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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

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Shortlist, University of Johannesburg Prizes for Creative Writing, 2006

Ingrid de Kok's first book to be published in the United States is also the first volume to demonstrate the variety and continuity of her work over the last 25 years. South Africa’s most lucid and composed voice in contemporary poetry, she shares her ability to interweave an intensely personal world with the politically panoramic. Ingrid de Kok is one of the few poets to successfully broach the burden of tragedy revealed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings and the ceaseless ravaging of the AIDS pandemic.

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“No one among the poets of South Africa felt more acutely the heart-pain and shame of life under apartheid, or has notated more scrupulously the faltering joy that came over the country when the weight was lifted.”

“| "Ingrid de Kok's poetry leaves me defenseless. I cannot respond to it as a friend, or reviewer, or journalist, or academic. It goes straight to my poetry heart. And I respond like a fool.”

“Read these poems to yourself late at night, in the early morning before anyone else is awake, as you wait for a friend or the train. Read the words aloud and allow each to linger on your tongue: histogram, grace, grenade. Read them and register what the best poetry does without pretense or apology: it gives us back our lives.”

“| "In her first U.S. collection, with selections from the last 25 years, the plain words of South African poet de Kok are always personal, bringing close both veldt and city as well as the intimacy of a loving home (her mother 's "house hold"). Apartheid politics is part of it. She remembers growing up in the "closed rooms" of white privilege in a mining town near Johannesburg, and some of the recent poems address directly the elemental amnesty hearings at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (a bullet in a child's chest rips into the heart of a house; nothing can restore the "unweeping mother"). Everything comes together in "Miners," where a white child goes underground to see her father's work ("the ear-blistering hard jabber of the jackhammers / cracking the center of the earth"), and just on the edge are the migrant "underground" black laborers, eardrums blown, rattling in a cage, their children far away. Intense, never preachy, these poems will touch many readers.”

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Born in 1951, Ingrid de Kok grew up in Stilfontein, a South African gold mining town in what was then the Western Transvaal. When she was 12 years old, her parents moved to Johannesburg. In 1977 de Kok emigrated to Canada, where she lived until returning to South Africa in 1984. She is the author of six books of poetry, including Seasonal Fires, her first book to be published in the United States.