Award-winning poet, Jacques Coetzee, will be reading in Gqeberha on 5th December when the Ecca Poets will launch their new collection, The Salt of Being.
Coetzee’s An Illuminated Darkness picked up both the Ingrid Jonker Award and the Olive Schreiner Prize in 2022. Coetzee matriculated at the Pioneer School for the Blind in Worcester, and holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town.
Published by uHlanga, An Illuminated Darkness proved popular with readers, and the first print run soon sold out. To make it more freely available for print disabled readers, it has been released as a free audiobook by the publishers, who also facilitated Braille copies to be made available at libraries for the print disabled.
Coetzee says that he is looking forward to his first visit to Gqeberha, “to feel the sense of another city, to feel the links to Athol Fugard, to Steve Biko – who was imprisoned there.”
On being with the Ecca group, Coetzee says he valued being “in a community of people who are learning alongside you. I value being in conversation with other poets, resonating off each other’s work. I look forward each year to the time when the poems for a new collection start arriving. There’s that sense of community, the space to grow, a reason to keep writing.”
The Ecca group of poets – an informal group of friends is the way they describe themselves – first got together in 1989 in the Eastern Cape, where founder members were teaching at the University of Fort Hare, and the remaining members have been continuing the tradition, aiming for a collection each year.
The group currently has three members from Gqeberha: the only remaining founder member, Brian Walter, is convener of the Helenvale and Salt Lake Poets, Olwethu Mxoli, a teacher at Riebeek College, and Alvené Appollis-du Plessis, a teacher at Sanctor High School. Other members are concert pianist Lara Kirsten, Silke Heiss and Capetonians Ed Burle and Coetzee.
The late Gqeberha poet, Mzi Mahola, once wrote with the group, and he is honoured in this text with a poem reprinted with his family’s permission.
The Salt of Being, the 26th collection released by the group, reflects the varied voices of the poets. With the group staying in different parts of the country, it is difficult to get them all together. This is an opportunity to hear and meet the poets – excepting Lara Kirsten, whose dramatic performances of her work will be missed.
The launch and reading will take place in the South End Museum, on the 5th December 2023, gathering at 5.30pm, starting at 6.00pm.