ISBN 9781990922657
Pages 70
Dimensions 210x148mm
Published 2024
Publisher Botsotso Publishing , South Africa
Format Paperback

Studies in Khoisan verbs and other poems

by Basil du Toit

Du Toit draws on his childhood years in Botswana (the Bechuanaland Protectorate, as it was in those days) to examine questions of language identity and entitlement. He recalls confiding the secret of a magic trick to an itinerant Tswana man who in exchange taught him how to say a few words of the / Xam language; this proximity of language to the magical fashioning of reality still haunts him and has led to poems questioning our sense of belonging to social structures, sexual groupings and even to humanity itself.

Paradoxically, a diverse ethnic background (with Dutch, French, German and Scottish forebears) works against Du Toit’s sense of being welcomed into any single national group. Two directions of trans-national entitlement remain open – movement into an inner landscape of spiritual and artistic values, and an allegiance to the planet as an ecologically neutral, valued and threatened space of dwelling. Both of these manifestations of “home” feature prominently in Du Toit’s work. A visionary linguistics binds these worlds together – foregrounding of the inner life as a source of values and home encourages a Kantian vision of a natural world created by the necessary structures of human consciousness, language being the force and locus of this creation. Du Toit’s longed-for release from paid employment in 2011 allowed him to spend his mornings in Edinburgh University’s Main Library; there, over the next ten years, basing himself on the Third Floor of the library (where the University’s literature collections are housed), he composed a large body of poems, mainly free-verse sonnets, from which the poems of “Studies in Khoisan Verbs” are drawn.

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About the Author

Basil du Toit

Basil du Toit was born in Cape Town, a city for which he retains a deep affection, but spent most of his childhood growing up in Zimbabwe and Botswana. He is grateful for the access that this upbringing gave him to an older (not necessarily better) Africa, one simpler and perhaps more innocent than that of today, in touch with more authentic original cultures of southern Africa. He is grateful too for his grounding in the poetical tradition of southern Africa, and has a special sense of loyalty to the literary generation of the 1970s in South Africa. Subsequent exposure to other English literatures (especially US poetry) has not dimmed this love for the African poets of his upbringing. Although nearly all of his poetry has been written in Scotland, Du Toit identifies both as a Scottish and as a South African poet. In 1987 he shared the Sanlam Literary Award with the poet Douglas Livingstone. Subsequently he has been a winner of the 2015 Poetry Business Book & Pamphlet Competition (judged by Billy Collins) and won the Wigtown Poetry Prize in 2021 (judged by William Letford).