Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Inside and Out

Posted by Simon Halliday | Thursday, August 10, 2006 | Category: |

Reading Jeremy Cronin's Poetry is a perilous affair for me. Of the three times that I have tried to get into the collection Inside and Out I have ended up crying all three times. I'm am not at all far into the collection, which makes it even more frustrating I suppose. Frustrating in a good way though – such that it reminds me why I read and write poetry (rather than, of necessity, fiction). I can also link my weeping to certain poems - “overhead is mesh”, 'Walking on Air', 'Motho ke Motho ka batho babang (A Person is a Person because of other People)', and 'Death Row'. I also have a habit of trying to read poetry out loud these days, even when I am just reading to myself. Sometimes, if amongst others, this elicits some strange reactions from people, but it elicits even more of a response from me often.

Poetry is so intrinsically about the words, about the way we express ourselves in language. The poetry listed above is all from Cronin's collection Inside (a note: Inside and Out collects some poetry from that portfolio as well as others). The poems were written during his imprisonment, consequent to his arrest in 1976 under the Terrorism Act.

I recently had the privilege to hear him read some of his more contemporary work. He read along with Ingrid de Kok and Antjie Krog. He read one poem, a fairly lengthy affair all about Cape Town, the creole and hybrid nature of it, a saxophonist's left shoulder and various other things. His reading was energetic and infused with a wish to communicate everything that this poem meant to him, to convey some idea of the significance of this guy's left shoulder and everything that surrounded it (emotion, context, area, politics). Reading his other work, the watching of that performance (because he really did perform rather than read) has gained more significance. I waited a long time afterwards to shake his hand and thank him. I did not think he would want to converse (there were several other people there who were more significant to him than I who were present). His face was genuine and his smile was encapsulating and just so physically expressive. Anyway, I wrote the poem below the other day after reading “overhead is mesh” (it is in quotation marks rather than inverted commas because of the poem being genuinely untitled) and 'Walking on Air'.

Reading J.C. 04.08.06

I cried today


Jeremy Cronin


though I'd

like to read 'the man'

(physical smiling man)

I read 'the poetry'

(physical smiling

maybe sometimes)

I wondered what

I'd have thought of


(my hands look


could I have stood

on two bricks only

for three day-nights?

(i have terrible knees,

could I knuip?)

I know I worry:

the concepts

(un)productive labour

regardless, while reading

I cried and it made me

both jealous and inspired.

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