“State of Emergency”

18 March 2020 | Poem Professor Joan Hambidge. Photo Michael Hammond. Read time 2 min.
Prof Joan Hambidge is a multi-award-winning poet.
Prof Joan Hambidge is a multi-award-winning poet.

In the lead up to World Poetry Day on 21 March, UCT News has been publishing poems from students and staff, particularly around issues related to human rights and about human rights activists. Gender-theorist and academic Professor Joan Hambidge’s poem “State of Emergency” deals with heteronormativity, love and oppression.

Following UCT News’ request for submission, Hambidge, who holds the Hofmeyr Chair: Afrikaans and Netherlandic Studies in the School of Languages, submitted “State of Emergency”.

In 2018 the Afrikaans poet’s texts were translated to English and published in The Coroner’s Wife, an anthology of work by Hambidge, published by Dryad Press; “State of Emergency” was one of the translated poems.

Hambidge writes about the state of emergency that is patriarchy and heteronormativity; about her beloved, who she describes as “a besieged city”, and about the repressive rules imposed on their love.

State of Emergency

In terms of the Fear of Further Involvement Act,

the Minister of Emotions imposed, this very morning,

a State of Emergency on my beloved, a besieged city,

with emergency regulations, curfews

(I may not love you when the sun sets)

a draft paper

(no further meaningful communication);

riotous, passionate meetings between us

are also prohibited.

Breakfasts together, telephone calls,

meandering in the labyrinth of reminiscences.


But I, the eternal revolutionary, in the darkness

distributed leaflets about the coup d'état.

I combat these laws,

wave banners furiously in the town square,

incite passersby, unaware of the effect

this has on me (and hopefully on you).

Now I will go underground in devastating anguish,

but I, the eternal revolutionary,

will fight on against the man-made laws

and proclamations, which you, my besieged one,

so recklessly silent, so silently reckless

accept and endure.

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