South Africa is a complicated, contradictory, and haunted place. Len Verwey captures the trajectory of life in such a place, dealing with childhood, war, marriage, divorce, and death. He explores the challenges posed by place and history, shared identities, deep embeddedness in the continent, and the legacies of violence and exclusion, as well as beauty.
Verwey offers poems that speak of uncertainty, ask questions, and challenge simplistic and scapegoating narratives that become so tempting when living in a society undergoing intense social and economic pressure. Dealing less with factual or political explanations of war and more with the compulsion of war, in particular, “maleness” and violence, Verwey pulls the reader into another world, opening eyes to the “crisis of men,” the violence against women, children, and the foreign in a country where conflicts are again escalating. In a Language That You Know strives to understand the complexity of one of the most unequal, violent, yet most vibrant societies in the world.
Len Verwey is a South African poet. He was born in Mozambique in 1973. His chapbook Otherwise Everything Goes On is included in the boxed set Seven New Generation African Poets, and his poems have been published in various journals including New Coin and New Contrast.
“Contemplative and lyrical. . . . ‘When I cannot find you / I give your name to everything.’ Such poems employ the periphery as an active, sometimes disquieting space from which to imagine. Such poems disarm me into sorrow, into hope.”—Aracelis Girmay, author of The Black Maria and Kingdom Animalia
“Poems in this book plunge you, without warning, from a mattress on the floor, a village bus stop, or a fishermen’s boat into the depth of human aloneness. . . . Len Verwey writes: ‘You need to breathe / in stone, breathe out a flower.’ He accomplishes this mission in his book: breathing in history and landscape, he breathes out powerful, fervent lyricism.”—Valzhyna Mort, author of Collected Body and Factory of Tears: A Lannan Literary Selection
Table of Contents
Coast My Mother Speaks Fishing Boy Fathers to Sons Bitter Boys El Bandito de los Nadas The Quarry Old Joke The Bills The Real Evidence Campaign Experts The Stowaway Our Leader Speaks Elsewhere Leaving Confession of the Stable Hand I Flew Secretly Maputo An Unchained Dog for Each of You See Them A Thing of Theirs Ecstasy Revolver Sunnyside Antarctica 1999 Mourning for Beginners Self-Portrait as a Father Stone With the Music Teacher Rehearsal Notes Jonah In a Language That You Know Doctor Simple Acknowledgments Notes