Poetic Bodies: Weavings of Bodies, Languages and Environments in War Poetry by S.E.K. Mqhayi
Keywords:poetic bodies; embodiment; re-membering; intergenerational trauma; war poetry; indigenous poetry; S.E.K. Mqhayi
The creation of “poetic bodies” refers to the embodiment of poetic experience through an eclectic theoretical and methodological conceptualisation. This poetic embodiment allows for the re-membering and experiencing of poetic texts in general, and specifically, indigenous South African poetry in the classroom. At its core is the haunting of memory in poetic texts: the inter-generational experiencing of poetry is embodied in the students’ responses to literature. Conjuring these poetic bodies comprises three acts of meaning-making that are woven together to create a unique experience and understanding of poetry: the Bodily, which refers to the figurative devices and images in poetry; the Inner Bodily, which relates to intergenerational memory construction; and the Outer Bodily, which encompasses social, cultural and historical contexts. In South Africa, the process of poetic embodiment is characterised by a strong sense of loss due to the country’s colonial and apartheid past. The weaving of the different levels of re-membering and experiencing in indigenous South African poetry is illustrated in the war poetry of S.E.K. Mqhayi (1875–1945). His poems are used as a case study to illustrate how poetic bodies may be re-membered or reconstructed as a literary-theoretical approach to facilitate understanding and experiencing poetry with marked traces of loss.
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