Philosophical poet to take part in festival

Elisa Galgut of Constantia will be taking part in the McGregor Poetry Festival next week.

People shouldn’t be afraid of poetry. Bring back poetry in schools, make kids learns poems by heart. It makes it easier to learn poems later on and gives you something to recite when you are doing the dishes. It would be a better world if we did.”

This is according to Elisa Galgut, a UCT philosophy lecturer and poet who lives in Constantia.

Elisa will be taking part in the McGregor Poetry Festival next weekend. This is the first formal poetry event that she will be presenting at, and she is looking forward to it.

“People say, ‘Nobody reads poetry’, but where is the evidence of that? Maybe it’s not published enough. People do read and write poetry, but you can’t make a living out of it.”

Elisa believes poetry is actually the perfect art form for a busy modern world because it conveys strong ideas in a short, quick format.

“You can pick up a poem and read it in a few minutes whereas a novel can take a month out of your life. People should read more poetry because it doesn’t take much time,” Elisa said jokingly.

Elisa says there are few platforms for poets. Major publishers don’t print poetry books anymore and small publishers, like Modjaji Books, who printed a collection of her poems in The Attribute of Poetry, are among the few exceptions.

“Small publishers do a lot for local writing,” she said.

Several of Elisa’s poems were printed in journals and anthologies before The Attribute of Poetry was published last year.

Open mic sessions are one of the places where poets are still able to show their talent. Elisa has taken part in some of these monthly sessions at Off the Wall in Observatory. Such sessions are, for most part, informal and advertised by word of mouth.

“It would be nice if it was more formalised,” she said.

Her philosophical contemplation of poetry’s place in the world aligns itself with the theme that occurs in the majority of her poems, which is “our relationship as human beings to the world at large”.

These questions were sparked by the death of her mother and several close friends, she said.

“It’s about the pointlessness and importance of life,” she said. “Is there a point to it all? What is the point of life?”

Another recurring theme in her poetry is nature.

“I love nature, and I often think of poetry when I go for a run.”

Veganism is an “important part of my life”, she said but not a major theme in her poetry.

“Some people are political poets. I can’t write a poem when I am angry or upset. My poems are not particularly political or moral. These things get me upset and angry, and then I want to go out and do something about it, but I won’t write a poem about it.”

She prefers that her poetry writing is more free, she says.

“It has to take hold of you. I don’t want to think about it or control it too much.”

She believes that good poetry touches on human emotions but hints at something more and gets people thinking.

“Poetry has always been grounded in real life, while pointing towards something bigger. The best poems always do that. Someone should be able to relate to a poem on an emotional level and then have pause to reflect.

“Some people say ‘I can’t understand poetry’. My advice is, don’t understand it. Just listen to it. Does it sound nice? Does it touch you? Then think about the meaning.”

* Elisa is part of the line-up of the Poetry in McGregor weekend from Friday August 26 to Sunday August 28. For the programme and more details go to

in memoriam

in the first dream, you’re consumed

with illness, a caricature, the shadow

of a flightless bird, the skeleton

of a bird fossilised in stone.

in the other, you’re in the kitchen,

standing by the sink washing dishes.

you’re wearing your blue night gown;

you’re ill but i am overjoyed to see you.

i can feel, even in sleep, the jolt of joy,

the unexpected sight of your appearance.

in both dreams you’re alive

and i know that i’m dreaming;

i know you’ll be gone when I awake.

i’ll lose you, once again, to the daylight

– my waking will kill you.”

A poem from The Attribute of Poetry by Elisa Galgut