Critical responses to Rustum Kozain’s This Carting Life (2005) foreground the poet’s archaeologies, geographies and landscapes to rehearse familiar land-based narratives regarding South Africa’s history of dispossession and disavowal. In this way, they render proverbially “dark” the ways in which the collection’s water and water-related conceptual grid animates affective and conceptual potentialities set resistantly adjacent to terrestrially mediated genealogies of exploitation and suffering.
By contrast, this essay undertakes a three-part analysis of This Carting Life’s poetic hydrography. It first investigates the way water mediates Kozain’s apprehension of the interplay between local and global economies of extraction, displacement and dispossession. It then examines how his presentation of pluvial and nival temporalities challenges time scales conventionally desired by the nation state. Finally, it considers the ways in which Kozain’s deployment of an aquatic bestiary for metaphoric, allegorical and material use animates more-than-human alternatives to human-centred economic, historical, ontological, and political assumptions. By reading This Carting Life “for water,” the essay reframes a collection of poetry located within the arguably hydrophasic context of the postcolonial South as an important literary precedent to a globally emergent hydrocommons and its concerns with relational ethics both within and beyond the limits of the human.
Simon van Schalkwyk, Wits University, Sydafrika, is a senior lecturer in English Studies in the School for Literature Language and Media at the University of the Witwatersrand. His research interests include modern and contemporary literature and poetry, with a particular focus on the American twentieth-century, transnational modernism and modernity, and contemporary South African literature. His publications have appeared in English Studies in Africa, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Safundi, European Journal of American Studies, and Modernism/modernity. He is currently preparing a monograph on Robert Lowell’s project of poetic translation (or “imitation”) within the context of Cold War containment culture. In his personal capacity he acts as the academic editor for the Johannesburg Review of Books, an independent literary review based in South Africa that publishes reviews, essays, poetry, photographs and short fiction from South Africa, Africa, and beyond. His first collection of poetry, Transcontinental Delay, was published in 2021 by Dryad Press.
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