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Tuesday, February 16, 2016


(Mari & Megan Peté)

Everyone is bound to experience stress in their daily lives in a fast-paced 21st century, but there is a difference in how each individual handles the pressures of life. Some people opt to unwind by going to the gym or listening to soothing music.

In the case of Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Marí Peté, an e-Learning specialist from the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), she writes poetry that lets the reader see through the eyes of a University teacher living in a South African city. Since the age of 19 when her poems were first published in a literary journal, writing poetry has been a way to live in a meaningful way.

Peté’s latest collection is dedicated to her only child, Megan. Entitled Step through and published by Leopard Press, the book will be launched at the DUT Art Gallery, Allan Pittendrigh Library, on February 20.

The title poem, called Step through, is one she wrote about dealing with Megan (now in Matric) going to boarding school in grade eight and how the poet coped with the so-called empty nest syndrome.

The title of the book gives an insight into what her poems are about -- ordinary moments and transitional experiences -- teaching with new technologies and feeling its impact on the body, soul and psyche; travelling; being married for 25 years; losing loved ones to death; being in a relationship with the Divine; and experiencing the “empty nest”.

The poems are rooted in local places such as Durban’s Warwick Junction marketplace; the Drakensberg Mountains; the Cradle of Humankind; Robberg; and as far abroad as Hyde Park and Dumfries, a village in Scotland.

As far as conceptualisation and writing times goes, she says some poems grow over time, while there are rare occasions where a poem is completed in a day. “I take the discipline of crafting seriously, but you have to know the line between reworking a poem and over-crafting it. You have to listen closely and know when to stop. There is actually a poem about that in my second collection Amytis entitled Writer's block, Florence,” she explains.

For Peté, poetry is the best way to express her thoughts, rather than genres like novels or biographies. “Through form, imagery, musicality and metaphor (amongst other devices), poetry strives for universality - to touch hearts, to ring true for different readers, in different ways,” she says.

Step through contains sketches by well-known Durban artist Dina Cormick, a collection of whose work forms part of the DUT Art Gallery's permanent collection. Cormick has a lifetime record of commissioned artworks, including wood sculptures, mosaics, book illustrations and posters, most notably in the South African Constitutional Court

The majority of the 52 poems in Step through were originally written in English, and a handful in Afrikaans, which were translated into English by Karin Schimke, an esteemed Cape Town poet who writes in English and Afrikaans. Schimke was awarded the Ingrid Jonker Award in 2014 and her poetry has been widely published.

Peté listed two of her favourite poems by other writers – Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, and Poet Becoming by Antjie Krog. To her, writing is a reflex, a compulsion, a survival strategy, and her first poem for the next collection has already been written. Her advice to budding poets is to read a lot of other writers' poetry, learn from it, and learn it off by heart. “Poetry is a spiritual endeavour. Share it - poems of your own, and of others,” she says.

The launch will take place on February 20 at 19h00 in The Art Gallery of the Steve Biko Campus of the Durban University of Technology -1st floor Alan Pittendrigh Library. Entrance through Gate 2 in Steve Biko Road. Books will be available at a special launch price of R150 (cash only)

The exhibition will run from February 22 to March 7. For more information contact Judy Reddy on 031 373 2904 or email: