Wopko Jensma : a monograph, the interface between poety and schizophrenia.
This thesis is a monograph of South African poet and artist, Wopko Jensma. Jensma's published anthologies, Sing/or Our Execution (1973), Where White is the Colour, Where Black is the Number (1974) and Have You Seen My Clippings (1977) together with the relatively unknown and unpublished, Blood and More Blood deal with issues of identity relating to race and class within the context of apartheid South Africa in the nineteen seventies. These four anthologies represent a poetics of resistance conceived as an antidote to personal and social suffering as a result of the racist oppression of blacks in South Africa. Jensma's experimental poetry harnesses the signatures of jazz lyrics, concrete poetry, the avantgarde as well as African dance forms in bizarre cameos of underclass misery and racial oppression. In lieu of metrical regularity and rhyme the aesthetic experience is simulated by asemantic qualities of speech, sound and rhythmic undulations in a poetry characterised by what Samuel Beckett has called "the withdrawal of semantic crutches" (Schwab 1994:6). Jensma's schizoid discourse manifests itself as an asocial dialect with highly personal idioms, approximate phrases and substitutes which make his language extremely difficult to follow at times. Jensma's diction of private idiomatic language, mixing of dialects, the use of syncopation, ellipsis and experimental topography have no doubt contributed to the cryptic and arcane aberrations associated with schizophrenia. This schizoid versification is a paradoxical wish to protect the core of oneself from communication whilst simultaneously expressing the need to be discovered and acknowledged. This private idiomatic language reveal ordinary people driven into interior psychological spaces, as well as psychotic and surreal extremes in order to survive an overwhelming and implosive reality. Jensma's textual strategies deconstruct modernist assumptions about rationality, domination and meaning as a tyranny of power. The socially constructed self is exposed as a subject disempowered and alienated by ideologies which demand acquiescence and which offer false assurances in return. Likewise, the schizoid scrambling of the signifier is an attempt to repel the subjection implicit in rationalist discourse and to encourage an awareness of the world ideologically sanctioned by its dominant discourses. This study begins with a detailed biography of Jensma. The next chapter establishes the theoretical assumptions which inform the interface between Jensma's poetry and schizophrenia. Jensma's poetry is then systematically appraised in terms of themes, form and subjectivity. The last chapter is a study of the intertextual relations which provide insight into the context and milieii in which Jensma wrote and which permit a reading of Jensma's poetry as a discursive space in which different literary histories co-exist and respond to one another. The thesis concludes with an evaluation of Jensma's poetry as a pathological yet incisive response to the reductive politics of racial essence, cultural crisis and the vagaries of consumer culture.