Henk Rossouw - XAMISSA

Friday, September 28, 2018 - 7:00pm
2421 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005

Xamissa is a book-length poem that sounds out the city of Cape Town in a joyful elegy for the city of alternate takes. Xamissa adapts the mythical name for the springs and streams running from Table Mountain to the sea, under the city itself, since before the colonial Dutch ships came –– the X of the title standing in for the multiple ways in the languages of the Cape, past and present, the reader may pronounce the first consonant.

A work of documentary poetics that investigates the cost of whiteness in South Africa, Xamissa code-switches at times into Lontara, the subversive Indonesian script that undercuts the prevalence of Dutch in the colonial archive. Through serial questions around the ethics of its address, Xamissa probes the interrelation of language, sociality, and resistance, in its bid to interrogate the archive as a draft of the city's future.

"With formal ambition and acoustic scales of mind, Rossouw confronts a past haunted by racial brutality, even as it imagines an eventual social unity and the durational 'anyway' that poetry's historical imagination is able to contain." -- Roberto Tejada

"In Xamissa, Henk Rossouw writes the membranes that thrive between the hyper-real of the culturally residual and the liminally sensed real of the culturally emergent. His artistic vision isn't borne out of the tyranny of spontaneous epiphany, but rather is carefully fleshed out through a constructivist process of cultural excavation. The result is a lived-life global poetics where the harmonic modulation from nationalist myth making to a newly invigorated drive for liberationist re-definition of 'citizenship', makes for a dazzling music of our time." -- Rodrigo Toscano

Henk Rossouw teaches at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His poems have appeared in The Paris Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Boston Review, and other publications.