Lockdown has been a challenging time for many. While some coped with the abrupt cessation of normal life by baking banana bread, or by doing crafts, Michael Weeder, Dean of St George’s Cathedral, wrote poetry to deal with the periods where he experienced a sense of desolation or loss.
Aptly titled “Lockdown, Love & Lament” (African Lives), Weeder’s latest anthology of his best poetry during this period reflects not only his own journey, as a 62-year-old (at the time of writing) Capetonian living through a pandemic, but that of a religious leader having to adapt to a changing world.
Weeder, an alumnus of the University of the Western Cape (UWC), said that while the lockdown led to a great sense of loss - especially as the church was forced to abandon the liturgies and festivities that would have taken place in preparation for Easter and other religious celebrations - it also allowed for the inner journey that gave rise to “Lockdown, Love & Lament”.
The gift of poetry, he said, is the ability to unlock “stories and incidents from the archives of the memory” in a way that allows for conversations with one’s inner self. These conversations, from the description of Cape Town as a distinctive African city, to the celebration of jazzing - a dance aberration of the tango - took place in the two months between the start of lockdown and Mother’s Day in May. Weeder said he felt an urgency to capture the “darkness and intensity” of this period, before we moved on to a post-lockdown reality.
While there was much darkness during lockdown, there was also opportunity for light to emerge, says Weeder. Sermons had to be live streamed, changing the way stories were told. But this also allowed for engagement with people around the world to “rebuild the church beyond walls”.
It also revealed the generosity and collaborative affirmation that prevails in the artistic community. Weeder posted his poems on Facebook for comment, while he was writing, and this allowed for a form of “poetry through committee”. The outcome is a collection of work that is evocative, profound and honest.
Weeder attributes the publication of this anthology to the encouragement he received from literary friends such as writer and academic, Barbara Boswell and poet and storyteller, Diana Ferris.
André Odenaal, of African Lives, published the collection. “Lockdown, Love & Lament” is currently available from Clarke’s Bookstore on Long Street.
Watch the Very Reverend Michael Weeder talk about “Lockdown, Love & Lament”