Ingrid de Kok: “Why still imagine whole words, whole worlds?”

Between Parts of Speech and Body Parts

This presentation will engage with a range of compositional and ethical issues which confronted me as a poet – consciously and unconsciously – in a sequence of poems dealing with South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. By looking at five poems in the sequence, I will reflect on how considerations related to my apparent positions as beneficiary, observer, white settler, ‘witness” are enacted in the poems, through the craft of poetry itself. Why did I choose to write this set of poems? On what authority? What are the relations between the language of record, of redress, of poetry? I shall concentrate in detail on poetic choices in the following poems from my collection Terrestrial Things : Parts of Speech ; The Archbishop Chairs the First Session; The Transcriber Speaks ; The Sound Engineer ; and Body Parts , and conclude with a reading and brief commentary on a recent poem, Today I do not love my country, ‘about’ belonging, and the distance between citizen and stranger.

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