Poems from Breyten Breytenbach by Breyten Breytenbach


Reading of poems I 3th september I 15h-17h I Sala 5.2 Centro de Estudos Comparatistas, Faculdade de Letras - Universidade de Lisboa



Today I Went Down


today I went down on your body 
while windows were thick white eyes 
and hearkened the clogged cavities
in the small darkroom of your chest, 
hedging an eternity over the aching voice 
from your gorgeous throat, 
agony and exaltation flow in one divide 
if I may make so bold, 
your thighs are a loveword your hair 
night’s glittering lining of secret disport:
I aimed for the innermost moon 
and rent, moved by the syntax and the slow 
of sadness and of joy, so
I love you, love you so

when the blinding comes, 
the discomposure of silence, 
it must be high up the hills 
where hundreds of poor 
stamp their feet in the dust, and drums
and woman voices like this ululating skyline 
gag the final ecstasy 


Breyten Breytenbach is a distinguished poet, painter, novelist, playwright, essayist and human rights activist. He is considered one of the greatest living poets in Afrikaans.  His literary work has been translated into many languages and he has been honoured with numerous literary and art awards.  Having exhibited worldwide he is also a recognized painter, portraying surreal imagery.  He was born on 16 September 1939 in Bonnievale and studied art at the Michaelis Art School in Cape Town.  In 1960 he left South Africa and went to Paris where he married Yolande Ngo Thi Hoang Lien (Yellow Lotus), a French woman of Vietnamese origin.  But he could not return to South Africa because of the Mixed Marriages Act, which classified Yolande as Coloured.  A committed opponent to apartheid in South Africa, Breytenbach established the resistance group Okhela, and from 1975-1982 he was a political prisoner in South African prisons serving two terms of solitary confinement. In 1987 he helped organize the first breakthrough public meeting between the then forbidden Liberation Movement of South Africa and significant representatives of various sectors of South African society, in West Africa. He was a founder of the Gorée Institute, a Pan-African civil society organization working to promote democracy, development and culture in Africa, 1992 and based in Senegal, and served as its executiive director for ten years until 2012. He also animates the Pirogue Collective, which embodies and puts into practice the cultural initiatives of Gorée Institute, through the facilitation of festivals, workshops and publications. He was the curator of Dancing In Other Words, an international meeting of poets in the Western Cape, 2013 and 2014, and founding editor of Imagine Africa, an international magazine of creative and critical writing.
Both his paintings and his literary work include the notions of nomadism, exile, values of the outsider, incarceration, death and decay, pain, movement, social criticism, memory, identity and consciousness.  Breytenbach made his debut with a collection of innovative poems in 1964 with the publication of Die ysterkoei moet sweet.  In his latest collection of poetry available in the original Afrikaans, English and French, he engaged in a nomadic conversation with his friend, the late Palestine poet, Mahmoud Darwish.  He received the Protea Prize, Mahmoud Darwish Prize and for the French translation of Oorblyfsels/ Voice over, the Max Jacob Prize. His most recent volumes of poetry are, Die beginsel van stof (2011), Katalekte (2012), and Vyf-en-veertig Skemeraandsange (2014), all published by Human & Rousseau, Cape Town. 
His prison memoir exists in Portuguese as As Confissões verdadeiras de um terrorista albino (Editorial Presença, Lisbon 1987) and Confissões veridicas de um Terrorista Albino (Rocco, Rio de Janeiro 1985). A Selection of early poetry was translated in Portuguese as Enquanto Houver Agua na Agua e outros poemas, by Mario Cesariny and published, 1979, by Publicações Dom Quixote, Lisbon.

by Breyten Breytenbach
A ler | 27 August 2014 | Breyten Breytenbach