The battered ground between a petrol station and the railway tracks seems an unlikely spot for creativity to flourish.
Factor in the fabulous coffee and the special brand of Steam Punk Magic that Michael Goddard has created in Lion’s River, and it starts to make sense. Michael has changed our perception of rural KZN midlands garages forever.
On the first Wednesday of every month as the sun dips behind the hills, mud splattered cars and dusty bakkies arrive – sometimes the evening is balmy, on others the mizzle rolls in. Poets, poetry lovers and friends gather to share their words – read from battered notebooks, mobile phones, laptops or crisp sheets of white paper. To Ayesha Thokan’s delicious veggie breyani, add a soupcon of classics, a dash of rap, a succulent storyteller, a fiery performance and you have all the ingredients for a creative evening – Midlands style.
“It was Duncan Alexander’s idea” Michael says, “from hesitant beginnings it has really become something fantastic.” Duncan is an enthusiastic poet and performer, inspired in turn by Lara Kirsten and other exceptional creatives in our midst. “When we started, we didn’t know what to expect. Now this evening feeds my soul. I go away with so much every time.”
Duncan pulls a name from his hat and declares the poetry must begin – “Come one, come all, for lights, for nights …”
Tina gets us going with her ‘Cosmic Wink’ followed by warrior poet Bruce and his ‘Freaky Phenomena’. Bracken has us laughing at his ‘Ballad of Beauty and the Boer’ and Pippa continues the mirth with her ‘Old Pies Never Retire.’ The pleasure is palpable when accomplished Lara K stands. We smile at the ‘Higgledy Piggledy Poem with a Posthumous Twinge’, we listen carefully as she recites in Afrikaans and feel the Midlands hills when she describes an encounter with a Reedbuck. Lara is a well- known South African poet with a vast body of work, but she also reads works by others she admires, like Pablo Neruda. Someone reads a Rumi piece, another from The Owl and The Pussycat, Duncan reads the entire Pied Piper of Hamlin, Nikki her favourite Chris Mann poem – Midlands Lexicon. Helen shares an old poem written in sadness when she thought she might need to leave her beloved midlands, Ben is scribbling as others perform and finally stands to read his freshly composed ‘The Village Idiot’.
Eclectic is the word! Michelle includes the Midlands things she loves in her poem – centre pivots, cattle and cars. Chris reads a Shakespeare sonnet, Ray a Walt Whitman classic. Bruce makes something up on the spur of the moment. “I am inspired by the others who have read poems to share some raw, unfinished poetry,” he tell us. Lara J says “I am not a poet or anything” and proceeds to share two beautiful works that helped her deal with difficult times. Clearly, we are all poets and, for many, poetry is therapy.
Kim delights us with his poem about Tomatoes with Italian accents – celebrating the glut in our gardens right now. Nick’s poem is about transformation, new glasses and the permission that this space gives one to change.
Lara K wishes we would meet every week rather than once a month “It is a beautiful, bewitching story every time,” she smiles, “and it is great to share this unpretentious platform with locals, some who are just starting to write.”
Regular participant Paul comments “I am drawn to the esoteric energy of this evening. It epitomises the true spirit of the midlands – generosity, sharing, inclusiveness. Everyone shares their gifts, celebrating the abundance around us.” Paul reads a poem titled ‘Arrival’ about the unwelcome heat of February and another about the quiet, dark hour before dawn.
Duncan concludes by encouraging us all to be more creative – “I love pulling stanzas from unpalatable places! The quirky juxtaposition of odd elements, the passion and generosity – things that make this a truly magical evening.” Everyone agrees.
Afterwards, as a train trundles by, Mandy muses “The best thing, for me, is the honestly with which people deliver their poems.”
Whether you are cleverly wrinkling words, doodling about life, working through challenges or simply celebrating the midlands – bring your work along to share. You will be very welcome on the first Wednesday of every month at 5pm. Don’t forget your own cup for delicious coffee, a plate and utensils for supper, and drinks.