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Antjie Krog: ‘If a poem can lessen a single person’s pain, then it was worthwhile’

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Antjie Krog. (Photo: Brenda Veldtman)
Antjie Krog. (Photo: Brenda Veldtman)

In Plunder and Pillage, her new volume(s) published in both Afrikaans and English, the latter translated by Karen Press (Human & Rousseau), Antjie Krog develops her familiar themes of family, body and land. This time, however, she considers these in the harsh light of pillaging and plunder, whether by nature, humans or old age. The poems reveal a painful fragility and yet also finding comfort, a nourishment in remarkable moments of beauty: the delight of an egret in a vlei, watching over a young child who is discovering the world around him, and remembering the raptures of love. Krog speaks to fellow poet Johan Myburg, winner of the 2022 Herzog Prize for his collection Narreskip, about themes, processes, translation and titles.

The title of your latest collection, Plunder in Afrikaans and Pillage in English, is evocative and reflects the contents of the collection. Do titles come first for you? Is it part of an organic writing process? I’m thinking of Jerusalemgangers (1985), Lady Anne (1989) and Synapse (2014).

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