Struggle stalwart launches poetry book to keep the flame alive
Anti-apartheid activist and academic Patrick FitzGerald has launched a new collection of poetry, titled Epitaphs and Dreams: Poems to Remember the Struggle
FitzGerald is currently an adjunct professor at the Wits School of Governance (which he founded in 1990 upon his return from exile) and chair of the City of Joburg’s performance audit committee.
In the 1970s and 1980s he was a vocal and often-detained student activist at Wits, a founder member of the influential Junction Avenue Theatre Company, and then an active part of the ANC underground structures inside the country before going into exile in Botswana. He later moved to Lusaka to become the administrative secretary of the ANC’s department of arts and culture, before furthering his studies at Liverpool University in the United Kingdom.
FitzGerald’s experiences of the intensified period of the struggle in the 1980s have largely informed this volume of poetry.
The poems – written in the days when “it was an everyday matter to be carrying both a pen and a weapon” – were read at public and private gatherings of comrades, were performed at political gatherings and at international cultural festivals, were used in poetry workshops by MK combatants, were set to music and were discussed among exiled writers.
FitzGerald (the grandson of pioneering trade unionist Mary FitzGerald, after whom a square in Newtown is named) notes in his introduction that art thrives in revolutionary environments. He writes: “During the times of struggle, poetry did appear to assist in making things happen, particularly at meetings, celebrations, funerals, cultural events, and in political mobilisation.
“Poetry, then, became an important ingredient in keeping alive the flame of resistance, of spirit and dedication, of solidarity, of courage, of determination.”
The memory of those times, he says, “burns with a vivid and ever-present sense of purpose and idealism, a willingness to fight for right against gross injustice”.
Observes poet and novelist Mandla Langa of Epitaphs and Dreams: “Patrick FitzGerald might not know what he has achieved with this volume. Coming at a time when there is a campaign to minimise the contribution of the struggle towards the creation of our democracy, his poetry serves as a chronicle of times.”
Langa adds: “It is a record employing language that is as indelible as something wrought in iron, and as enduring.”
Patrick FitzGerald’s Epitaphs and Dreams: Poems to Remember the Struggle is published and distributed by Porcupine Press. It is available in a limited edition of 500 copies, all numbered and signed by the author, at a retail price of R165 (including VAT). For orders, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (011) 791 4561.