Book 11: Lava Lamp Poems: Colleen Higgs

Books I've read, Poetry
Colleen Higgs - Lava Lamp Poems

Colleen Higgs – Lava Lamp Poems

It has been a while since I’ve done any reviews. I normally read at least one book a week, and it has taken me nearly six to read the last one. This has a lot to do with trying to do #NaNoWriMo (and failing), and the fact that I’ve had a rough time in my own life lately. So, there are three more reviews coming soon, all from South African writers. But first, here is number 11 – Lava Lamp Poems, by Colleen Higgs.

Colleen is the writer, poet, and publisher behind Modjaji Books. She has also published a collection of her short stories called Looking for Trouble. 

Modjaji’s collection of titles has won a million awards, and prizes, and accolades and all those fabulous things, and they are entirely well deserved. She also published Bom Boy, and the My First Time collection (which I edited). So I generally think she’s awesome, and she is doing so much for African women writers, particularly those from Southern Africa.

Poetry is one of the few things I’ve been able to write in the last while, my heart too full for fiction’s rules. In typical A-type personality fashion, I want to make sure I’m doing it right so I’ve been reading a lot more poetry myself.

I read some of Higgs’ poetry in the Pumpkin Seed collection, which I reviewed a while back, and so thought it would be good to make Colleen’s collection my second poetry read. I don’t regret it at all. I still haven’t got any skills to review poetry, but I think what I like about Higgs’ collection is the capturing of the moments in lives that we all experience, but don’t really stop to think about.

My two favourite parts from the collection are from two different poems. From “thoughts I started having about the Wimpy after I saw my ex-lover there with his long-lost-after-all-these-years American girlfriend” I loved the line

I had a Hawaiian chicken burger, it came with a piece of pineapple. Pineapple means Hawaiian.


And from “Stroke” I loved the second and third lines of the first stanza

Stroke: a word full of tenderness and aggression

and terrible consequences.


The poems show that Higgs observes everything around her, and knows not only the words to capture it, but the words to capture the feeling of something in ways that allow you to think of times in your life that you’ve had a similar feeling. I really enjoyed the collection, and the chance to read more poetry.

Visit the Modjaji Books website here

Follow them on twitter here

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Book 4 – Strange Fruit – Helen Moffett

Helen Moffett - Strange Fruit

Helen Moffett – Strange Fruit

One of the benefits of Metrorail’s delays and break downs is more reading time on the way to work. I’m only in the second month of this project and I’m already behind on publishing the pieces on the books that I’ve read.

Books still to be reviewed

Books still to be reviewed

That pile doesn’t even include this current one, or Gemsquash Tokoloshe which I finished two weeks ago.

Helen Moffett’s collection of poetry Strange Fruit took me a train ride to read one morning in September, but it has sat with me ever since. The poems are vivid and powerful and cover a wide range of topics including fertility, sex, relationships with parents, and the way that personalities change when travelling.

I only started reading and writing poetry this year, so I am by no means an expert, but as my first ever reading of a collection of poetry I was really pleased. It was enjoyable, and easy and I think that my mistake in the past has been to read poetry that wasn’t written by a woman. J That’s too simple, but it is interesting to read feminist poetry dealing with themes I found interesting and could relate to. Moffett also has a great sense of humour, which comes through in her descriptions of courtship and sex.

The title poem Strange Fruit was definitely one of my favourites, along with the poem about waking up early with her mother. I think so often in films and popular culture we are presented with images of women as simple, flat characters who don’t have any other goal than finding a life partner or losing some weight. Strange Fruit reminds us that women are more complex and that their character is certainly not just skin deep.

I also related to the idea of a hard exterior, which she described in Strange Fruit. In my line of work (women’s rights research and activism) a hard shell is often required in order not to spend all your days despondent and in tears. I loved the image of an “invisible fault-line” as well, because that line is always there, and when people know you and have found that line, it helps to remind you that you’re not hard. That it is the world that makes you that way. I believe in celebrating the idea of ‘being emotional’ because I think it has been used as an insult against women (and to limit men’s emotional range) for too long.

I recommend reading this collection as a chance to reconnect to emotion and power.



Poetry from the #AWW14 team

Africa, African Women Writers

The AWW14

As I have mentioned before, the FEMRITE/AWDF women’s writing workshop in July this year was a life-changing experience. Look at these women!

In the spirit of promoting new and exciting voices, I’ll be dedicating a post a week to sharing some of their writing with you. Trust me, you’ll thank me.

This week, I’ll be focussing on poetry they’ve shared. Click on some of the links below. Keep in mind that all of these poems have been written since 1 August 2014. If this doesn’t encourage you to join a writing circle and keep motivated, I don’t know what will.

Kechi Nomu (Nigeria) – Other Valuable Angles and Urban mornings for people who have nowhere to go

Tendai Garwe (Zimbabwe) – The Rain has brought a curse and They are telling lies

Ritah Atwonyeire (Uganda) – I am not your punching bag

Comfort Mussa (Cameroon) – Dawn and Shut up

Florence Khaxas (Namibia) – It’s my write

Jen Thorpe (aka me 🙂 ) (South Africa) – The in-between, #Rapists is now trending in SA, Order in the Mother City, Feminist Biko