Poetry Festival 2014 Reviews


mid the now quiet streets of McG
They breathe in the mountain air
and sigh ….them poets have departed

to you wonderworkers who created echoing space

Muchas gracias

Be well

Dr Dorian Haarhoff

Dearest Billy,

Well done on a fantastic event and what a wonderful weekend it was indeed :)

A very big congratulations to you and your team - I know how much hard work goes into preparing an event like this and you all did a superb job!

Hope you all get a well needed and deserved break!

Warm Country Regards

Mira Weiner
McGregor Country Getaways

Well done, Team McGregor Poetry Festival 2014.

What a remarkable accomplishment was the poetry festival. Thank you all for

the energy, thought, planning, good humour and gracious hospitality in

McGregor this weekend.

It was a delight to be able to hold the creative writing workshop at

Eseltjiesrus, where we made R700 for the donkey sanctuary.

The highlight of the festival for me was the full house that had gathered to
celebrate Bassoon Poetry. What a joy. Thanks to Michael and Wahnfried for
the beautiful venue and organisation. We so enjoyed the performance and the
positive feedback.

Hope you are all taking some time to celebrate the hugely successful


Hi Jenny

And to you, I feel should be the thanks and congratulations of the village for what appears to have been a hugely successful weekend. 

Kind regards
Mike Hancock

Thanks Jenny and Martyn for the lovely party, it really wound up the great Festival in a truly festive style. Thanks for all your tireless efforts!

M&F xx

Hi Jenny
Words at this stage seem incapable of expressing just how much I appreciate and value all that you have done to make the festival a reality. I am in awe of your energy and your passion. You are a stunning organiser and a tireless worker. And everything is done with a smile. Thank you for all you have done. I believe we had a great festival, and we can feel deeply satisfied.
Thank you so much for last night. It was a great occasion and a wonderful way to end off. I hope it becomes a feature of future festivals….
Looking forward to seeing you soon and sitting down for a post festival natter!

Hi there jenifer. I want to thank you and ur entire team who initiated and continued to present the wonderful poetry fedtival. We were ecstatic to be part of ur amazing event. The trip from cape town was worth every kilometer and every cent. We are excited to become part of ur annual festival. I was with one of my friends who wrote a bit of poetry but who hasn't published it yet. Then we have 4 more friends two of whom are sisters , tughfa hamdulay and fahiema adams. They presented their late mother's poetry at one of our monthly writer's circle this year. The other friend halima shala ebrahim is a published author and the title of her poetry book is "life is a dream." Our last friend is one of our teachers from our network circle, shaykha radia joseph. She has a collection of 40 poems still unpublished. Please let me know how we can get on your program for next year's event. Regards Thoerria

Thank you so much for having us Marinda.
We enjoyed the space and the event soo much.

Please spread our gratitude to Jenny and the rest of the organising team.




Dis 'n groot plesier, Marinda. Ek het die besoek aan McGregor en die fees terdeë geniet. Net jammer ek kon nie langer bly nie, maar Oktober was vanjaar die malste, malste maand. ;-)

Baie dankie vir die gasvryheid en lekker akkommodasie. 

Hartlike groete

Dear Jennifer
Today we received this note from Douglas Reid Skinner, containing a wonderfully worded compliment for you.
We are passing it on in the hope that it will brighten your day and give your ego a little boost during your well-earned ‘recovery period.’
Your skills and hard work were so much appreciated by all.
Many thanks from us, too….  We cannot say it as beautifully, but we mean it just as sincerely.
Best regards from
Bill & Kristina

Dear Bill & Kristina

Well, it was serendipity that brought me to your door, and the guiding hand of Jennifer Johnson (who, I suspect, could organise expeditions to the South Pole if so required). So, I have her to thank for billeting me with you and you to thank for all of your warmth and kindness, generosity and inclusiveness, which was a major part of a most enjoyable stay in McGregor. It would be a fine thing if our paths crossed again and if, in your peregrinations across the hemispheres, you ever feel like taking a breather in London, you know who to contact.

That bit of dance was quite superb and I'll pass it on to Hils immediately; I'm sure she'll enjoy it.

Very best wishes

Hello Jennifer
Thank you so much for hosting us and your wonderful hospitality!

All the best,

Justin and Tracey

Hi Jenny,

This morning I thought I will have the whole day to write about this amazing event but the amazing event just went on with poets and people walking into Villagers and share and sing. My voice kept.

My stukkie skryf ek in Afrikaans....op Amy Kaye se aanbeveling.

McGregor voel van oggend soos 'n Mark Chagall skildery, die dorpie rus onder en ons mense hang aan strikkies woorde wat die hele hemelruim vul. Ons bene is blink geswel maar ons harte nog voller van al die heerlike dinge wat ons kon deel. As ek vandag 'n hemel kon kies, was McGregor hierdie naweek hemel. Al die Eer aan Hom wat in elkeen van ons woon.

Dankie vir al julle harde werk, sal nog vir elkeen van julle 'n liedjie wou sing.


Die singende van der Colff Familie.

It took some time. To pick up all the pieces. Of myself. Splattered all over Caritas- after listening to Ian McCallum.

I decided to apply his method of observing the Wild. I watched. I listened. I tried not to get eaten.
Everywhere I turned, every event i went to watch, to listen – brilliance! Such diversity I was satisfied in ways I am still digesting.

Thank you.

These two words sound so bland now. After a weekend where Words dangle from tree tops. Swaying underneath duck bottoms. I even found one in the crumbly crust of my chocolate nemesis.

Billy, Jennifer and to the entire committee and village : Thank You. The Festival was Scrumptious!

Ansa Smit.

Dear Jennifer,
Just to say thank you very much to you and your team for making the Poetry festival such a happy and exciting experience. I enjoyed all the sessions I attended and only wished that I could have attended more. Thank you too for organising a mechanic for my car. I must apologise. I did not get your message until it was too late. I am very sorry that the poor man went all the way to Green Gables for nothing.

Kindest Regards,

Dear Jennifer and your team

Many thanks to you all for the wonderfully organised festival. It was so richly varied and entertaining and McGregor certainly put on a good garden show for us!

Warm wishes

Thanks to all for organising this event.  I was so happy to be able to be there for it again this year and could see from the numbers that it must have been a great success!

We had a wonderful time and some of the readings were really inspirational and entertaining.

Something I really missed from last year was Carol's 'open mike' nights... I will never forget it from last year.  It was so awesome to listen to poets off the street, each giving their little contribution for the audience to contemplate and enjoy.    Unfortunately I found that the Whiskey pub event just wasn't anywhere near the same.

We also tried to attend the pavement poetry session, however, no one was there at the time it was scheduled for (although we did arrive towards the end, maybe she left early?)

Another bit of feedback is that this year I was looking forward to the Poetry Fest being in winter, it is such a perfect event for winter when not much else is going on.  No matter what season it is held in I will most definitely not miss it each year, however, I just wanted to mention that winter is also great!

Please do not take this email as criticism.  I simply thought to share some feedback with you and want to again say thank you for a wonderful event that I look forward to each year and which I hope will grow from strength to strength.

Keep up the great work and thank you so much!!  Can't wait for next year!

Some ideas for next year to add a bit of spice? (obviously not discontinuing anything that you offered this and last year, just adding to it!):

·      poetry 'slam' event/competition?
·      short performance poetry sessions (e.g. favourite (short) snippets from Shakespeare?)
·      poetry in music - local musicians, the poetry that is their music (even Jack Parow is a poet!)
·      hopefully carol's open mike nights will be back!



Dear Jennifer,

Thank you very much for your email. Yes it is going well in Stanford; taking it slow and restful. I do miss the lovely atmosphere of McGregor though. What a perfect little town with just the right ingredients to have sprouted a Poetry Festival - you are amazing!

Thanks for letting me know about your meeting and much appreciated that you could accommodate my expectation. 

I hope in general that the Festival was a success all round and that it will grow strong and resilient and stand on the SA events calender as an event not to be missed! It is already there (-*

Warmest regards,


Hi Jennifer

Thanks for your email and the great news of the R500 from Wahnfried donations  (which I'll redirect to the Rotary club to support their local community projects). 

Montagu Acappella had a lovely time in McGregor.  Many singers stayed on to have lunch in town, whilst my partner and I attended 3 very diverse but fascinating festival events and got back to Montagu at 8 pm.  I have put a comment on the Facebook page saying how interesting, and well organised and presented the Festival was.  You must have worked terribly hard to ensure that everything ran so smoothly.  Congrats.  

Hope you are happy with the numbers that attended and the support given to the Festival by both locals and visitors.  I imagine you learn a lot from each Festival of what (not) to do next time round.  If I could offer some feedback here ... could the programme clearly state if the poetry readings will be in English or Afrikaans or both.  Also, could you allow, say, a 15 minute gap between events (at Temenos, and beyond) so that people have the chance to file out of one venue and still arrive in time for the next event.

I also hope we might have the chance to perform at next year's Festival.

Yes, I'll certainly take down any festival posters I see around Montagu.

Again, hearty congratulations on a magnificently arranged Festival.  Methinks you might want to treat yourself to a nice relaxing massage or two!!
Kind regards

Dear Jenny

Thank you so much not just for inviting me and Beaty to this year’s festival, but for working on the cause of poetry with such love, devotion and efficiency.  I was so impressed by the range of voices and events.  I really hope that funding comes in to make 2016 the third year of the McGregor Poetry Festival.


Dear Billy,

It was a privilege and a pleasure to be with you at McGregor. Thank you and Jennifer and all your other willing friendly helpers for making it such a warm and relaxed occasion...and as for the poets and performers! Wow!

It was great to meet you, too. Tonnie and I much appreciated our chat with you at Jennifer's wonderful party.

As for coming again, yes please!

Very best wishes and hopes for the next McGregor Poetry Festival from us both,


Morning Jennifer.

Regards from a misty wet stoep from Cape Town.
I hope you are getting well deserved rest time. I received your email regarding Colin. I did get hold of him.
Here is the words of my song. I am of the opinion the words really have power when sung rather than just reading them...but i speak
for myself.

Regards and love.

                “Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there." -Rumi

om mens te wees is
aldag en gister

om mens te wees is heilig

om mens te wees
word lyf en gees
soms oop gebreuk
om te weet…

droom jy ook soms
van n land wat kan asem haal?

droom jy ook soms
dat ons opinies
vir net n oomblik
weg kan val?

droom jy ook soms
van die stilte tussen
goed en kwaad?
om die mens in n ander
aan te raak?

om mens te wees
het geen voorkeur
vir vel kleur
of geloof.

Om mens te wees is

om mense te wees
word hart en gees
soms oop gebreuk
om te weet…

droom jy ook soms
van n land wat kan asem haal?

droom jy ook soms
dat ons almal vir n oomblik
stil kan staan?

droom jy ook soms
van die veld waarvan Rumi praat?

ons almal is alles is ons.
alles is alles is ons.
alles is alles is

Ansa Smit

Hi Jenny

You are most welcome! Glad to be of service - it was an honour to be asked to do the festival printing

best rgds

Dear Jennifer
I’m back in a rather grey Holland and thinking back on the wonderful few days we spent with you in McGregor! I want to thank you for the great effort you put into the organization of the festival and also for the wonderful party held at your home on the last evening. That was so lovely of you and your husband to host an event on that scale giving it such a personal touch. And the food was delicious!
I hope you are able to relax a bit and gloat in the aftermath of the festival’s huge success!!
Hope you see you perhaps next year!
Love Robin

Dear Billy,

What a great honour and what a great pleasure to return to your beautiful village for the 2nd McGregor Poetry Festival. You and your team of dedicated McGregorites did yourselves proud with your slick, personalised event arrangements and your warm, warm hospitality. Heather and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves – especially as we had elected to stay at Temenos, which is certainly an inspiring, restful and holy place. I think that our reading went well – both Finuala and I had some good feedback and we were very pleased with the turn-out at our event.

Thank you for the lovely cocktail party on Friday evening – my resistance was put to the test (and failed) by your deliciously tempting snacks and wine. I had hoped to save myself for my dinner at Tebaldi’s, which was thoroughly yummy and greatly enjoyed anyway! Thank you also for the lovely youtube memento. It truly is a great reminder of how special a place McGregor is and what wonderful people live there.  But above all, thank you for being the passionate driving force behind the Festival – poetry needs more like you. Of that there is no doubt.

Kind Regards,

Hi Jenny and Marinda

Congratulations to you and the team on a fabulous festival.  All the people I’ve spoken to have marvelled and Lara left here inspired, enthused and in love with McGregor!

I’m only sorry that on the back of a month of long days for a deadline that wasn’t met, although the work was eventually done, I really wasn’t able to get my head into the programme at all, and that by the time the Festival came, I was totally exhausted.  Hopefully, I will be less discombobulated next year!

First off, we all think that the Poetry Festival is a fabulous initiative, and we were all delighted to have been part of it, and will do so again.  We (Janet, Judy, Barbi, Anne and I)  kept a tally of what was catered and how many portions sold, and which we think may be helpful to you:

Barbi – Curry & Rice (Friday & Saturday) 11 portions sold and catered for 40
Fiona – Ratatouille (Friday & Saturday) 9 portions sold  and catered for 30
Janet – Breakfast (Saturday & Sunday) 9 portions sold  and catered for 50;  Saturday supper 17 portions sold and catered for 50
Anne – Tea & Coffee (Saturday & Sunday) 25 sold and was a bit frustrated because of the teas & coffees sold from the church kitchen
               Breakfast (Sunday) 15 Pancakes and lunch (Sunday) 14 Boerewors rolls

Lastly, those of us who did our usual market did about the same amount of, or a little more, business, with our usual fare, but to fewer locals who are our bread and butter (oh, all the food metaphors…..)  Judy, I know, didn’t do as well as usual, though.

When the time comes, and you’ve had time to do the post mortem, we’ve all had ideas about how “quick food” might work in future, and it will be good to pool those ideas so that we can learn from this year’s experience.

So, with all of that said, everyone is grateful for the opportunity, and to have been part of the Poetry Festival and we look forward to doing so again.

I hope that you both have had an opportunity to begin catching up with yourselves and I look forward to seeing you soon

Take care

Dear Billy

Thank you so much for your words.

I felt honoured and privileged to be part of the Festival again.
And my family too enjoyed it so much.

You have set something in motion that is deep and wondrous;
Something that certainly contributes to the ‘upping’ of the light in the human heart.
Now we all have a responsibility to keep that light kindled.

I will help in every way I can towards celebrating the third Festival next year.

Douglas Reid Skinner was full of praise and told me the Festival is a ‘treasure’.
He would also like to help; has some excellent ideas; and mentioned that he might be able to help you source funding.

Best love

Dear Billy,

Your email means so much to me - Thank you from the deepest folds of my heart. 

I am relieved that the confusion is resolved (-; For a moment I did feel quite awkard to ask about the payment.. as an artist I am not good with the business and money side of things.. and do not always know how to express about these things... especially in the spirit of the wonderful sharing of creativity and poetry.. no monetary value can be put to what has been experienced over the MPF weekend. I have been doing poetry readings as a gift to the world. Never making money from readings. (My piano recitals are the avenue of income though). When I did receive your invite to the Fest with all the added benefits such as the accommodation, contribution to travel costs and sharing of the door takings I felt rather chuffed and boosted that there was a possibility to make some extra cash to at least cover my travel expenses...  so sorry that Jennifer was in the dark about the initial offer.. and then you resolved it quicksticks with your beautiful and warm-hearted manner. Thank you for meeting my expectation regards the payment. Much appreciated.

This festival has sprouted wings and will fly now. The support, interest and passion are there to sustain it! I feel it in my gut that it will go far. I believe it will make a rich and very needed soulful impression on the calender of the arts scene in SA!

And wow, thanks for your kind wishes. I have felt such a deep connection with the Festival and you and the Poets that were involved in their magical ways and words.  I can not start to put in words what this type of event has meant for me - it was definitely a highlight of my year. I can say with utter conviction that McGregor was like a type of homecoming for me - and my poetry. A place where my voice could find air to rise in its fulness. These sacred places created for the performing arts and especially for poetry are rare. So I can only fold my hands (and feet ;-) together in a great gratefulness to you for playing such a significant part in the creating, holding and cherishing of this space. And thanks also goes to Jennifer and all the others who have been involved pulling strings, visions, emails and other comms together to orchestrate this awe-inspiring expression of poetic voices.

Ps, Guess who came to my concert here in Stanford yesterday especially from Cape Town?? Ansa Smit !! WOW! we made such a deep connection! I heard her at The Well on Sunday and i was awe-struck to the core.We resonate deeply with each other ~~ i sommer get goosebumps thinking of it ~ ~ ~ she is one powerful lady. Sho, now I am speechless...

Sala Kakuhle, stay well and big warm hug to you dearest Billy, 


Thank you’s to TEMENOS for that delightful inside of the poetry festival, so very well done. I did see it on facebook already, put on by Billy, but by email I can forward it to special friends so much more easily and quickly look at it again.

Thanks so much and lots of love to all of you,
warm regards from Edith and Andreas from BOS

Dear Jennifer

I will do my best to find a sponsor. Failing that, I will see if I can raise a few £s towards the next festival.

Might I ask what Sally-Ann Murray's email address is? I never had much of a chance to chat to her other than at the reception for a few minutes. Back in 1991, I published her first collection. (And also Joan Metelerkamp's first collection at the same time.) I hadn't seen either of them for over twenty years, so that was a real plus. I'd like to maintain contact, but didn't get Sally-Ann's email address.

I'm off to the UK again after the weekend. Until the next time…

Best wishes

Dear Billy

Thank you for the lovely email note – but it is I who should be expressing gratitude to you and to your organising team. It was excellent to be welcomed to the festival again, and to have appreciative audiences.

I feel the poetry festival is bound to grow, as you have an increasingly good mix of writers and performers, and are working to pull both the established ‘cultural crowd’ and youngsters from neighbouring schools.

Keep at it. We are grateful.

By the way: I mentioned to Dave Magner that I would willingly assist in sponsoring bus transport for a schools’ outreach initiative for next year. I will commit R1000. Perhaps other people might also step in - even the small amounts would add up and enable you to continue broadcasting the poetry festival’s energies.


My dear William (Billy)

I have just returned from Uganda … amazing.

Thank you for this warm and welcome feedback. I, in fact was the one who was both honoured and privileged to be a presenter at McGregor … believe me. I was filled not only with a tremendous sense of belonging, but with a deep sense of gratitude for being able to share with others our love of poetry. You have started something … it is destined to be an iconic event.

Much love and thanks to you and to Jennifer and the committee.

Yours aye


Attached is a poem I wrote in Uganda.    

Ian and Sharon McCallum


I am both prey … and predator
Aware! … every sense
Pricked to the signals of danger, meat, fertility
and homecoming.

I know about narrow escapes …
I have learned from my scars
the art of waiting … to see before I’m seen
and to listen.
Every shadow is a hiding place
for the unexpected.

I know about space and distance …
That fine line between flight and fight:
too far for a killing …
too close for a safe retreat.
And as for conflict … staying out of it,
Pretending to be dead can save your life
sometimes …
But there are things to protect,
to fight or die for … and
Not to do so … refusing to draw the line
is to dwell among the living dead.
                                                                          Ian McCallum

The Day After the Poetry Festival

The day after the Poetry Festival McGregor seems much as before:
People in bed until lunchtime and no-one inclined to a chore.
Streets full of the same old detritus – or so it seemed at first sight -
But on much closer inspection a different slant comes to light.

Discarded iambic pentameters, broken rhymes and – worse -
Badly fractured sonnets with – yes! - accentual verse;
And fatally screwed-up acrostics - some poet’s damaged fruit -
Lie by a badly bruised dactyl down in the bed of the sluit.

Scanning the left-outside rubbish, amid empty bottles galore
Are tercets abandoned - and trochees - haphazardly strewn on the floor;
The stanzas are no longer standing, the meter is fallen not riz.
What an eloquent example of rural Bohemia this is!

The Dadaists are deep in the do-do, and the Fugitives seem to have fled;
The Romantics have lost all their stories, but the Futurists still look ahead;
The Beat Poets appear quite defeated, sitting all glum on their hands
Whilst crestfallen left-over Flarfists have set up a camp on the Krans.

TeMENos is ravaged and pillaged, the victim of overwrought scribes
The Old Mill is drunken with laughter at Margaret’s elderly vibes.
The Overdraught, by contrast, is pristine; bereft of creative folk,
The place is sadly forlorn now - its poetic licence revoked.

But it will be back, as will poets, to enjoy McGregor again
To share more of their insights and laughter, and sometimes their sadness and pain.
As for me – that’s it, no more verses. Whilst I took pleasure in crafting this rhyme
I think I’ll shift over to free form. It’s much easier.

Steve Murphy
27 October 2014

Dear Billy

CONGRATULATIONS for organizing such an amazing event…. yet another benchmark that has put McGregor on the map.

We were so pleased to see the wonderful attendance ….it is just getting better and better.  

Well done to your whole team, they really can pat themselves on the back.  We in McGregor are proud of you all.

Sal and Pip

Dear Billy

Thank you for the lovely email note – but it is I who should be expressing gratitude to you and to your organising team. It was excellent to be welcomed to the festival again, and to have appreciative audiences.

I feel the poetry festival is bound to grow, as you have an increasingly good mix of writers and performers, and are working to pull both the established ‘cultural crowd’ and youngsters from neighbouring schools.

Keep at it. We are grateful.

By the way: I mentioned to Dave Magner that I would willingly assist in sponsoring bus transport for a schools’ outreach initiative for next year. I will commit R1000. Perhaps other people might also step in - even the small amounts would add up and enable you to continue broadcasting the poetry festival’s energies.


Thank you to the committee for creating such a well organised event of which one can be so proud. You made it look so effortless, injecting the event with so much integrity and joy. Thank you, thank you.

Big hug to all of you

Dear Jenny,

After a week I am still riding the wave of heart energy created  by the festival. I want to thank you for making us so proud of this extremely well organised event. Even more important is the way in which you do it
- with such warmth of heart, unfailing passion and patience of biblical proportions! Thank you for being the person that you are. You are an inspiration.

With much love

Hi Marinda

Baie dankie vir die geleentheid. Ons het dit baie geniet en sal graag volgende jaar weer wil saam speel. Ek het nog 'n idee vir ander produksie, maar sal jou later email met meer detail.

Groete Andries

I am delighted that the festival was worthwhile to the organisers. My friend and I enjoyed it immensely.
Marié Heese

Liewe Marinda
Net om ook spesiaal dankie te sê vir die besondere voorreg om aan die Gedigtefees te kon deelneem. Dit was vir my so ‘n besondere en verrykende ervaring – en ‘n voorreg om deel daarvan te kan wees.

Baie dankie vir die uitnodiging, die gasvryheid en die lekkerte om te kon deelneem. Ek kom weer binnekort ‘n draai op McGregor maak en sal ook met jou skakel.  Dit was vir my spesiaal om daar te kon wees en ook om met jou te kon kennis maak. Ek het net waardering vir wat aalles gedoen is en waaruit ek ook voordeel getrek het.

Mooiste wense vir. Mag dit vorentoe met jou mooi loop.

Thanks, Jennifer. I had a lovely time in your beautiful town.


Dear Jennifer

How wonderful the way things all came together for the festival--from funding to attendance! I found the Festival more relaxing than last year but that was also because I was performing once rather than twice.

I would be interested to offer a workshop or retreat. Please tell me how you see them differently. I teach Creative Writing at UWC and have done for many years so have experience with undergrads and postgrads.

Warmest wishes

Hi Jenny!

So glad the Poetry Festival was a success, it certainly looked like it from what I could see. I am continuing with the Next Step Poetry, we are now busy learning poems for Christmas. We would love to come and show you in December sometime, we would just have to work out the logistics, expenses etc... 

Thank you for the opportunity.

Best wishes