Co-Founder and Executive Director of READ to RISE, Athol Williams, launched his new poetry book Bumper Cars at The Book Lounge in Cape Town on Thursday 14 April 2016. The book includes the poem ‘Streetclass Diseases’ which won the 2015 Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award. Novelist and Poet Dawn Garisch was the discussant on the night.
Williams is a poet and social philosopher, who is currently studying Political Theory at Oxford University. He grew up during apartheid in Mitchells Plain and believes that one can reach their dreams and be free through reading and education. With degrees from Wits, M.I.T., LBS, Harvard University and LSE, Williams exceled in the business world and co-founded READ to RISE in September 2013 – an NGO which inspires children to read in order to ‘rise’ in their personal development and contribution to society despite their circumstance.
“In my poetry I hold up a mirror to humanity to shine a light on the pain we cause and also to remind us of our beauty. It is my hope that this spurs us on to greater beauty.” says Williams.
Bumper Cars is Williams’ third book of poetry and is published by The Onslaught Press (UK). In this book, he continues his project of reflecting upon the circumstances that leads to human conflict. “The free will always bump into each other, this is the very nature of freedom, but the free do not harm each other, rather they collide like bumper cars and bounce off each other, in love, and carry on with their beautiful lives.” says Williams. “How we see each other determines the nature of the society we create.”
He writes about social justice and the human condition, and challenges the thinking of today’s modern world. His poems such as ‘Beggars’ and ‘Empty Spaces‘ makes one question the social norms in which we live.
“An energy pervades this book, a raw, shocking energy. In an age when intellectual robots are in danger of taking over the world of poetry, here’s something hauntingly different, something savage and visceral and human, a cry we cannot ignore. There’s no danger of not knowing what’s going on in these poems, poems such as where to start, a straight-talking, hard-hitting, political poem of the first order” says Irish poet Gabriel Rosenstock.
Williams has also published two children’s books Oaky and the Sun and Oaky the Happy Tree – both books have an inspirational message about finding your true purpose in life and knowing the secret to being happy. READ to RISE uses these books for their classroom programme for Grade 2 and 3 learners to inspire them to read. Williams receives no royalties for these books so that more books can be given to children in under-resourced communities. www.readtorise.co.za