Saving the rhino with mighty pen

Shaun Gillham

PROVING they have the “write” stuff to help fight rhino poaching, a Grahamstown poet and writer, an artist, and 107 other poets from around the world have collaborated to produce an international anthology of poems that will not only prick the conscience and highlight conservation issues, but also raise much-needed funds to help protect the rhino.

Writer, poet and retired English teacher Harry Owen of Grahamstown is the driving force behind For Rhino in a Shrinking World which was presented to an audience at the Schreiner: Karoo Writers Festival in Cradock at the weekend. Owen was joined at the festival by Grahamstown artist and art teacher Sally Scott, who created the book’s illustrations.

The book presents 130 poems by 108 poets from countries including Botswana, Canada, South Africa, the UK and India and all proceeds go to The Chipembere Rhino Foundation, which was established in November 2010 after Amakhala Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape lost two rhinos in one night to poaching. Two of the poems were authored by Owen.

The poet said he was inspired to initiate the project after he had heard a presentation by well-known Eastern Cape wildlife veterinary expert Dr William Fowlds in the wake of the Kariega Game Reserve tragedy.

“I had written on my website about an event at Rhodes University where I was to speak and the title of my talk – taking issue with the famous words of WH Auden that ‘poetry makes nothing happen’ – was ‘How to Make Nothing Happen’. Well I do believe poetry can and does make things happen.

“I wrote to poets around the world calling for submissions towards the book and the rhino cause. The response was absolutely phenomenal.”

Owen said it had then become a mammoth task to select the works for publication. The book took about 15 months to complete and publish and was released in May this year.

“The response has been really good and sales have been going well. The book is available at game reserves and on the internet at this stage.

“We are working on establishing more distribution channels and getting more publicity for the book to assist awareness and sales,” he said.

Owen, who is inspired by the natural world,said the book went beyond the conservation of just the rhino and was aimed at encouraging conservation as a whole.

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