The one time of the year bibliophiles, poets, writers, bookworms and word nerds come out to play, or shall I say literalise, poeticise, academicise, metaphorise, romanticise (Okay, I overstate, but that’s what it might seem like to outsiders) is the South African Book Fair (previously Cape Town Book Fair).
That’s where I found myself this past moderately weathered Sunday, not having celebrated Father’s Day and all…
I walk through the oversized wooden doors of one of the CTICC’s exhibition venues, welcomed by an overwhelming number of books and nerds alike, eldest sister on my left and goodie bag in my right hand.
There’s every kind of book imaginable: speculative fiction (like our resident novelist Charles Human’s debut novel Apocalypse Now Now), postmodern reads, African literature, academic books, recipe books, children’s books, poetry…
I can’t deal, so I browse through the rather lengthy programme looking for one name and one name only: Rustum Kozain.
He’s already bagged the Olive Schreiner Prize for Poetry twice (once in 2007 for This Carting Life and for Groundwork in 2014), the Herman Charles Bosman Prize for English literary work across all genres in 2013, the Ingrid Jonker Prize in 2006, the Thomas Pringle Poetry Award in 2003, the Philip Stein Poetry Award (1997) and the Nelson Mandela Poetry Prize in 1989. Phew! That’s a long list, but not even all those accolades aptly give an idea of the literary genius that is Rustum Kozain, my favourite poet, my inspiration.
My literary man crush.
I look across the large-surfaced, high-ceilinged, partitioned room into the face of who I would only later realise is Imraan Coovadia, the man who penned one of my favourite novels High Low In-between. Beside him is the man I once shared a stage with at a conference in 2011, reading poetry. That was the day we met, and the only day we ever spoke. I doubt he remembers me: a newly graduated 20-year-old at the time, who’d been given an opportunity to read with award-winning poets. A boy among giants.
I turn to my sister, Fadwah, gasping for air, a pinch to make my body aware that I’m not dreaming, anything. Was this poetically possible?
“This time I must get a photograph with him,” I tell my sister, who but rolls her eyes at my hysteria. (You must understand that for us literary geeks, seeing and meeting our favourite poets and writers will spark a similar reaction to that of a teenage girl at a Bieber concert. Believe.)
But as Murphy’s law would have it, my phone’s out of battery power and my sister’s, well that’s another story…
I drag her with me to look for an old campus friend and his friend whom we had bumped into earlier (to ask to take the pic). As we walk, he “unsuspectingly brush[es] past [me]” but I still haven’t found my friend and I refuse to approach him without something to photographically capture the moment.
“Guys, you must come. I need a pic with Rustum,” I drag them away from Dudu’s table. But once AGAIN, Murphy fucks me over, oi! Rustum was nowhere to be found.
I leave, feeling like stalking is no longer my forte.
The evening I tweet at him (@Grondwerk). Long story short: he tweeted right back at me AND followed me back.
That was the beginning of a beautiful promance (poetic romance, bromance, whatever, man!) Or so I hope…
PS. As you can see, Rustum, I was serious about Photoshop… (sorry Illana, that selfie never happened).