Oleander explores life’s complexities, both beautiful and poisonous – love, death, art, the aftermath of war and genocide, travel, religion, revelation.
“In Oleander, Fiona Zerbst’s lyrical voice reveals itself – not for the first time, she has long been evident as an interpreter of her private and public worlds — but yet again strongly, freshly. Her continual reinvention of the self – and self- consciousness about the frame and objects of the invention – is perhaps more fully present than in any other young contemporary poet in South Africa.”
Ever since her first collection, Parting Shots (1991), I have been a devoted fan of Fiona Zerbst’s work. With Oleander, her fourth collection, Zerbst further establishes the sense that the poetic is her metier. Her poetry draws on its ancient lyric roots, unafraid to sing or lament, unashamed to be poetry. In my view, Zerbst refreshes a tradition of lyric poetry without gimmicks or recourse to exercises in form; rather, she achieves this by staying true to the spirit of a tradition, thus staying true to her metier. I remain enthralled.