The History of Intimacy: Poems (Paperback)
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Gabeba Baderoon’s The History of Intimacy is a tender, tangled account of the heady days in South Africa following Nelson Mandela’s release from prison. This award-winning poetry collection portrays the innovative forms of music, kinship, and even self in “the new, intricate country / we understood was impossible.” Gazing at black-and-white photos from back home, a woman who has moved to the United States realizes, “Memory doesn’t come to me straight.” Conversations overheard in line at the DMV reveal the complex nature of identity. When asked to name the color of her skin, a girl confides, “It was the first time I admitted / I loved the skin of white boys.” The poems are also light-hearted. In “Ghost Technologies,” about romance in the early days of the internet, the speaker recalls “when we loved each other on dial-up.” The collection begins and ends with poems on writing, paying tribute to poets such as Keorapetse Kgositsile and Archie Markham who taught her that “a border / is a place of yielding or refusing to yield / for after refusal might lie a new country.”
Born on the coastal shores of Port Elizabeth, Baderoon is one of South Africa’s most acclaimed literary voices. In The History of Intimacy—originally published by Kwela Books—she crafts resonant poems about a writer’s beginnings, love across boundaries, and “how not to be alone.”
About the Author
GABEBA BADEROON is the author of three poetry collections, including A hundred silences, a finalist for the University of Johannesburg Prize and the Olive Schreiner Award, and The Dream in the Next Body, which received the Daimler Chrysler Award for South African Poetry. She is an associate professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and African studies at Penn State University.
"Baderoon’s poetry . . . uses a gentle eye to consider all that is intimate between us, and in doing so, renders these quiet and still moments as sacred. In The History of Intimacy, she has rendered our most painful histories through an unobtrusive lens. She has written them with care, and left space and silence around them, so they (and we) may have room to breathe. In the act of listening, we render them sacred, and might begin to heal." —Toni Giselle Stuart, The Johannesburg Review of Books
". . . Baderoon’s poetry does not shy away from attempting to forge an understanding, on a broader political scale and in the intimacy of our souls." —Karina Magdalena Szczurek, LitNet
"With subjects ranging from the hidden tableaus of her personal history to the meaning and value of poetry, Baderoon’s verses invite the reader to join her on an exploration of history, culture, and the universal qualities of the subjective experience." —World Literature Today
"Baderoon’s poems are finely crafted objects of art, delicately shaped and containing rich emotion and thought. She is building a powerful body of work, rooted in Africa and reaching line after line to the wider world." —Kwame Dawes, author of City of Bones: A Testament
"An exquisite new collection from one of South Africa’s finest, most treasured poets." —Nadia Davids, author of An Imperfect Blessing