i carry within me a flower of hope
i have protected it from the wind and rain and snow
if you raise your eyes to this hilltop tonight
you will see in the darkness, not just its star-like glow
but light from the stars which began reaching out to you
before anyone even knew your name
inward moon outward sun
The poems in this collection draw upon and extend Banoobhai’s concerns in his previous collections – the lyric voice charting the complex territory of personal life, the meditative song to our human spirituality, and the social conscience or cry of protest. In this sense, a poem like, “grant me dear god, in this new year of dying”, literally flashes off the page with a strength and a vitality that the simple lines belie. Brevity and a concentrated energy, of course, are trademarks of his writing. Of course, the power of an idea to astonish and
move a reader beyond its mere expression in words is a feature of contemplative writing, whether from the West or the East. Writers as diverse as St. John of the Cross, Rabindranath Tagore or Lao Tzu have employed this device to great effect.
In the body of South African writing, his is a rare voice with the courage and the artistic skill to articulate a contemporary spirituality convincingly. The utmost simplicity of expression is used to conceal and reveal, at one and the same time, ideas of intense profundity. The poems are often meditative songs of love, longing and loss in a mystical world but as often remain rooted in the social and political struggles of this world, as depicted in the stanza above taken from the poem ‘sarajevo’ for which he received the 2001 Thomas Pringle Award for poetry.
He has lost none of the urgency and the protest of his earlier work, from shadows of a sun – darkened land, for example. But the clarion call to action has been tempered by a view of time that moves us beyond ourselves, into a realm where the Self and the Other are merged, where the transforming power of Love (so beautifully described in his poem, ‘before i close the book’) meets the wisdom of the Eternal. Banoobhai is one of those rare contemporary writers who are able to translate their spiritual or religious convictions into their art in a manner that is still exciting for the non-religious reader as well. This is no mean feat in our thoroughly materialistic world. inward moon, outward sun, published by Gecko Poetry, an imprint of the University of Natal Press, is a work of gemlike beauty and simplicity. It deserves to be part of anyone’s collection of modern South African writing.
(Kobus Moolman – well-known poet and academic, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal)
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