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On Days Such as This

by Gail Dendy

From the unusual opening poem (conflating birth with a car crash) to its close (an abandoned suitcase representing an entire lifetime), this book weaves its stories backwards and forwards through time and place. There is insight, sensuality, reflection, surprise, and humour as discovered through various personae – be it a tender mother, a heartbroken widow, or a male poet wrestling with writer’s block, as well as in objects such as an old chest of drawers, a bronze-age trumpet, or a piece of string. This compelling collection demonstrates technical and linguistic mastery and genuine philosophical depth. In language that is a joy to read, the poems illuminate the capacity for love, loss, hope, and passion which exists in each and every one of us.


Gail Dendy was first published by Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter and shared a poetry collection with Peabody Winner and Oscar Nominee, Norman Corwin. Her collections have appeared, variously, in Britain, South Africa and the United States, and many are held in the National English Literary Museum, Grahamstown; the New Alexandria Library, Egypt; and The Poetry Library, South Bank Centre, London. Gail has also written plays, short stories, a novel, radio poetry programmes, radio news bulletins, and academic papers and journal articles. Accolades include, inter alia: Winner: SA PEN Millennium Competition (Playwriting); 2nd Place: The Red Wheelbarrow Poetry Competition, Finalist: Herman Charles Bosman Award (Poetry), South African Science Fiction Society Award (Short Story); Shortlisted: Thomas Pringle Award (Short Story), Sol Plaatje/European Union Poetry Award 2011 and 2012; Longlisted: Plough Poetry Prize (UK). She achieved ‘Highly Commended’ in the Poetry Space Competition (UK) in 2014 and 2015 and for her unpublished novel/fictionalized memoir in the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award 2014. Long listings include The Twenty in 20 Project (the aim of which was to identify the best South African English-language short stories of the first two decades of democracy), Short Story Day Africa 2014, and the Sol Plaatje/European Poetry Award 2014 and 2017.


“Sharp as a precision knife, delicate as filigree, tender as a caress, Gail Dendy’s powerful new volume is masterly. Technically accomplished and intricately woven, the themes of love, loss, loneliness, time, childhood and aging, hope, courage and rebirth, are held together through the use of interlocking and original metaphors and sudden reversals, leading to the surprise and savour of recognition. This is the distinctive hallmark of her writing and that of the best of poets. I admire the way the line breaks and stanza breaks unlock multiple meanings. And always a sense of poise, balance – of keen intelligence, deep feeling and a sparkling imagination. Metaphor within metaphor, meaning within meaning – both conversational and penetrating, are to be unpacked like Russian dolls. So, the poetry becomes simultaneously an intellectual challenge and an aesthetic moment of identification and enjoyment.”

– Marcia Leveson
(Marcia Leveson was a long-time member of the English Department at the University of the Witwatersrand. She served as President of the English Academy of Southern Africa and is the Chairperson of the University of the Third Age in Johannesburg.)

“Alexander Pope’s renowned aphorism, “True ease in writing comes from art, not chance/ As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance”, seems especially and very pleasingly applicable to the poetry of Gail Dendy, not just an unfailingly thought-provoking and subtle poet, but also a balletomane and skilled dancer herself.”

– Digby Ricci
(Former lecturer at Wits and RAU (now UJ), and Head of English at King David, Linksfield, and HOD of English at Roedean).

“I was struck by several things in Gail Dendy’s latest collection: her rich and apt use of metaphor, her ability to project accurately into situations which she herself had not experienced (eg. male persona, motherhood) and her tight control of language. Many of the lines, even whole stanzas, read like the Imagist poetry of Stevens and Pound and Williams: crisp, clean lines evoking vivid, focused pictures. I loved the occasional, unpredictable insertion of rhyme and rhythm, reminiscent of Eliot. It was never forced, always apt and more pleasurable for being gently surprising.”

– Jeffrey Cohen

ISBN 9781990922480
Pages 62
Dimensions 210 x 148mm
Published 2020
Publisher Botsotso Publishing, South Africa
Format Paperback

(SA) Order Direct: botsotso@artslink.co.za

(International): African Books Collective: On Days Such as This