“Citizen of Elsewhere” C J Driver (HappenStance) – poetry review

Citizen of Elsewhere C J Driver book cover

 

 

 

 

 

A melancholy note resounds through these poems, even when they’re full of energy, such as in “Storms River: Chaos Theory”

.         Though gravity has not yet trapped
The further stars in order evidence
(For light allows I may not see them now
.          Where curves the fleeting universe)
This random music in my head includes
.          The rainbow cusp and spray,
.                     The light and stars,
The wave’s return, the certain night to come.”

C J Driver was born and grew up in South Africa but prohibited from returning for over twenty years so spent most of his working life in exile. Inevitably some of his work touches on this. In “Walking to the Paradise Gardens” he writes on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“What good does it do, telling the tale
Over and over again? Books get burned,
words unlearned, the beggars coming to town.
I will tell you the story again
Because that’s the way the world was made:
The lawyer come to such a lawless end –

But he fought back, using the knife he pulled
From his own chest, until someone slugged him
From behind. No passive victim this.
No acquiescence as the files trudged
Through the deep forests, with the guards
Only at distant ends. This one fought.”

It’s an important poem that avoids moralising. C J Driver allows the stories to speak for themselves and acknowledges the value of re-telling with the greater aim of understanding and possible forgiveness without condoning what happened.

C J Driver isn’t just defined by his exile. After discovering folk songs in Shaanxi, China are referred to as sad tunes, “Sad Tune”

“He’s broken my heart –
He’s done me much hurt…
Pirouettes gaily,
Though falling apart –

So shyly glances
(Bewilder, bewitch…)
She patterns the beach,
She sings, she dances.

He’s done me much wrong,
As wind scatters sand
A song to the wind,
The wind in her song.”

The simplicity of language and two stress pattern echoes that this was inspired by a folk song. These poems are written with sound and rhythm just as much in mind as language and meaning.

Published by HappenStance

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