Poetry shakes the rules to shape the world of Sandton
A line by Athol Williams brings a mix of artistry, business and belief in possibilities to a Joburg pavement
The words of acclaimed poet Athol Williams have found an unusual home on the wall and stairwell of a Sandton office building.
The Oxford University doctoral candidate in political theory, who is in South Africa until the end of April, was thrilled when he was informed by Johannesburg-based company Open Collaborative City Workspaces that a line from his poem Makers would feature on the outside of its building.
The brief from Open’s co-founder and director, Mark Seftel, to Williams was simple: “I would like the words to uplift the place of work with their art, beauty and power to elevate the way we attempt to create value for our personal and collective survival.”Williams is the founder of school literacy programme Read to Rise. Makers is contained in his book Invitation, the winner of last year’s SA Independent Publishers Award for Poetry.
The line from the poem reads: We shake the rules to shape a world that boosts the crops and fills the dams and cleans the air that our children breathe as they walk through doors flung wide.
“Open wanted something that captured its business ethos of encouraging innovation, dreaming and imagining possibilities,” said Williams.
“Perhaps they felt that my mix of artistry, business and belief in possibilities meant that I would get them and produce something beautiful and powerful.”
A line from another Williams poem, Spirit Whispers (also contained in Invitation), runs along the Open building’s central staircase: Only during winter, in the absence of foliage, do we see the beauty of a tree’s structure.
Williams has been commissioned to write thought-provoking lines for Open’s other buildings.
“This is a first in South Africa, a line of poetry installed along an office building perimeter,” said Williams.