Posted by: De Waal | February 18, 2010

Elusive poet

South African literary Dada in the Iziko museum

Philip Mercatori (1940 – ) is perhaps the most elusive poet (if he can be called a poet) on the South African scene. The only solid traces that can be found of him is work he published in the literary magazine Wurm in the sixties, along with Wopko Jensma, another phantom.

An exhibition of Dada literature in the sixties, in the Iziko museum in Cape Town, earlier this year, showed some of the poetry of these secretive poets.

It is rumoured that Mercatori works for Craig Venter’s genome project. He is said to be living among the Khoi, San or Bushmen people in the Khalagari, where he is tracing the most ancient human genome.

This poem was sent via an e-mail address that seems to have been cancelled immediately afterwards.

It takes guts

– by Philip Mercatori

I gutted the article by Woody Guthrie

on metaphors in poetry;

that’s to say

I metaphorically slashed open its stomach

to get to the inside –

to the crux of the matter.

I had a gut feeling

caused by my enteric nervous system,

or nabhi, the Manipur chakra,

draining blood from my abdomen

in order to load the big muscle sets,

leaving an uncomfortable hollow feeling;

a gut feeling that I would find

something I’d known before

but couldn’t express or consciously apply –

and I was right.

As Mr Guthrie wrote so tellingly:

you don’t find a metaphor,

it sniffs you out instead.

It’s a silent beast, moving in the night,

akin to basilisks, chimeras, Tokoloshe and jackal-headed gods.

You don’t see it coming,

you know you’ve been taken

when blood flees your stomach.

It isn’t often

that a poet can make sense

of blood and guts.



  1. Hello Jane

    Thanks for your comment. Sorry you had to wait a bit for it to appear. Comments have to be moderated and I’m not always able to do it immediately. A bit of a drag, but it helps to keep trolls away!

    We aren’t in contact with Mercatori, unfortunately, but we will publish more of his work if and when we receive any.
    Keep posting.


    De Waal

  2. God! I love this…..this poem.

    And that is all of him???

    What happened?? I want more.

    I borrowed a phrase from a Hungarian poet ..about two years ago…to fashion my own poem:

    “Quiet Birds!
    I haven’t changed you into metaphors yet.”

    Some things are worth stealing….

    Love Mercatori….wish you would post more of his work.

    But thanks for this one. Powerful…illuminating.

    Lady Nyo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: