Breyten Breytenbach
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Buy *Windcatcher: New & Selected Poems 1964-2006* by Breyten Breytenbach online

Windcatcher: New & Selected Poems 1964-2006
Breyten Breytenbach
192 pages
November 2007
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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A harbinger of the winds of change, the poet speaks to universal conscience, a very personal journey through a troubled world as expressed in his work. Born in South Africa in 1939, Breytenbach left his country of origin only to be imprisoned when he returned.

Indeed, exile breeds waves of memory and thoughts of a larger world, sorting through places, people, governments, soldiers with drawn bayonets who turn blind eyes on those they face:

“in a crowd you’re always a fugitive,
don’t smoke, don’t drink:
is your life not a weapon?
you go down poisoned with despair
shot like a dog in a dead-end street”
(“exile, representative, for FM and MK”- Iron Cow Blues, Poems in Exile, 1964-1975)
Finally embracing freedom, or at least no longer confined, the poet’s words flow from the deepest chambers of his heart, a life survived by yielding, schooled by terrible, valuable lessons, a scorched landscape of human endeavors, flaws and soul-searing insights:
“At night dreams enter the houses where I sleep.
Sometimes I converse with flies about suns
and the sins of being human, for I engrave
self-portrait journeys in scattered verses
and align my life to the lines of landscapes.”
(“self-portrait”- The Lines Have Fallen unto Me in Beautiful Places, Poems from Outside, 1983-2006)
In sections, from Iron Cow Blues, Poems in Exile (1964-1975), The Undanced Dance, Poems from Prison (1975-1982) and The Lines Have Fallen unto Me in Beautiful Places, Poems from Outside (1983-2006), the creative mind emerges from a long journey, a poet sorting images through time and place, sprinkling the world he passes through with images from the past:
“give me a heart
small fountain of blood
to spout blossoms of bliss
for blood is never for naught”
and more…
“I need to die before I’m dead
>when my heart is still fertile and red
before I eat the darkened soil of doubt”
(“rebel song”- Iron Cow Blues, Poems in Exile, 1964-1975)
With an awareness of the harsh excesses of captivity, the cycle of life and death persists, a soul trapped inside walls while the world continues, oblivious:
“we all walk that road
of life on its way to death-
murderers, burglars, drug addicts and firebugs
thugs, embezzlers, rapists
and fellow terrorists
you like me tattooed in lineament and skin
single in our destiny”
(“for Francois Villon”- The Undanced Dance, Poems from Prison, 1975-1982)
A collection of Breytenbach’s poetry from 1964 through 2006, this volume features a number of unfinished poems, from a South African prison, from 1960’s Paris and New York exile in the ‘90s, spanning the geography of Africa (Dar es Salaam), Amsterdam and Vancouver. A thrilling collection that spans years and alternative landscapes, the poet’s voice is clear, profoundly provocative.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2007

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