Cape festival invite for Helenvale Poets

Reading poetry at the McGregor Poetry Festival last year are, from left, Shenesia Booysen, 16, Margaret Armoed, 58, and Anastacia Williams, 16, all from Helenvale
Reading poetry at the McGregor Poetry Festival last year are, from left, Shenesia Booysen, 16, Margaret Armoed, 58, and Anastacia Williams, 16, all from Helenvale

Port Elizabeth’s Helenvale Poets, who meet every week to write and share their work, have been invited to participate in the McGregor Poetry Festival in August.

The organisers of the Western Cape festival are busy fundraising to get a group there, and three Helenvale poets who attended last year made such a good impression that a BackaBuddy funding campaign has been established to get up to 20 writers there this year.

Margaret Armoed, 58, said the journey, the town and the festival last year were inspiring.

Young Bay poet Shenesia Booysen, 16, who attended the festival with Anastacia Williams, 16, said listening to other poets and presenting their own poems had helped her to “find herself”.

There are two groups of poets, with New Generation a feeder group for the older Helenvale Poets. Both groups write of their real experiences, as well as their aspirations.
Many Port Elizabeth residents link Helenvale with images of drug-related shootings, crime, violence, poverty and unemployment.

However, the Helenvale Poets project hopes to break stereotypes, to show readers a human side of Helenvale not often imagined outside the community itself.

Facilitator Leonie Williams, for example, says writing poetry has been therapeutic for her.

Many of her poems, such as Sardines, evoke the Helenvale situation: “At night, going to bed/I wish I were you/lying cropped in a can.

“Sadly I’m alive to feel/how uncomfortable I am/ lying here/ with four kids/on a small bed/like sardines/ kicking me open.”

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