Signs for an Exhibition
by Eliza Kentridge
Eliza Kentridge's poems are autobiographical. She was born in Johannesburg in 1962, the daughter of two lawyers who fought apartheid. In her twenties she left South Africa for England, where she became an artist. Against the dramatic background of her home country's history, her focus is quieted, small and interior. With her mother afflicted by a serious neurological illness, she writes about family, love and place, as a woman who vividly recalls her girlhood self, gently and almost incidentally approaching one of the biggest questions: how does one live a life?
Eliza Kentridge was born in Johannesburg in 1962. She studied English Literature at Wits University before moving to England in the late eighties. She has worked for three decades as an artist, exhibiting in South Africa, England and the USA. She uses paper, fabric and clay to make work that revolves around glimpsed narratives and words - a sort of poetry. Now she outs herself as a writer, reverting to her original childhood plan. She lives with her family in a small waterside town in Essex.
"Speaking as a psychoanalyst and neuroscientist: these poems reveal the nature and structure of the mind more beautifully than anything else I have read. They are completely true. Speaking as someone who grew up in the same South Africa as Eliza Kentridge: her poems remember how it really was for those of us who knew about the horrors but did not suffer them. They are personal and modest yet have far-reaching implications, profoundly ethical, an authentic gift to us all.
"Eliza Kentridge's luminous Signs for an Exhibition is not so much a collection of discrete poems as a single continuous work that acquires increasing rhythmic and semantic power with each passing page. The poet's agile movement from demotic utterance to perceptual fragment to tantalizing narrative moment do nothing less than create the startling illusion of having entered the fluctuations of another person's intimate memories. This is a remarkable first book.
"Kentridge's poems offer a direct line to her childhood and teenage years when she was stapling the pages of myself together'. They are studded by sparks of metaphors and by a lightness of tone, a lack of melodrama.
"These poems are beautiful -- like reading a piece of blue sky.
This voice originates on the ridge of white waters, and runs like a clear stream.
This book is a tribute to an extraordinary mother, and a daughter's words a tributary flowing from a wellspring of love and grace and tact.
Images 'flit softly' through the poems 'like swallows' and 'ripen like peaches in a blue bowl'.
Signs for an Exhibition is the joint winner of the UJ Debut Award for Creative Writing 2016.
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