Anthea Pretorius' Haiku from the Tip of Africa is a celebration of words and wildlife

Posted on March 16, 2020

Tukkievaria sat down with writer and staff member Anthea Pretorius to find out more about her new book of haiku.

Anthea Pretorius, Project Manager at the University of Pretoria’s Department of Enrolment and Student Administration, has been part of the UP community for over 20 years. She’s also a celebrated writer and poet. Masego Panyane (MP) caught up with Pretorius (AP) to find out more about her latest project: a book called Haiku from the Tip of Africa.

MP: What, exactly, is the haiku format of poetry? How long have you been writing in this format?

AP: Haiku is an ancient Japanese way of writing poems in three lines. They have a rigorous 17-syllable structure of five syllables in the first line, seven in the second and five in the third. A leap also occurs in the poem that surprises the reader. The breaking word – kireji – is a short, emotionally charged word that arrests the flow of poetic statement and gives extra strength and dignity to the haiku. Good haiku have seriousness and elegance; a freedom and energy, but the ideal is to moor them with a fine thread of imaginative harmony.

MP: What inspired Haiku from the Tip of Africa?

AP: I love a writing challenge and haiku, in particular, has intrigued me for many years. ‘How does one tell a story when one only has 17 syllables?’ This collection is a tribute to my heritage. Having spent my formative years in the bush in Botswana, I was keen to capture these stories.

MP: How about trying your hand at writing a haiku about life at UP?

UP is the place to
be! Come: grow, learn, care, strive; make
an impact and thrive!

MP: Please tell us about your journey in writing. When did it begin for you?

AP: I grew up surrounded by storytellers. Life is made up of stories. Stories and books have always featured prominently in my life. I have a vivid imagination and I am curious about the world. I adore words and the way they are used. I can tinker with words for days to achieve a perfect sentence. It was inevitable that, being an avid reader, I would also begin writing, and when I started, I did not stop.

MP: Have you always been a poet? Have you done other types of writing?

AP: I started writing poetry in high school, but it has only been in recent years that other writers have encouraged me to consider publishing my work. I write short stories, essays, flash fiction, black-out poems, tributes as well as inspirational and other articles.

In 2017 AVBOB launched a National Poetry Competition where poets could submit poems in all 11 national languages. Two of my poems were published on the AVBOB website. An anthology followed, and a television series hosted by Prof Daniel Hugo and singer/songwriter Coenie de Villiers. The series was called Ek wou nog sê and was broadcast on DSTV in 2018.

MP: Is this your first book?

AP: I have published several short stories and poems in various magazines and in anthologies. One of my poems appeared in a special edition of Stanzas [poetry quarterly] in 2018. Most recently, a piece was published in the December issue of the Odyssey Magazine. This is my first published book.

MP: Tell us about your role at the Department of Enrolment and Student Administration.

AP: I started working at the University of Pretoria in November 1998. I am a Project Manager tasked with producing a range of publications for the Department of Enrolment and Student Administration. I am currently the Editor of the Junior Tukkie Magazine, and as such I am passionate about telling inspirational and newsworthy stories and adding thought-provoking images. I am also the Creative Writing Editor of the English Academy Review. I hold a Master’s degree in Information Science and specialised in Publishing.

MP: What can readers expect from this book?

AP: What makes this collection unique are the short descriptions given below each haiku. I did this to deepen the reading experience and to convey what inspired me – or share additional information on a specific animal. Poetry should always be read aloud, to pick up the cadence and melodic value of a poem. Visually impaired individuals can access a Sound Cloud recording of the collection via a QR code. I trust that these poems will be enjoyed by people of all ages, as they celebrate our diverse wildlife. The collection is small enough to fit into a handbag or briefcase; lovely to enjoy if you commute; and I also hope it will be a lovely gift for tourists to take back home with them after visiting our wonderful country.

MP: What are some of your forthcoming projects?

AP: I plan to release volume 2 and 3 of Haiku from the Tip of Africa during the course of 2020, but in e-book format. I am in the process of compiling material for a book on beach writing, and a collection of short stories is currently being edited. I publish my proverbs on Pinterest and my photographs find a home on Instagram.

Haiku from the Tip of Africa is available for sale at Bookmark (Hatfield Campus) and at 19 Exclusive Books stores across South Africa.

- Author Masego Panyane

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