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THE LITTLE MUSEUM OF WORKING LIFE (article first published : 2004-10-19)

The launch of Karen Press’s The Little Museum of Working Life will be launched on October 20 at 18h30 for 18h45 in the Wellington Tavern of the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre as part of this year’s Poetry Africa festival.

The Little Museum of Working Life is the literary counterpoint to a public museum, where the poems try to find appropriate forms for “exhibiting” the strengths, frailties and creativity of the people whose experience forms the least celebrated of our narratives. The present interest in museums in South Africa, stimulated and supported by a range of national and regional cultural organisations, has led to diverse groups planning to create museums that document particular histories. Karen Press’s latest collection of “visual” and ”sensual” poetry is a joy to read.

It gives a political voice to the everyday lives of ordinary people. Written with a deceptive simplicity – from a child’s viewpoint but with an ascerbic undertone – the poems utilise the visual-spatial dimension which gives them textual as well as cerebral interest.

Karen Press was born in Cape Town. She has worked as a teacher of mathematics and English with a range of progressive education projects and has also written textbooks and other education materials in the fields of mathematics, science, economics, and English, as well as children’s stories, a film script and stories for newly-literate adults. In 1987 she co-founded Buchu Books Publishing Collective. She has published seven collections of poetry and her poems have been included in anthologies in South Africa and overseas.

She currently works as a freelance editor and writer and is an associate of The Writer’s Network, a national advice service for South African writers. Her latest collection, Little Musuem of Working Life, is an absorbing pocket museum, with its portrayals of working life, offers a range a space for viewing and contemplation. Meticulously observed, fastidiously crafted, the disarming simplicity of these poems belies their sharp cutting edge. A tour worth taking with a gifted poet who understands the light and shade of human experience.

The full programme of featured poets on October 20 are Nowadayz Poets, Karen Press, Albert Nyathi and Mzwakhe Mbuli.




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