Any list is in essence exclusive. This list is exclusive in many ways. The first obvious exclusion is men – this is a list about women.
It is also a list about extraordinary women.
While all people can surely be regarded as extraordinary in some way, this is about those who stand out as somehow above the norm. It may be because of remarkable achievements or success in spite of setbacks. It may be because they had special talents or strange life stories. Or it may just be because of certain character traits.
This list is also exclusive in the sense that it is my list. Surely there are women who achieved greater things or had greater talents or suffered more. But to make this list, the women’s stories had to somehow resonate with me. They had to become real people, people who touched my heart with their strength, their courage, their love.
I have often counted off the forty days from winter solstice to my birthday. This year, as I neared my forty fourth birthday, I wondered what other women were doing at that age, where they were in their life stories. And this is what I found. Some died before their time, some are still living and haven’t reached that age yet. But as I contemplated them one by one, day by day, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by their lives.
A whole book could be written on the lives of every one of these women and it is very difficult to tell the gist of their stories in a few lines. I hope that this list will inspire you to investigate them further; maybe to make your own list. And to look at your own life and contemplate where you have been, where you are and where you might still be going. As George Eliot said: “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”
So here they are, in chronological order:
Once again I want to dance and turn my ear to the patterns of poetry. I want to find the rhythms that enchanted me when I was a child, the handclapping, tongue-teasing rhymes I loved. I want the words to wander and the silence to sing.
I am a child. The words do wander and the silence sings, oh how it sings!
So here (hear!) fresh off the press is a poem from my new volume of poetry waar die oog van stil word (of which the eye grows silent). You’ll find an English translation at the end.
patrone van stilte
waarom mure plekke van stilte is.
waarom stiltes patrone maak op matte.
die skemer duur en duur deur geel glasruite
geriffelde lig in glas gestol.
die skemer raak swaar en stil.
die mure onder my hande weef en spin
patrone van matte op die stilte buite
die lig sterf stadig in toiings van wolke.
wolke wat plekke van stilte is.
mure en ruite sluit dig teen die donker
lig is die nag se lê hierbinne
hier op die stiltes van ou tapyte.
patterns of silence
why walls are places of silence.
why silence makes patterns on carpets.
the dusk stays and stays through yellow glass windows
rippled light settled in glass.
the dusk becomes heavy and silent.
the walls spin and weave under hands
patterns of carpets on the silence outside
the light slowly dies in tatters of clouds.
clouds that are places of silence
walls and windows close tight against darkness
light is the lay of the night inside
here on the silence of old carpets.