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blackheart (epilogue to insanity) (article first published : 2005-09-9)

blackheart (epilogue to insanity) by Lesego Rampolokeng.

“i started out writing a story. trying to weave webs of stingray words of steel hammered to the point of truth where time & place meet history at the counter-point of their eternal strife. & now i've got nothing to prove just have to groove whipping up a storm of sound where the typewriter clicks in battle mode on the sights i paint, visions i strive to point out on the map of experience. & now there's nothing idle here none static i can tell no riddles. so this strip of flesh unwinds off my bones & moans its way into print. feed on what you need & throw whatever lacks meaning to you into the trash-bin.”

Lock yourself in a quiet room with Lesego Rampolokeng's apocalyptic vision, blackheart, and read it aloud. Words will explode off the pages, flood your mouth, twist and trip your tongue, and bounce off the walls to batter and bruise your brain. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the nightmare. Hell is not a mythical place. It is here and now.

blackheart reads like a long prose poem more than any other literary form. Rampolokeng, a controversial performance poet and misanthropic paradigm shifter, juggles language and reinvents syntax with the dexterity and ingenuity of a master magus. Words come alive in rhythm, rhyme and rebellion, jostling with one another in density of expression. There is no smoothly unfolding linear narrative or logical character development. Events are haphazard and inexplicable; sentences are splintered and dark; bloody prose is interspersed with gouts of desolate poetry that roll off the page to the ominous pulse of revolt.

Rampolokeng howls the unspeakable in a sustained incantation that penetrates the darkest emotional instincts. Ferocious language and visceral imagery are used to engage the reader's imagination. Like a coldly gleaming executioner's axe, the author slices savagely through social pretensions to expose a stinking morass, a world mired in filth and despair. America, the global economy, political manoeuvring, oppressive social forces such as the apartheid regime, and law enforcement, religion and art are all targets of his relentless rage and scathing contempt. blackheart is a shock to the system and undoubtedly raises relevant questions with its incisive and satirical commentary on contemporary society.

“cigarette smoke spiralled whirled twirled pivoted ceilingwards in the hug of brandy beer wine whiskey whiffs tempered with the breath of bubblegum beat. they thrashed twined embraced and changed course at some hot level of passion. met growls grunt guffaws in heavy jowls. shrieks giggles in powdered blushered foundationed vanishing creamed cleansered cheeks. belches as broad as nips pints quarts waddled across tables over chairs and bounced against swaying hips bobbing breasts of limp balloons and machine guns, lodged in crevices within. mood of cloud, drifting, bound to come down. sweat, tears, though hidden by some sun of fantasy, are rain. electric storm tumbled from stereo skies, a beat of heat and a throb of a heart screaming, on heat, lamenting some lost plastic love. toes wriggling drunken worms. feet liquor cemented to the floor. legs in the sway of uncertainty. breath beechies perfumed peppermint hit the nose of his heart. wine drowned … berry lips shone, glittering, sensual, an invitation to dracula. tongue the pink of birth strolled the mouth's parapet, model with sights on france, new york, london. temperature took off on an olympic sprint. lovely, of course i'm not a material woman. i don't care what you do for a living. i just want to know for interest's sake.”

blackheart is not easy reading. It is often baffling, and sustained concentration is required owing to its style and its disquieting content. This is not a book for the faint-hearted, the easily offended or those concerned about political correctness. The author paints the grisly landscape of a deranged world with a deluge of obscenities, human detritus, sexual predation and graphic violence.

I am reminded of Robert Lowell's poem Skunk Hour in which he wrote, "I myself am hell." Lines from Yeats also reverberate in my mind: "Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/ Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/ The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned …" Lesego Rampolokeng bears witness to a butchered world in a complex and challenging work that offers no hope of redemption or salvation. blackheart will turn every reader's sense of complacency on its head.

“the state of mind is what's wrong. the reality is here. in the thoughts ratting my peace, raining rattling drumming this head, this lease, this respite, this protective gear from the jagged edges of broken glass promises shattered on the uncarpeted floor of this room that is the reality i live and the world i live it in. the only sane man is a mad one.”

"Emancipate yourself from mental slavery," Bob Marley exhorted the world in his Redemption Song. Perhaps the fact that powerful, disturbing and unusual books such as Lesego Rampolokeng's blackheart can be found in our bookstores does give us a glimmer of hope.

blackheart ISBN 0-9584755-5-5 is available at major bookstores countrywide and is also available directly from Pine Slopes Publications, PO Box 86, Westhoven 2142, Johannesburg, at R150 per copy, including postage and packaging. Cheques should be made payable to Aryan Kaganof. – Michelle McGrane (first published September 2004 on www.litnet.co.za)




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