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Rustum Kozain

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This Carting Life

“He has a distinct and distinctive voice that I would characterise as elegiac and world-weary, injured but wanting to bless. It is the voice of someone who finds that in poetry he has half a chance of recovering what is loved and lost, and of recovering what it feels like to love, when that, itself, seems what is lost.” – P.R. Anderson on LitNet (14 February 2006)

“Hier is roerende gedigte in ’n vol bundel” [These are moving poems in a full volume] – Ampie Coetzee in Die Burger (20 March 2006)

“There are other poetic strategies of searching for a high note pitched above disappointment. There is androgyny, building on Roland Barthes’s observation: ‘In any man who utters the other’s absence something feminine is declared’.

In the poem ‘The woman I am’, the syntax becomes self-entangled, solitude is overcome in the celebration of a feminine masculinity. Or is it the other way around? Or does it matter?

There are several other poetic strategies for surpassing loss. They all have a stoicism about them, a circling around ‘the diminished power of the lost thing found’….

Loneliness is better than loss, the collection is saying. Loneliness might even become jazz, or nomadism, or androgyny, or memory or a hybrid of the above talking into our South African present as poetry.” – Jeremy Cronin in The Sunday Independent (9 October 2005)

“[S]y politieke kommentaar word subtiel aangewend en die sterk metaforiese inslag van sy verse open nuwe moontlikhede; selfs al sluk ek nog swaar aan ‘broken swastikas’ om die werker se arms te beskryf.” [His political commentary is subtle and the strongly metaphorical weft of his poetry opens up new possibilities; even though I still swallow with some difficulty 'broken swastikas' to describe workers' arms.'] – Marius Crous in Beeld (16 January 2006)

“The collection, This Carting Life, like the poem it is named for, explores the textures and ruptures of connections: forced, chosen, and sometimes elusive. It delves into the haunting movements of exile, slavery, wine-streams, language and beauty – all the time the difficult business of beauty. These concerns reverberate across the sections, times and geographies of Kozain’s poetry. Here, Rustum Kozain is able to turn his eye and voice to entire lifetimes in textured precision that never veers towards the glibly palatable sound byte. This Carting Life is the kind of profoundly political and exquisite poetry you want to read again and again. – Pumla Dineo Gqola in Chimurenga (200?)

“Die digter skryf sober, beheersd en juis hierom het sy gedigte so ‘n geweldige impak op die leser. Die aanslag is nie raserig nie. Die aanklag of verwyt word deur poëtiese tegnieke in beheer gehou. Miskien is die ander belangrike aspek dat die verse nie bloedloos is nie,…. Dit is ‘n bundel wat ek met oneindige plesier gelees het — my eksemplaar is vol donkie-ore. Buiten die praat met ander digters is daar ‘n sterk bewustheid van die self binne ‘n postkoloniale wêreld waar waarhede nie meer bestaan nie. Die digter verset hom teen ander se oorheersing. Deurgaans bly ‘n mens bewus van ‘n weerlose én weerbare “ek” wat die politiek, die liefde, eensaamheid én familie beskou.”

[The poet writes soberly, in control, and it is exactly because of this that the poetry has such an enormous impact on the reader. The approach is not noisy. The complaint or resentment is controlled by poetic technique. Perhaps the other important aspect is that the poetry is not bloodless,.... This is a volume which I have read with unending pleasure - my copy is all dog-eared. Beyond the conversation with other poets, there is a strong consciousness of the self within a postcolonial world where truths no longer exist. The poet resists others' dominance. Throughout, one remains aware of a defenceless and vulnerable 'I' contemplating politics, love, loneliness and family.]– Joan Hambidge in Rapport (29 January 2006)

“Kozain really comes into his own at home – and, ironically, it is at home that the theme of exile emerges most sharply. The poems written on returning to Cape Town evince a despair and an alienation from contemporary South African politics since by far the greater part of the population of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ still live in the shadow of the iniquities of the past. Returning home to the hauntingly beautiful landscapes of his childhood, the poet finds himself estranged also from his community. The most powerful poems… are those which tease out the intense relationship of love and rejection between a father and son whose faiths seem mutually excluding.” – Fiona Moolla in Cape Times (20 January 2006)


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