Paul Kammies' Broken Star | Cape Town's contradictions in a poem
Paul Kammies' Broken Star | Cape Town's contradictions in a poem

Paul Kammies' Broken Star | Cape Town's contradictions in a poem

Posted on 01 May, 2024




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South Africa is known for its variety of cultures and races. Government officials have noted NdebeleColoured, Black, White, Venda PeopleSothoPediXhosaZulu, and Tsonga as the main cultural groups. Citizens and tourists know that each group has its own cultural practices, differentiating them. Many come to South Africa with the intention of exploring these different cultures. They are, in turn, exposed to the various ways South Africans live. Cape Town, a province in South Africa, has attracted attention for various reasons. A new scene of authors have centered their work on capturing the many faces of South Africa. In this article, Hypercritic hears from Paul Kammies, a young poet from Cape Town.

A city mirroring a rainbow country

The literary scene in Cape Town, South Africa, has become rich in its story-telling of these different cultures. Authors and poets have used their craft to explore and expose the stories of their cultures and their ancestors, including literary works that give the reader insight into what it is like to belong to a cultural group.

Paul Kammies, a young poet from Cape Town, South Africa, by trade, writes reviews about theatre and literature. He is also a poet in his own right. Paul’s cultural background and how he grew up has impacted his writing. During an interview, he expressed this with Hypercritic: “I identify as Coloured, a term created in South Africa during apartheid. A term that denoted those of mixed race. It has now become a distinct group with its conventions, artifacts, and culture. Colored community and its individuals have a lot of contention about the term and its existence.”

The importance of communities

Coloured communities form a large part of Cape Town. This distinct cultural group celebrates who they are and continuously fights for a better life for their communities. Paul has tapped into his culture to enrich his writing.

The author has also used his writing to fight for a better life for Colored people. “My culture, and subsequently a contested history, are important to my writing. It has shaped my worldview and gives me insight into living in a ‘peripheral’ body/community,” says Paul.

Never-ending stories in Cape Town

The South African community and the stories that it holds have inspired many forms of writing. Authors from Cape Town, such as Joy Watson, author of The Other Me, have shared stories of South African communities. The idea is that every individual has a story to tell. Paul explains, “I don’t think there’s a single space in South Africa deprived of stories. There’s a rich pool of cultures, and it’s also a very exciting landscape. There’s always something to discover; the country is forever in flux. One thing about South Africans is that we are resilient and sportive, of course.”

Paul wrote the poem, Broken Star, standing as a strong example of the presence of stories all around Cape Town.

The poem Broken Star

by Paul Kammies

I keep my bullets in a chip packet

and I’m waiting for you at the shopping centre,

thinking about how I found you in the spare wheel of

a golf mk1

precious metal bed-sheets in the summer night,

marry me 50c & tell me how much you can do,

and remind me how much you mean to me

you speak to me like an industrial machine

gold teeth and diamonds

you talk to me, in gusts

blasts, and pounds – I am your by-product

suc(come) to me,

but no,

i don’t want you in my body:

your fingers breathless with internet history and solution.

for once i can smell the love in your prescriptions

this ritual

was implanted on a speed camera on the M5;

i have continued to carry your dead blood

my body prepared for a funeral, my spirit for a birthday

let the disco lights on sale at the pawn shop splice your eyes

i can hug you and forget about you;

the bullet apostle & time – warping saint spin around saturn

and in unison I/we connect, accuse, rectify

until the bullets in my chip packet

left untouched,

are missing -.

Cape Town and its violence

The first paragraph of Broken Star begins with a line that refers to bullets being present. Mainly in the Cape Flats, where a lot of people of color reside, Cape Town has sadly become known for gangsterism and shootings. A violent softness is presented in this line.

The author describes the bullets as being in a chip packet. With a violent object being placed in one of such innocence, how are readers supposed to feel? This image provokes a feeling of sad confusion in the reader. Chips can be thought of as a treat, an act of love and kindness if received as a gift. It’s no surprise that bullets bring with them a feeling of fear and violence. Putting the two together reminds the reader that violence presents itself anywhere in Cape Town.

The poem Broken Star by Paul Kammies
Broken Star by Paul Kammies

Juxtaposing Cape Town

Images of metal bed sheets, summer nights, funerals, and birthday parties are presented throughout the poem. This creates a feeling of juxtaposition, capturing Cape Town’s reality. A beautiful city that often attracts tourists but with many communities living in broken-down areas. Paul describes his experience of the city as a writer, “Cape Town is really weird to me. Whenever I think I have a solid grasp of a concept, I always find the exception in bulk amounts. To some degree, this ever-moving, vast, perplexing, almost comedic nature propels me to write.”

Paul tells Hypercritic what Broken Star was inspired by: “A terrible night out in the CBD. Climaxes when the Engen in Gardens doesn’t have pies. You realize that someone else has your bank card.” Cape Town, South Africa, is a beautiful city, like many others, made out of lived moments that negatively affect its population.


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