Archives for posts with tag: Rhino anthology; poetry;

 

Every two weeks the respected South African weekly newspaper Grocott’s Mail publishes a poetry column that I write. It is called Poetic Licence. Here is the latest:

Last weekend I listened to some truly outstanding people who are making a real difference. For this they rightly received Honorary Doctorates from Rhodes University.

It’s easy to forget, when the news is filled with stories of corruption, scandal, greed and crime that the world also contains individuals of exceptional talent and integrity.

Part of this week’s ghastly news was of renewed attacks upon local rhino. Two white rhinos were found dead and mutilated for their horns at Sibuya Game Reserve and another, which had been viciously disfigured and blinded, died shortly afterwards.

Then, near the Great Fish River, two black rhinos (only 5000 of which still exist) were found slaughtered – a mother and her calf. A third was gravely injured.

This is serious. Such gratuitous horror shames us all. We are overseeing the literal destruction of our world. And too many otherwise good people shrug, utter a platitude or two and assume there’s nothing to be done.

But the lesson of those receiving awards last week is that we can do something – indeed, that we must. Whether in promoting human rights or education, advancing social justice, aiding places devastated by war and natural disasters, or helping to preserve the natural world, if we do nothing we are complicit in our own ultimate ruin.

Three years ago, following the repulsive slaughter of rhinos at Kariega Game Reserve, the anthology For Rhino in a Shrinking World was published. Little enough, perhaps, but something to raise awareness and to support the heroic efforts of those on the front line of the fight to save these iconic creatures.

This poem – actually a song by American singer-songwriter David Mallett – was included. It’s about the importance of wild things everywhere and our relationship with them.

You Say That the Battle Is Over

You say that the battle is over
You say that the war is all done
Well go tell it to those with the wind in their nose
Who run from the sound of a gun.
And write it on the sides of the great whaling ships
Or on the ice flows where conscience is tossed
With the wild in their eyes
It is they who must die
And it’s we who must measure the loss.

You say that the battle is over
And finally the world is at peace
You mean no one is dying and mothers don’t weep
Or it’s not in the papers at least.
There are those who would deal in the dark side of life
There are those who would tear down the sun
And most men are ruthless but some men will weep
When the gifts we are given are gone.

Now the blame cannot fall on the heads of a few
It’s become such a part of the race
It’s eternally tragic that that which is magic
Be killed at the end of the glorious chase.
From young seals to great whales,
From waters to wood,
They will fall just like leaves in the wind.
But we’ve fur coats and perfumes and trophies on walls
What a hell of race to call men.

You say that the battle is over
You say that the war is all done
Well go tell it to those with the wind in their nose
Who run from the sound of a gun.
And write it on the sides of the great whaling ships
Or on the ice flows where conscience is tossed
With the wild in their eyes
It is they who must die
And it’s we who must measure the loss.
With the wild in their eyes
It is they who must die
And it’s we who must measure the loss.

(Music and words by David Mallet: Cherry Lane Music Pub. Co. Inc)

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Thandi2

This is Thandi, the heroic rhino to whom For Rhino in a Shrinking World is dedicated. Her horn was, of course, hacked from her face by poachers.

Since then, I have had both the honour and the despair of watching a rhino darted and de-horned in order to make it less attractive to poachers. Here is my response to that experience.

I wish all rhinos long life, safety and the dignity of living as they are meant to: in the wild and free of human interference.

Chainsaw

I have always hated that sound: it means
death for something, it means devastation,
the hollow shriek of human intrusion.

Now here he is, crumpled on his haunches,
a white rhino bull, too strong, too proud, too
much himself, despite the darts, to go down.

But he’s drugged, masked, pinned: this to save his world.

And clearly he has been through the nightmare
before, though his stunted horn has re-grown.
Now the indignity repeats itself.

Our work’s against the clock, the sedative,
the history; his life depends on us.
So, plenty of cool water – and a chainsaw.

The helicopter’s pilot lounges, smoking,
in his cab as blizzards of horn shavings
surge from the blade like flakes of pale soap,

like the weeping wings of termites or ants,
like butterflies consecrating the grass
beneath the sun’s fire and the chainsaw’s hell.

This is what we’re reduced to: presiding
over the face of our world, cosmetic
surgery or death, improving nothing.

Harry Owen

You might imagine that a limerick, with all its implications of light-hearted jokiness, would be the last kind of poem to find a place in a serious anthology such as this.  But here Madeleine Begun Kane, whilst maintaining her limerick’s essential levity, cleverly manages to make an important ecological point at the same time.  And that takes talent.

Limerick Ode to the Rhinoceros

The rhino appears prehistoric,

With a diet that’s vega-caloric.

It’s endangered, alas,

Laws to save it must pass.

This would make all its lovers euphoric.

Madeleine Begun Kane


(American humorist, political satirist and poet Madeleine Begun Kane – “Mad Kane” – won the 2008 Robert Benchley Society Humor Award and is a National Society of Newspaper Columnists award winner.  She publishes the humor site MadKane.com – http://www.madkane.com – and her humor, essays, limericks and light verse have been published in numerous newspapers, print magazines, web sites, anthologies and college textbooks.)

It is now almost a year since I listened and watched as Dr William Fowlds gave his harrowing presentation at Rhodes University about the horrors of rhino poaching. I felt utterly helpless then to contribute anything. But it is also nearly a year since I had the idea of asking poets around the world if they would be prepared to contribute to an anthology in support of the rhino and the natural world of which it is such an iconic  part.

It’s been a long haul but an inspiring one for me: the response has been absolutely stupendous, and now we are within touching distance of publication. The book should, according to the publisher, be ready this month – February.

I know that you are all, like me, waiting to see it, and I thank you for your patience (although, in the great scheme of things, publishing such a wonderful book from scratch in twelve months is no mean achievement).

I hope that the next post here will be to announce that our anthology has been published, so please keep looking!

And thank you again.

 

This coming weekend I plan to meet with the anthology’s publisher, Dr Amitabh Mitra, to hand over the complete manuscript and images; biographical notes of all contributors; a Foreword by Dr Will Fowlds; my Introduction; the Contents list and Index, publication credits and acknowledgements.

We’re getting there!

Snoozing white rhino

Eyona indala *

We intrude, of course, as we always do.
But we’re accepted here, invisible,
sitting downwind in the Land Rover
and sharing the sun’s drumcrush with five great
grey boulders whose heads are sculpted in rock
like presidents. It is hot, growing hotter,
this time-slip into African prehistory,
a long migration from the angry snarl of freeways.

When at last they turn to the shade of thicket,
through knives of acacia thorn, they make no sound,
none at all, these giants of the moon.
Their silence is the phantom of a used-to-be
ancient presence, their honouring of soul.

Harry Owen

* Eyona indala: isiXhosa – ancestor, oldest of the old