Poetry for the soul

The last time I was at Blah Blah Bar on Kloof, I was surrounded by people swaying wildly about, shoes clutched high above their heads, a drunk girl (there’s always at least one) bouncing off the people around her, stumbling as she tried to remove a knee high boot before the song ended. A boot she would no doubt lose before the night was through.


But not this time.

This time I am sitting sedately on a chair alarmingly similar to those at SARS (the first queue downstairs, before you even make it to the lift). I’m gazing intently at the stage, at the man caressing his guitar and singing softly of small town love. The line-up promises Hanru Niemand, followed by Gert Vlok Nel.

It’s the final night of the Interplanetary Folk Festival and the intimate venue is full of people who love music and poetry. The clumsy drunk girl has been replaced by the guy with the alarmingly small bladder who seems to need to nip out 15 times every six and a half minutes.

I ignore him as best I can and my gaze travels languidly to the elder couple in front of me, his protective arm around her sloped shoulders. I allow my attention to drift still further to the artworks around us. Ricardo Pinto Jorge’s exhibition Heands Up, tells as fascinating a story as the musician on stage.

It’s fitting that Hanru performs the song he wrote about Gert Vlok Nel near the end of his set. “They took you hostage in a thumping techno beat”, he sings, urging Gert to write just one more poem.

Gert himself is a lullaby. His voice, sometimes no louder than the softest whisper, soothes a restless soul.
I think it’s the poetry that I love, the storytelling. His words rock me gently, lull me into a mesmerized reverie.

Moments like this make me so grateful I was “subjected” to Afrikaans as a second language from age seven. But I also wonder how much richer my life would have been had they added a third.

Gert Vlok Nel tells captivating tales of extraordinary ordinary lives. Tales of you and me. His words are a comforting blanket and they stir within me the need to find the poetry in everyday life, to tame the words and coax them gently forth in song.


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