'Tis the Season for a tight budget

10 July 2002
THE CENTRE for African Studies (CAS) launched the second edition of the poetry anthology Seasons Come to Pass: A Poetry Anthology for Southern African Students, earlier this year. The anthology, published by Oxford University Press, features the work of several Cape Town poets, including UCT's own Ingrid de Kok, Roshila Nair and Professor Stephen Watson.

Dr Helen Moffett, one of the anthology's editors, (the other is Es'kia Mphahlele, one of the founding fathers of South African literature), says that it represents a new direction in anthologies for entry-level university students in South Africa.

"In the second edition we had to reflect the fact that South Africa had joined the global community, so there are more poems from the developing world and which represent post-colonial and post-millennial concerns. Then of course we still provide the so-called classics: Wordsworth, Yeats, a sampling of Shakespeare's sonnets, and so on."

Moffett is passionate about poetry, and equally passionate about the exorbitant prices students often have to pay for anthologies.

"It's a matter of huge concern to myself and Prof Mphahlele that some universities still ask their first-year students to buy imported collections such as the Norton Anthology of Poetry. It's a wonderful book, but it costs about R500 and features no African or South African poets," she says.

With Seasons Come to Pass, which sells at R125, students get a wide range of southern African and "canonical" poems, as well as a great deal of support material, such as biographies of poets, contextual notes and a glossary. There is an overview of the history of English literature and even a section on writing poetry essays and exams.

Moffett says that feedback on the first edition indicated that it was hugely successful, especially among lecturers who were struggling to get their students interested in poetry.

"This anthology draws connections between poems from past ages and local modern poems. For example, William Blake's London is linked to Wally Mongane Serote's Alexandra and City Johannesburg. In fact, our material on those poems was recently used at a May Day rally, believe it or not," she enthuses.

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