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Jul/Aug 2015 Reviews & Interviews

A Book of Rooms

A Book of Rooms
Kobus Moolman.
Deep South. 2014. 104 pp.
ISBN 978-0-9870282-4-2.

Review by Dike Okoro


Buy now from Amazon! In A Book of Rooms, Kobus Moolman's seventh collection of poems, he uses the notion of "a sense place" to add vitality to every poem exploring the experiences that shaped his childhood and family history. His family, especially his father, take center circle in the poems. Moolman holds nothing back from his reader. Each poem reads like a biographical note, and the simplicity of language is clear. Themes such as family, childhood, race, apartheid, fear and art resonate in these poems.

Broken into four sections titled "who," "what," "why" and "when," each poem begins with the catch phrase "the room of..." and stretches into brief experiences captured metaphorically. Ever present in the collection is the shadow of Moolman's parents, especially his father who appears to be a complex character.

The poem "The Room of Growing" seems to center on an innocent child's attempt at understanding his father's lifestyle. The description of the scene, especially the house, presages quite a lot for the reader to speculate as to what kind of family the child was born into, the father's role as the head of the house, and the mother's silence and perceived submissive role. This is particularly true when Moolman writes:

Through the wide window he watches his father drive off every
Friday night in his
brown Ford Cortina XLE (Big 6) with blinds in the back window
And he wonders
where his father goes And why his mother does not go with And
why sometimes he
wishes his father did not ever come back

Moolman's unambiguous language gives his reader a vivid picture of the family he describes. While he stops short of providing answers to some of his speaker's thoughts, such as when his speaker says he "wishes his father did not ever come back," there tends to be need to know why and what would make a boy so young to think about his father in such a way. But the business of poetry, even in terse language, is not to reveal to the reader all that he/she desires to know. Sometimes experiences captured lead to suspicion and push readers to question the intent of characters included in the poems. This is what seems most apparent in the ending of the poem "The Room of Growing," where Moolman recalls:

And he hears the sounds of the guttural voices
knocking against the
low step into his room from the polished front stoep And unknown
things that
happen in rustles behind the locked door into his sister's lilac
room The door that
locks from her side only Things he spies through the keyhole of
the bathroom door
Holding his breath so that she does not hear him

These are memorable poems, and the author's deftness at handling his subject matter comes across smoothly. Take, for instance, the poem "The Room of Rural Teaching". In this piece Moolman examines the psychology of fear experienced by a conscious young white male South African living and teaching in a rural area. Taking into consideration the tense nature of race relations in his country during the apartheid era, he takes on a human perspective as he shares his joy at finally living the kind of life he had always imagined as a humanist. In addition, he harbors fears and ponders his own safety while speaking of his host family:

Excitement that he is finally out of his parent's home and can do
What he wants for
The first time in his life Pride that he is helping those less
Fortunate than himself
And fear that they will murder him in his sleep

Furthermore Moolman, in depicting his host family, shares with his reader the mirror of poverty that some black South Africans confront. In doing so he also focuses on the sacrifices made by the family's young daughter to accommodate him:

He does not
deserve the kindness of his hosts who carry in to his room every
night an old metal
bath (which they prop up with bricks) and five litres of lukewarm
muddy water in a
rusted oil drum they had heated over an open fire He does not
take account of how
far the youngest daughter walks every day with her squeaking
wheelbarrow and her
plastic drum to fetch water for him from the Ngwenya river Since
there are no taps
in her home Or that she is only thirteen when she bends over the
old bath in her black
school gymslip revealing a dirty pair of pink panties, to scoop out
his dirty water

With A Book of Rooms, Kobus Moolman's captures his personal history not only through his own experiences but from the shared experiences of others. His description of the landscape, neighborhoods, villages and people clearly solidifies his place as a gifted poet deeply concerned with social, cultural, and economic issues affecting his homeland. More so, his prose narrative is reinforced by his remarkable use of language that paints while sustaining the pulchritude of his childhood days.

 

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