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Welcome to the personal page of Colin Soskolne's website. This section reveals my non-science side, evidence of right-brain activity! It is devoted at this time to materials that might be of particular interest to South African expats, friends, family and, indeed, to anyone with some curiosity about what it must have been like to be raised under the South African policy of Apartheid (racial segregation). I have grouped together here some of my poetry going back to my mid-20s.

The Poetry of Colin Soskolne

In 1973, I was 26 years old. Prior to this, I had never composed any poetry worth sharing. Among my most meaningful contributions was being invited to read, on the lawns of the University of the Witwatersrand campus at the AQUARIUS National Arts Festival, July 1973, my very first poem Au Revoir, South Africa: My Dilemma Is Resolved. Next most significant moment, was the publication of my third poem called Right of Admission Reserved.

What motivated me to start writing poetry? It was in the Great Hall of the University of the Witwatersrand that I attended, on March 15, 1973, a political debate at which the existing political parties in Apartheid South Africa presented their platforms. I was so enraged by the fallacious position taken by the then "United Party" that I, a steadfast pacifist, contemplated violence for the first time in my life. Directly after the debate, I sat outdoors and channelled my anger from violence to poetry; 95% of what appears in my first poem flowed in less than an hour. This was for me a politicizing moment.

Many expat South Africans will recall their own angst over the options before them to either remain in the country dominated by social injustice or to emigrate. It took me almost five more years based in Johannesburg before I took advantage of the opportunity to continue my studies in the USA. Interestingly, had this opportunity not presented itself, I likely would not have emigrated being motivated to pursue political change from within.

Au Revoir, South Africa: My Dilemma is Resolved!

Here,
fair land,
betwixt hell
and white sand,
my life I've lived -
NAIVELY !

For "try"
some preach:
"within the system
here, reach
for change to achieve";
disillusionment! Alas -
RESENTMENT !

Yet time goes bye,
and fascistically:
when now to try
within
the status quo,
serves
two ends: soon -
FUTILITY AND DOOM !

First 'twas found
to work as said
more unsound
with time: indeed,
was often saw
to be as
breaking law;
without recourse -
SILENCED !

Around us,
arrogance see,
and with self-righteousness -
COMPLACENCY !

With opposing mind,
determined peace:
interpreted;
yourself to find -
BANNED !

To stay to change
in time to see
serves one range -
PERPETRATE !

For, being here
to justice mend:
Progressively …
serves,
the only end -
DELAY !

And so with time
the degradation
poverty assign;
ashamed -
HYPOCRISY !

From consciousness
to
self-awareness;
awaken -
POLARITY !

Thus second then,
the two opposing
forces spun
ultimately, surprise;
the rise -
NATIONALITY !

The problem, mind:
'tis our own
to find -
LIBERATION !

To stay, we see
the placing in
hierarchy:
leadership quietened
to fattening wealth
within sustained:
the status quo -
CONDEMNED !

Sincerity, there
in sacrifice bear;
- prepared so !
But where to stand?
Oh futility !
In this enveloping State, be;
arbitrarily -
RESTRICTED !

Honestly -
to live
sterilely,
apart;
dichotomised:
with such superficiality -
COMPLICITY !

To live in wealth,
to propagate;
self-interest,
then hate !
To reality face -
PERPETUATE !

To justify presence:
"But, but …" -
NO SENSE!
Before even said -
IRRELEVANT !

Leave: leave behind,
to end
inclined -
clear delays
out the way;
the end
dismay -
YOURSELF !

For leave depleted
those
who tragedy created,
propagated -
allow determined,
right of way
to settle
differences of sway;
between them -
REVENGE !

For white to be -
curfewed city streets
to see;
death to you,
so thorough through -
REVOLUTION !

At such a time
to choose your side -
not army to defend!
Nor black to
be your friend -
REVOLUTION !

Though fear
and dread
declare -
distaste of killing!
Inevitable being -
REVOLUTION !

The time may
come
to alleviate
some,
my friend -
but,
only after -
REVOLUTION !

RESOLUTION

So pack my bags
and off I go.
A pessimist you say ?
Indeed 'tis so !
Alternative
would bring glee.
Only -
DESPONDENCY !

The people's side;
my black friends
I leave behind:
the potential, wealth
of experience
in life, united.
The ogre condemned -
SEGREGATION !

In solidarity
with your cause,
such victory
my friends!
Alive be found:
on terms
your ground
to return: more justly -
ABLE !

For in experience
qualified,
with guilt,
encountered;
honoured
to work; and build
for all; South Africa:
evolved then -
THE BEGINNING !

***************

colin soskolne

15th March 1973

******************




Political Sport: the aftermath

Ice cream, candy floss,
cold drinks, toffee apples –
suckers !
All brawn ?
Oh you lithe
beautiful forms !
In the name of sport
you,
oh black souls,
so prostituted yourselves !
Such use
of the voluntary:
propaganda fodder !
You gullible sportsmen
and women,
how clearly contrived !
Oh you pawns;
this ideological game:
a whole fortnight after,
one million rand later !
“Look World,
our South African Games:
find credible, this
two-week sham –
have us back
in World Sport again !”

colin soskolne
15th April, 1973.

This second of my poems came to me on April 15th, 1973, two weeks after the Apartheid government hosted a sporting event called "The South African Games" and one month after poem no. 1. The South African Games showcased to the world that people of all colours had access to sport. I saw this as a charade and my second poem was born.





Right of Admission Reserved

In South Africa
at Johannesburg's
Carlton Centre
on a Saturday night
when shops are closed
you dare
to
justify your presence!
Lining balustrades
even
interspersed among
white
there: below,
the glistening ice
(a central black patch)
shrieks beneath skaters'
boots – gracefully,
some struggling,
twenty feet
below: prominently,
so
tactfully displayed
the sign,
to a majority known:

NO BLACKS ALLOWED – WHITES ONLY!

With such tact
booted: the
glistening
struggling
faces, the
shrieking
hearts;
around and around
the privileged go…

colin soskolne
15th April, 1973.

My third poem, Right of Admission Reserved, was triggered on the same day as poem no. 2 on visiting Johannesburg's then five-star, lavish, downtown hotel as part of the Carlton Centre. Most South Africans, and in fact people in other parts of the world, will have seen the sign "Right of Admission Reserved" giving the proprietor the right to exclude a person or a class of people from his/her premises. In South Africa, this notice applied most directly to "Non-Whites." The Carlton Centre Complex had as a focal point a circular ice rink that was visible from an upper balcony. This sign appeared conspicuously around the balcony. Under South African Pass Laws, so-called Natives would have had no business being present in the Carlton Centre, unless in service to their White employers. The following poem was published by AQUARIUS, Cape Town. Of all my numerous professional publications, I feel most gratified for being included as part of the arts community of the day.




Now that the floodgates had opened, several poems followed. One more appears below.

Senses

One can smell
        the sweat of labour.
One can see
        the smiling faces. 
One can taste
        the joy of mastery.
One can hear
        the laughing calls.
One can touch
        a loving body.
But, one can seldom
sense
the latent hatred: 
fermenting
there –
below.

colin soskolne
4th January, 1974.

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