literary scene. A distinct voice: carefully modulated and skilled, well measured and crafted’’ (BBC Radio). He is “fascinated not just by language but by the possibilities of language” (Scotland on Sunday).

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