NEW HOPE INTERNATIONAL REVIEW

An independent small press poetry review

NHI independent review
STANLEY TREVOR: WHAT ARE THOSE TALL WEEDS GROWING BEHIND THE SHED
New Fountainhead Press
10 Frenchlands Hatch
Ockham Road South
East Horsley
Surrey
KT24 6SJ
UK
ISBN 0 9536037 4 1
2.50

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STANLEY TREVOR: WHAT ARE THOSE TALL WEEDS GROWING BEHIND THE SHED

A continuous poem over 20 pages compressing within it the political, military and social history of South Africa. The oppression meted out by the colonial invaders is highlighted, the massacre of thousands that they gloried in:

	kill the magicians!

	the evil ones
	who slaughter wantonly,
	spitting death
	from their iron sticks
The economic exploitation of the land is condemned:
	      the mine dumps
	and the spoil heaps,
	brooding yellow mountains
	proclaiming the omnipresence,
	the omnipotence of gold
Consequent upon the development of the gold mines was the forced migration of Africans to the city of Johannesburg:
	     the cattle trucks
	shipping the luckless Africans,
	wide-eyed and staring at the amazing city,
	from their once green country
	to the labour camps
Social squalor arose from this violent subjugation and manipulation of a whole people:
	and the whip
	and the lash of the law,
	mailed and midnight fists
	on insubstantial doors,
	slum upon slum upon slum...
Other issues dealt with are mixed marriages, kaffir beer, the Boer War and concentration camps in an amazing array of voices, whether of Boers, a matriarchal white woman, police interrogators, wise old man, victims of police brutality, and so on, even the sounds the poet remembers:
	     the clatter of hailstones
	on the hot tin roof
	a drum-roll of thunder,
	immanent with menace
There are also a number of useful footnotes to help the less historically-proficient of us along South Africa's way. The poet manages to hold this vast theme together by using a straightforward, mainly narrative style, interspersed with vignettes highlighting a particular character or voice or incident to do with the social history and make-up of South Africa. There is no great intellectual pressure on the reader, as the verse is didactic and declamatory; we know who the bad guys are and the politics and moral standpoint are pretty obvious. There is just that slight yawn synonymous with poetry that is on-message, the monotonous purity of received truth. But then the core of this work, although revised later, was written before apartheid's downfall, so the plodding heaviness of its one-sided moral outlook is excusable. This is a tour-de-force in which in one whole poem (with its array of fonts, occasional bits of prose and divergent voices) are expressed one man's bulging mass of memories and images of a country, its people and history.

reviewer: Alan Hardy.