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B Borain

on 22 May 2017

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When I walk into a room
where my father has just been
I fill the same spaces he did
from the elbows on the table
to the head thrown back
and when we laugh we aim the guffaw
at the same space in the air.
Before anybody has told me this I know
because I see myself through
my father's eyes.

When I was a pigeon-toed boy
my father used his voice
to send me to bed
to run and buy the newspaper
to scribble my way through matric.

He also used his voice for harsher things:
to bluster when we made a noise
when the kitchen wasn’t cleaned for supper
when I was out too late.

Late for work, on many mornings,
one sock in hand, its twin
an angry glint in his eye he flings
dirty clothes out of the washing box:
vests, jeans, pants and shirts shouting
anagrams of fee fi fo fum until he is up
to his knees in a stinking heap of laundry.

I have my father’s voice too
And his fuming temper
And I shout as he does.

But I spew the words out
in pairs of alliteration
and an air of assonance.
Everything a poet needs
my father has bequeathed me
except the words.
Chris van Wyk
List all the ways he is similar to his father in your books.
What does this suggest about his age?
How did he "use" his voice?
What two contrasting attitudes could this word suggest about his academic ability?
In your groups, discuss which traits you inherited from your father, both physical and personality traits.
where is the other sock, and why is he 'angry'?
does he literally mean 'anagram', or what could this sentence be an euphemism for?
Where his father 'blusters', how does the poet claim he expresses himself?
What flaw does he admit he had inherited?
The poet has everything he needs from his father’s legacy.

Irony: parents give you everything you need to make you successful yet the poet believes they did not give him the thing he needs most as a poet “the words”.

It is also ironic because he is saying his father never gave him the words however the whole poem is about his father giving him the words, so in the end he is the only one who can find the irony: his own words.

This poem is a philosophical one, introspective, questioning and challenging.
What is ironic about this poem? Discuss.
domestic scenes
intimacy created
underline assonance
Chris van Wyk was born in Soweto and lived in Riverlea where he went to school. He worked for a non-government organisation called the South African Committee for Higher Education as an educational writer. He was also the editor of Staffrider and started the short-lived Wietie magazine with fellow poet, Fhazel Johennesse. He once said, "I skinder more than most women," and this inspired many of his stories. He has written over 20 books, including poetry collections and children's stories. His first volume of poetry in 1979 - It is time to go home - won the prestigious Olive Schreiner Prize the following year.

Unlike many South African writers who wrote "as a weapon against apartheid", van Wyk preferred to use humour as his primary weapon. "We've got our own magic, lots of it," he says. He married his childhood sweetheart, Kathy, and has two children. He died in October 2014.
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