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Sally-Ann Murray

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Big or small, the next thing could come from anywhere…

In the game of literary tag that’s going around, I was zapped by Elana Bregin (thank you!), and relayed the opportunity to others. I recently caught up with Francine Simon. That’s not yet a name that many people will know, but just give it a little time….Several of Francine’s poems were short-listed for the 2012 Sol Plaatje European Union Award, and they’ve been published in the competition antho compiled by Liesl Jobson for Jacana. Francine is almost done with an MA in creative writing at UZKN. She knows that poetry is not likely to be The Next Big Thing in anyone’s book, but she writes regardless because she’s not interested in being labelled.


your kitchen had a strong white breath

fixed with pots. Husband and wife

a pipe


its second element


you are a man of no shape

especially in the early morning

bat neck

cow feet

a spiracle love of pools


she takes the teabag from her cup

squeezes it leaves it

on the windowsill to age

soft as skin

dark as cum


Now she is with me.

We picnic often.

You always thought you knew too much.


What is the working title of your book? Shadow Sounds.

Where did the idea come from? A shoebox of old photographs. I was looking for a particular picture and then suddenly the idea struck: faded images, the memory of voices, imagining the voices of family members I’d never known, working to locate these creatively in relation to different forms of personal and ‘collective’ history.

What genre does your book fall under? Well, I hope it doesn’t just ‘fall’ anywhere! But the genre is very difficult to pinpoint as the poems cross lyrical, narrative and experimental forms.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? If my collection were a movie, and if race weren’t an issue, I would like to see Carey Mulligan, Kathy Bates and Dominic Cooper play the primary roles. However as my work is poetry, I would love to hear these three actors read my poems.

 What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? ‘Girl’ is a word for the many sounds of family.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I might be getting ahead of myself here, but I will definitely seek a formal publisher. Modjaji? Kwela? I’m hoping.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I took around six months to complete the first draft. But I keep editing and also writing more material. Which is good, I suppose, as there will be plenty of poems from which to choose for the final collection.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Touch by Meena Kandasamy and Illiterate Heart by Meena Alexander. (With some Plath for good measure, and maybe some Carol Ann Duffy.)

 Who or what inspired you to write this book? My family’s so-called Indian culture was a major starting point for the collection – what points of connection I have with what’s called ‘Indian’, and where I diverge. (My mother has particular resonance when I think of what influenced me to write these poems, and how so often the perspective is female.) Despite the ways in which Durban positions me, I was not very familiar with my family’s historical culture when I began to write, and curiosity was a primary contributing factor.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? I think that a reader might find the question of wide cultural diversity within one family very intriguing; the mix of Catholic and Tamil roots is not something a reader might immediately recognise, yet I hope that the poems will also persuade a reader at both the emotional level, and in terms of unusual language.


Another Durban writer I tagged is Cristy Zinn. She – usually – writes speculative fiction, and has a story in AfroSF, the first-ever anthology of Science Fiction by African writers. The book was edited and produced by Ivor Hartmann in 2012, and there’s an e-publication and a print edition, so you get to choose. Karen Burnham of the Locus Review suggests that the antho contains “highly readable and enjoyable stories that take the raw materials of science fiction and give them a different spin”.  Cristy has posted her reponse to TNBThing questions on her own blog, and has also roped in other writers. She warns that she is branching out into fantasy fiction….Could it be something in Durban’s water? Here’s the link:




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