Sinking: A Verse Novella – Michael Cawood Green


Penguin 1997, Medium-format Paperback – SA Poetry – 164 pp.
A Story of the Disaster which Took Place at the Blyvooruitzicht Mine, Far West Rand, on 3 August 1964 (Being a History, Romance, Allegory, Prophecy, Survey, Domestic Drama, and None of the Above)
Sinking: A Verse Novella was short-listed for the SANLAM award for unpublished fiction in 1995 and called a ‘most notable omission’ (Shaun de Waal, Mail and Guardian, March 20 to 26, 1998, p.30) from the shortlist for the M-Net Book Prize in 1997. It won the University of Natal Book Prize, ‘Popular’ Book Category, in 1998.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation commissioned a script based on the mining disaster section as a voice play at the suggestion of Gus Ferguson while the work was still in manuscript form. Ferguson felt the work was too large for his own Snail Press, but wanted to encourage knowledge of it. The play was broadcast on 19 June 1995 (twice) with a cast of some of South Africa’s top actors.
Four poems from Sinking were included in the Penguin anthology of South African poetry, Heart in Exile: South African Poetry in English 1990-1995 (edited by Leon de Kock and Ian Tromp) which appeared in 1996. This brought the manuscript to the attention of Penguin S.A. who contacted Michael Cawood Green with an offer of publication (the work had earlier been placed with Hond Press, but had not yet gone into production).
‘The Launch of Sinking’ was a featured evening event at a conference entitled ‘The Languages of Poetry’ held at the University of the Witwatersrand between 20 – 23 August, 1997. Immediately upon the book’s release, the editors of the literary journal based at the University of South Africa, Scrutiny2, published an interview with Michael
Cawood Green entitled ‘Sinking into History’ (Vol.2 No. 2 1997, pp. 30-35). The book was launched in Durban along with Novel Histories – my academic monograph on uses of history in South African fiction – in December 1997.
Selections from Sinking appeared in an issue of Illuminations: An International Magazine of Contemporary Writing edited by Simon Lewis of the College of Charleston in 1998.
Two poems from Sinking, “The Big Picture” and “Ethics” are included in the authoritative A Century of South African Poetry, Michael Chapman (ed.), published by Jonathan Ball in 2002.
In 2002, the First Physical Theatre Company of Rhodes University’s Drama Department presented ‘She had a sinking feeling’, a dance drama ‘inspired by Michael Cawood Green’s verse novella’ and choreographed by Bailey Snyman (using ‘comedy, multi-media, and an implosion of physical theatre’) at the FNB Dance Umbrella in Johannesburg (previewed at the Rhodes Theatre in Grahamstown).

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