Thursday, 7 November 2019

The roll-back

Four launch/ reading events -
1. Hogsback (The Edge Mountain Retreat), 12/10/19;
2. Grahamstown (Reddits, Cafe D'Vine), 25/10/19;
3. Cape Town: Tokai (The Book Shoppe), 4/11/19;
4. Cape Town: Claremont (Exclusive Books, Cavendish), 5/11/19

Now, at my laptop at my parents' dining room table, I sit opposite my mother, quietly reading in her wheelchair. Her entire left side is paralysed and her body has as good as no independence anymore. She holds her lapidary brochure in her right hand. Flash photos of cut and labelled gems, displayed on royal red backgrounds, gaze at me.

My parents' presence at the Cape launch of Greater Matter at Exclusive Books, Cavendish, Claremonton Tuesday was one of the most precious gifts to me personally.
"If I could, I would have got up and embraced you," my mother said.

Having had to have been so publicly present, both online and off, for the sake of marketing and selling my book, has felt unnatural, even stressful.

Don't get me wrong. I love reading aloud to people, I love intimate public events, which poetry readings mostly are. I love the microphone, which allows for whisper-soft words to slink into listener's hearts. And I love the fact that readers have bought Greater Matter and are being nourished by it.

But the tide is rolling back now.

I look forward to being in the arms of my beloved. I look forward to composing poems again, applauded by the stars and grasses. Perhaps more people will come towards me, who have felt themselves privately heard, or who are questing for more of the chime they sense hums in my book. 

There'll be further books, further readings, to build and nurture the "good/ By quiet natures understood" (W.B.Yeats, Prayer for my Daughter).

I thank Exclusive Books, Cavendish, and Eva van Belle for the photographs from Tuesday's launch.









Monday, 28 October 2019

"Without you, this book would not be"

The stretch between writing, publicly reading and launching a book is extensive. It mirrors the very differing states of being pregnant, talking about being pregnant, and actually giving birth.

And then.
Then there is the advertising, the marketing, the work of selling your book. This mirrors breastfeeding, burping, nappy-changing and generally doing all those things that your darling needs, in order to keep thriving.

If you had known exactly what was coming at you, you might not have chosen this route. Well, I should probably rather change that sentence into the first person. I might not have chosen this route.

But I had an ulterior motive: I badly wanted this baby. I wanted a beautiful, fat Heffalump. Did I know she would start walking the moment she was out? No.

Well - it has been a steep learning curve, giving birth to a herbivore: they really do stand on their own legs immediately. I have held for dear life onto her tail, as she has galumphed happily into the world, reminding me that I am merely human, while she ... is of another order altogether.

It's a beautiful thing. My wildest expectations have been exceeded. The Hogsback launch could not have gone better, my reading in Grahamstown was well-received, and next week there will be a launch at Exclusive Books in Cape Town.

However, the dramatic increase in social buzz, organising, online communications, meeting lovely people, autographing with special messages - all this boon has robbed me of sleep and of peace even during the daytime, as my mind sprints through the to-do list and my neglected creative soul sits and sulks.

Busyness has caused me to re-tick the boxes with my basic priorities: SOLITUDE, QUIET, DOMESTIC BLISS, LOVE/ INTIMACY, PERSONAL FREEDOM.

That is all very well. Yet I am responsible for my Heffalump, and I am responsible to the good people listening, reading, buying her.

So I have no choice but to balance the responsibilities, patiently and wisely.

As Walter Benjamin said, the work of art gives birth to the artist, who must reinvent herself.

And Norman? Where are you in all of this? You, whose face is represented now in the homes of all who've got the book, and whose spirit and quirks and moments with me are being perused and pondered?

Why do these questions bring a strange peace into me?

Something has been fulfilled that was waiting. It has all been worth it. Like Strandloop, which you inscribed for me as something that you could not have put together without me, Greater Matter could and would not be without you.

Norman's inscription in my copy of Strandloop











Sunday, 20 October 2019

Paradiso - a chosen boundary

In order to maintain perspective (stay grounded) during the build-up to my book launch, I decided to volunteer as a guide on the garden tours over the recent Spring Festival in Hogsback.

I received a morning's training from experienced guides, who included a retired professor of Botany. I was introduced to the lilt of new words - Lyriodendron (for the primitive Tulip tree); Karumi (the Japanese azalea); Tilopia (previously Warrister - for a remarkable Australian protea).

The unknown inevitably visits upon you foreign vocabulary, for you to get your tongue around, extending the horizons of your imagination, both inward and out. But known vocab, too, has hidden crannies.

Etymologically speaking, Paradiso is 'a royal, enclosed park'. A place of safety, a haven: boundaried, a space, which by definition defends your peace.

Biblically speaking, however, it is a place of temptation: a place that offers you the privilege of choice.

Paradiso is, in the Christian heritage, the earth - whose plants and creatures we can choose to care for, such that we may serve thereby the survival and health of our bodies and souls. Or not.

Many have chosen to leave the place of peace. Individuals such as I marked in my previous blog, who transgress against the principle of loving care, are a case in point.

Many, however, have chosen to say yes, to take responsibility. It has been my privilege to walk through the living stories of labouring love, which Hogsback's show gardens are witness to.








Thursday, 17 October 2019

What cure for malice?

I told a story to my beloved this morning. We were talking about dogs.
"I just kick them," he told me an employee had said.

When I was eight or nine, my sisters and I walked to school every morning. It took us a good half hour. A beautiful black bitch joined us at a certain point each day. My sisters spoke to her, and I replied for her, putting on a voice. She was a gentle, agile creature, who thrived under our attention and imaginative conversations joining all our hearts in a magic ritual as we walked together.

One morning - it was only another few hundred metres to the school - she stopped to sniff at a lamppost. Her hind quarters were in the road. We stood waiting for her to finish her 'reading'.

A car sped along. It swerved to the left, deliberately in order to hit her. Her body was flung high up, as high as the lamp upon the post. She landed on the other side of the road with a broken back.

Out of the back windscreen I saw the driver's children look out, laughing.

In his book, My Traitor's Heart, Rian Malan observes laughter in a photograph of people witnessing a necklacing.

What cure is there for malice? What for mayhem? What is the madness driving men - apparently ordinary men, who eat and sleep and breathe just like you and me - deliberately to harm?

They cannot help it. They have no inner life, so cannot die. They have no joy unless they destroy. Orcs. Beyond redemption and mortal comprehension.

Redeem yourself: stand by your life: a fulcrum in the storm. The wars reflect the tipping points of tides that run on more than this mere moment.


Sunday, 6 October 2019

Adventures on the countdown

The widow messaged me. Because my book is available on Amazon, she thought I was abroad and was delighted to learn that I was, in fact, physically within her reach. She drove from Ngcobo in the Transkei to Hogsback and we met at The Edge Restaurant over coffee on the deck in the morning sun.

She honoured and humbled me by what she shared. Her story reminded me to keep my focus sharply on what is perhaps the second-most important thread in my book ... namely, that what happens in our physical (visible, tangible) life is a reflection of invisible activity in the spiritual realm. And that the elemental realm is literally animated by our imagination and our traditions.
(The first-most important thread is of course that love simply flows through apparently impermeable boundaries.)

The woman's quest, properly to balance the questions that are natural to reason against trust in her own intuition, is a quest I value - it mirrors mine.

My book is taking me on beautiful adventures. The first box of them is going down at a lovely pace as I post or hand-deliver copies basically every day. I thank all my supporters from the heart and wish the poems take you on the adventures your souls need.

The picture shows you the launch venue - the path leads through the back courtyard of The Edge Restaurant, and the roofed, windowed place is the Tin Shack (that's where the pizza oven is). It's not yet set up for the weekend's events - you will certainly be provided with seats when you attend the launch! To the left of the picture you can see just a touch of the local craft shop.

The frogs sang their love songs again last night and this morning, so it looks as if the earth and our spirits will once more be refreshed.









Monday, 30 September 2019

Praise is not only sweet

Like honey, genuine praise is not only sweet, but also nourishing and even medicinal.

My mother over the phone yesterday told me she is really enjoying the poems in Greater Matter; indeed, the story they tell is keeping her in suspense.

For many people, it may go without saying that your mother praises you, but that is not an experience I share: my mother was always not only highly exacting, but brutally honest in her responses to the things we - and she herself, too - created. That is why her praise now is both nourishing and medicinal.

Added to this is that, since her stroke, she has a slight reading disability. The poems, since they do not run across the entire page, do not tax her eyes to move more than is comfortable. The daughter in me is eternally grateful, for completely extraneous reasons, now to be a poet!

Greater Matter also received unexpected praise from a recent Air b&b host, who ended up buying the kindle version. Amazon won't allow him to post his review, because his purchases are less than a minimum amount stipulated by them. He has kindly given me permission to post it on the social media:

"Hi Silke. We got the book on kindle. Honest, sweet and raw. Reading a bit every night. A rare find these days. Thanks very much for putting pen to paper and actually publishing these intimate thoughts and experiences. If you never did that, something would have been lacking in my life." - Paul van Jaarsveld, Jeffrey's Bay

If you would like to buy the book, you may email me directly for a mail order, at silkeheiss@gmail.com
Alternately, you can find it on  https://www.amazon.com/Greater-Matter-Journey-Poems-Beyond/dp/0994695071

I put out the third Give Your Writing The Edge Nugget yesterday, containing a beautiful, hitherto unpublished poem by Norman Morrissey, expressing the idea that the things we make are incarnations of our spirit. This thought is truly wind in the sails of my book - a thing, which is from start to finish a gift dedicated to his immortal soul.



Thursday, 26 September 2019

Learning how to partake

Partaking is an art.
Partaking balances the gestures of giving and receiving.

It is far more difficult than I thought.
Giving is a habit. The habit of a lifetime. For most of us, this is true. Most of us ... at least I think it's most of us ... give more than we receive.
Perhaps that is partly why there is such an uneven distribution of wealth across the globe?
Many habitual givers consistently clamour their outrage at the greed of a few takers, a few people who (apparently) take more than they give.
But perhaps habitual givers should change their habits, if for no other reason than to balance things out a bit?
If our giving is out of balance with our receiving, aren't we tempting others to be unpleasantly greedy?
I think so.

My to-do lists consist of mouse-feet-sized steps, each one leading me a little further towards the imminent launch of Greater Matter, and towards enabling those who wish to own a copy actually to purchase one.

Being a poet has been, in my case, a revelatory disability in many respects. I can, maybe, brag about walking the ether and inhabiting heart-space with birds and serpents, duikers and hares; but the big question now is: can I walk on ground my consciousness has not actually touched?

The advantage is that it is not too late to learn. And it is not unacceptable to say, Wait for me, I need to catch up with the rest of you guys. I still need to learn the ropes of this vast ship called business.

As for 'you guys' - have you touched MY ground with YOUR consciousness? Have you dared blink into the dew-glinting threads I spin? Because they'll bowl you over, they'll make you drunk on the very water of life, man!

I feel immense gratitude towards those who have already bought their copy of Greater Matter: we have already embraced in the dance of the partaking.

The more you take what I have to give, the more with you I shall know myself to be: partaking simply and gently and ecstatically in the flow of things. Yay.


Tuesday, 17 September 2019

On the road we picked up the books

We left our homes and drove the road to where the land and sea are joined.
There, we picked up the books, in two heavy boxes.
They didn't have to deliver them, because we came ourselves to load them.

You carried the boxes, up the steep stairs. Up the steep stairs your carried each box, and after the second you caught your breath.

Today we will offer the books to people.
I will keep quiet. I'll watch you, taking and offering, and I'll see the faces change, and the hands open and close.

We will carry the books, with their stories, and drive the road that follows us.

- Silke Heiss, 17th September 2019



Friday, 6 September 2019

The business of a book

What with a chest of drawers stuffed with decades' worth of manuscript material, you decide finally to produce a book. A real book. With a publisher and an ISBN number and proper binding and marketing strategies for a wider readership. Because that's what you know in your heart must happen with this mere tip of an iceberg of words you've built up over a lifetime: the tip, at least, must be shared, somehow made accessible, somehow find the eyes, the heart or hearts that need them.

But you did not think, did you? You did not think that writing over a lifetime in no way qualifies you to enter the business world. You are not a businesswoman. You fear business. You fear technology. You have no experience.

But you've come this far. The book exists. You hold it. You love it.

To turn back now would be more difficult than to keep going. You can't see where you're going. Kind people, good people help you. The steps are infinitely slow. You tell yourself that this is not who you are, you are an ageing woman wanting grandchildren, wanting to sing them songs, you want quiet and to do the dishes and re-fill the bird-bath.

The people you love, who are close around you, are - many of them - stressed. Some are ill. Some are disabled or crippled, whether temporarily or permanently. All are in pain of one kind or another. All are making huge, constant efforts to do their best, to keep smiling.

There are other people around you, whom you are not close to, who are killing each other, hurting one another, speaking in ugly ways.

Some of the braver people you know post calls to, write open letters to the president, crying out their anguish about the painfully ugly words and deeds of the others.

While so many are hurting and distressed, you take down and fold washing, you make salad and ask your nephew, "Can you show me how to take a screen shot?"

Because you know you must stay calm. The way the crew on a ship like the Canada Maru must stay calm in the midst of a violent storm; the way it must sail on - whether or not there is a boy with white legs, falling out of the sky.

And you walk blindly - so you feel - through the darkness with your book, letting it be your lantern.



Monday, 2 September 2019

Roots and risks - Reflections on my book

It exists and feels beautiful. Soft and lovable, perfect to take to bed, to the beach, to curl up or stretch out with. A sensual, sensitive body, just longing for touch.

A book is a happy thing when it has such a body.

But a body is a costly thing, and a book's body no less so. I have risked much in order to give birth to this body, this heffalump, this, in all, 319-page story consisting in a total of 236 poems.

All my hard calculations show clearly that I am losing - materially speaking, that is. How much I am prepared, indeed, able to lose in this gamble? What am I gambling, actually?

Am I enjoying the process?
Yes. I am enjoying the process of taking the risks I am taking. I no longer fear or hope. I am simply, fully inside the process, this path I have chosen.

The path is more uphill than I expected, but that is the nature of paths. When I get to the 'top', what will I see or discover? I do not know. And that is why I am doing it. It's my duty to life, to God, to myself, to the time I have in this body I have borrowed from the elements.

What am I risking?
I am risking losing my fear of being read and judged: this has already happened and is deeply rewarding, and also interesting.
I am risking fulfilling a longing: this, too, has already happened and is lovely, liberating.
Yes, there is the risk of material loss, but such loss will not ruin me any more than I have been ruined in the past.

The advantage of a past like mine is that it has reduced me to a hard pip filled with arsenic: like an almond or an apple seed.

Am I fooling myself? What is the worst that could happen?

The worst would be if I lost touch with the divine spark, with God, with the simple things, with my beloved, with my love. And I daily take huge care that this does not happen, because those things are the foundation of my life. It is in those things that my book is rooted. Including its body.