Michael Weeder’s poetry anthology makes the past alive today

BY Edward Tsumele

This book does not only contain well written poems, it is also a repository of history, and through reading these poems one gets to understand the complex history of South Africa of the past fraught with negatives such as racism and racial discrimination.

However the author does not come out as someone who is still caught up in that past and angry about it, allowing ithe past to cloud his present.  He also celebrates individuals that emerged from that past and gave the oppressed the hope of a better future. Doing this using the genre of poetry and still be able to paint a picture that is so clear as to position one mentally one in that environment till this day is a remarkable feat achieved by Michael Weeder  in The Promise of Memory.

My pick of poems in The Promise of Memory are an Elegy for Khwezi, Beyond the Night for Lilian  Masediba Ngoyi,  Steve Biko said, Mixed Blood, A poet’s Life  For Oam Don Mattera,and Now is Not the Time.

“This is not a poem yet

But only the first touch of intention

But when I saw you, quiet unnoticed

At the edge of the busy crowd

I, without a thought of decorum and place

Knelt, kissed and held your hand,” an extract from the poem  titled A poet’s Life  For Oam Don Mattera, in praise of highly respected South African poet and retired journalist  Bra Don Mettera reads.

These poems in many way take one into the complexity of life in South Africa over the years, but at the same time celebrating the present and its difficulties.

The poems evoke emotions in the reader in a way which perhaps could not be achieved by any other genre, for example a short story. Weeder is skilful with the use of words.

Michael Weederis married to Bonita Bennett and they have three children. Michael is 62-years old.

The Group Areas Act displaced his family out of District One, Cape Town. Michael was raised in Elsies River:

“We lived on the border of the Indian-classified Cravenby Estate and the coloured community of Malawian / Xhosa / Griqua / Indian and other descent”.

This early alert to the complexities of class and race informed Michael’s sense of identity and the multi-layered nuances of memory.

He studied for the Anglican priesthood at St Paul’s Seminary, Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1985 and served as the Secretary of the Black Clergy Association.

In 1992 he was appointed to the staff of Archbishop Desmond Tutu as director of the Anglican Board of Social Responsibility (BSR).

His has the BA (Hons) and an MA in History from the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

Weeder is a founder member of December 1st, a social movement formed to work around the memory and legacy of slavery.  He co-produced a documentary, Lydia Williams, a fervent simplicity, an insight into slavery at the Cape.

He is Dean of the Anglican Cathedral of St George the Martyr, Cape Town. Michael is Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu’s representative on the PEACE and Dialogue Platform: An international peace-making initiative of some Nobel Peace-prize laureates.

.The Promise of Memory which is available at all good bookstores nationwide is published  by African P.erspectives Publishing

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