I’m writing this in the beautiful village of McGregor, deep in the winelands of the Western Cape. Fine though its wines and olives undoubtedly are, however, it is not they that have brought me here. Rather, it is poetry.
Six years ago, a group of far-sighted individuals, led by the remarkable Billy Kennedy, were inspired to begin an annual festival of poetry which would involve the whole community and contribute something special to the literary and creative life of South Africa. By dint of Billy’s energetic and charismatic passion and the liberal support of large numbers of people, in 2013 the first McGregor Poetry Festival was held.
Necessarily small scale to begin with, it was nevertheless an immediate success – so much so that this year, its fifth, the expanded and renamed Poetry in McGregor is already a nationally and internationally respected highlight of the poetry calendar.
From the start it was determined that the poetry and poets showcased here should have a life beyond the festival itself, so the equally exceptional Patricia Schonstein took it upon herself to produce a high-quality annual anthology.
Each one contains some superb poetry, the work of both established and lesser known poets, and is produced to the highest professional standards.
The 2016 anthology launch took place on Saturday and many of the poets represented read some of their work at a special event in The Book Tent in the centre of McGregor. It was a wonderful and uplifting occasion.
So many of the poems resonated with me, but I can, alas, select only one. It is by famed South African conservationist and trailblazer Galeo Saintz, who works for nature, peace and trails in remote places across the world.
This poem tells of a long quest in the far west of the USA following in the tracks of a lone old grey wolf as it travels south into California. The message is that, as ever, human beings have much to learn from this maligned yet magnificent animal.
To Walk in the Wake of a Wolf
To walk in the wake of a wolf is to walk into the silence of stealth and the feast of fearlessness, it is to fight for yourself and never forget the pack.
To walk in the wake of a wolf is to know the difference between greed and hunger, between the villain and the hunter, it is to taste unforgiving wildness and the loyalty of kin, to breathe the spirit of a howling chorus and to remember what it means to stand alone in the forest and cry out.
The tracks of a wolf are the tracks of a brother waiting for you to find the old bond of blood in a land where ground is the only common ground.
To walk in the wake of a wolf is to see yourself in the shadow of the moon as a rogue always on the run, it is to know where you belong, and to know before the wind speaks where opportunity lies, where the secrets of survival are hidden in the night ready to reveal themselves only in your dreams.
It is to listen to the fierce desire to be who you are in the world and to be it fiercely, loyal to your name and ready.
To walk in the wake of a wolf is to know the world is still wild and that you belong in it as much as the wolf.
Galeo Saintz (from McGregor Poetry Festival 2016 Anthology, African Sun Press, 2017)