Read of the Week

Asof geen berge ooit hier gewoon het nie
Pieter Odendaal

NB Publishers

Review: Kenya Davids

If I had to describe this book, all it would take is one word: home. The poems featured in Asof geen berge ooit hier gewoon het nie are guaranteed to make you appreciate not only your heritage, but also your nation.

Pieter Odendaal is a 30-year-old author from Bloemfontein. When he isn’t co-directing his poetry club, InZync poetry, one can find him in Queensland, completing his PhD in Creative Industries.

In his debut, Odendaal’s use of metaphor is striking and bold: “Hugging you yesterday outside the arts building, our time together already a full black bag.”

He takes the reader with him on his storytelling journey, most of which are quite personal stories.

The arrangement of the poems and their themes throughout, are cleverly thought out. “Re mang?” is the first chapter, which directly translates to “who are we” in Sesotho.

“Re mang?” tackles identity and race, while the other chapters are divided into themes of the environment, his family and modern-day love.

His ability to take a real-life situation, such as the 2015 #FeesMustFall protests or a personal WhatsApp chat, and turn it into a poem is nothing short of magic.

My favourite piece is for mzansi. Is it a poem? That’s debatable. Is it art? A thousand times yes. Odendaal took 180 comments from under a News24 article and transformed them into a colourful canvas of words. From “did Van Riebeeck come to African carrying land in his ships” to “i remember when our family couldn’t enter shops and restaurants through the same door”.

Every sentence holds power and has been specifically chosen, which proves why it belongs in the stanza.

As an English speaker, some of the poems have altered my perspective of the Afrikaans language.

Not only does he bring life to his mother tongue, Odendaal adds a modern twist to it by blending Afrikaans with English slang.

This collection is honest, which is something you don’t find a lot of these days, specially in the poetry genre. Odendaal is not afraid to break the boundaries of sexuality, racial discrimination and mundane politics.

Despite being young in the world of poetry, he is truly and most certainly, killing the game.