cover photograph courtesy of Brian Grunebaum

Praxis Magazine Online is honored to present the fifth chapbook in our 2019/2020 Poetry Chapbook Series selected by JK Anowe: Twilight People by Jarred Thompson. Read the Foreword from Stanley Princewill McDaniels here, then download and read: Twilight People by Jarred Thompson.

Foreword by Stanley Princewill McDaniels

I couldn’t tell what it was at first, couldn’t lay finger to. It kept slipping off my meandering mind, & not being able to lay finger on, not being able to grapple, which is the question, & which by itself is by itself the answer – first, it was nostalgia.

What makes nostalgia distinguishable from memory? Or, maybe nostalgia the thing before the threshold of memory, the furling & unfurling clouds of smoke that not so much as blur your vision, no, but defines the fervour, the restiveness of being in-between the hunting & the chase. At what point does the staggering experience of nostalgia equals a person trying to remember?–remember what? – remember who?

Jarred Thompson’s collection, Twilight People, is a poetry chapbook of fifteen poems that evokes this debate, not so much as the subject of interest in this collection – for it is clear: apartheid as nostalgia, nostalgia as residue, residue from a teacup we never asked to drink from –no, instead the nostalgia pertains to the aesthetics of Jarred’s poetry, how the lines come with a certain ease. So I had to go back to the internet to find & read again the poetry of Madagascan poet Jean Joseph Rabearivelo. Though distinct in their own art, both poets draw a subtle feature in their craft – the easing sentences, subtle yet poignant images, diction, and punctuation.

download and read: Twilight People by Jarred Thompson

We first encounter Before twitter there was the front stoep – a poem whose title is as well its beginning, whose images transfigures the reader into what it felt like, what it would have felt like, really, to sit on a stoep amidst uncles and aunties debating, as is now on Twitter,…

how this one married that one,
how this one is step brother of that one.

Where we sat after my cousin’s suicide
contemplating the informal settlement next door
siphoning off our electricity.

Where my elders sat in a row, drinking,
communing in a moment that bled them
together. Where I’d sit, wordlessly, transcribing my life
against a backdrop of factories
that housed memories of dog walks, climbing trees,
playing games with stones and endless cricket victories.

In subtle, yet tightly enveloping images, Jarred Thompson’s Twilight People explores the residue of apartheid in the teacup of South Africa’s modern history, which tells us that his is not a remembering, per se, but a confrontation of the prevalence – not resurrection, I think – of what we thought was of the past as not the past at all, but a reincarnation as in Post Apartheid, where We are ‘post’ but not delivered from this rainbow Ferris wheel. / Multiplied by laws and redacted whites-only signboards, we’re divided / by amnesia and equaled to a World-Class Constitution.

But it is however ironical that a constitution – a world-class one at that, which its enactment was & is assumed to protect & preserve (if we agree this is correct, that is) – would sit and watch as, in the poem Poaching, you came in with your bloody hands, / carcasses hanging from your fingers. And When I spied the cardiac muscle between your teeth, / the eye jelly in your pocket, the fingernails, the necklace of ears round your neck, / I thought they were gifts you were laying at my feet. And at this point I joined Jarred in decrying the cruelty of poachers contributing to the extinction of wild-life I’m not so sure my unborn children would ever get to see roam the face of the Earth.

download and read: Twilight People by Jarred Thompson

In beyond the sum of symbols, we find desire – bodily desire – between boys in a church (most likely a Catholic church), crowded with incense, crosses and colonizers through which still, people could desire each other never-minding the zigzag lines of morality inscribed into their knees from kneeling on the carpeted pew.

Through the entire chapbook, Jarred’s images are piercing, tugging, screaming, confirming your deepest fears about what you thought was over as Sacks of meat hung / upside down, bodies packed row to row in the poem Singing Trees, at which end he asks when singing trees die / where do their songs reappear? At which point I ask: when trees holding sacks of meat hung upside down die, what song do they sing? Do they know the names of their dead? Do the final cries of their dead get stored in their boughs the way the blood of the 16th century sorceress Vivienne Nimue stored hers in a tree? What is this tree? Is it history? Is it society? Is it the political contraption of the state? Is it the constitution – this Thing by which & in whose name the expression of humanness is over-determined by?

Twilight People is a smoke atop a mountain, one which no one should ignore.

Stanley Princewill McDaniels,

download and read: Twilight People by Jarred Thompson

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