Surviving That Place: Language and Violence in the Poetry of Ingrid Jonker, Ingrid de Kok, Gabeda Baderoon and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

Marian De Saxe


This paper examines four South African poets, Ingrid Jonker, Ingrid de Kok, Gabeda Baderoon and Philippa Yaa de Villiers in order to explore their poetic responses to memory and the witnessing of violence in South Africa. The paper deliberates a broad paradox of boundaries to place and in poetry by analysing the ways in which poetic form or formlessness gives or withholds freedom to write about violence and death in and beyond South Africa’s boundaries. Ingrid Jonker’s struggle with subjectivity and observation prepared a path for de Kok, Baderoon and de Villiers to successfully elude South African reconciliation discourse within relatively conservative poetic and rhythmic structures. Ways of writing violence move these poets beyond the boundaries of place, if not violence in all its enormity, to explorations of freedom in everyday life and in memories of childhood, notwithstanding writing as witness to state-sanctioned violence and personal loss.

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