The activist poet who fought the good fight right to the end

lThis poem, A Terrible Knowledge, was written by Dennis Brutus and is dedicated to the memory of Karen Silkwood who died on the road from Cimarron, Oklahoma, on November 13 1974.

Brutus, who was a prolific poet and political activist, was born in Zimbabwe (which was then Rhodesia) and grew up in Dowerville, Port Elizabeth, and is among 56 writers who have been annually honoured by the South African Literary Awards from 2005.

Of these, 43 were honoured between 2005 and 2007, and samples of their work appear in the commemorative compilation Band of Troubadours.

Brutus died at his home in Cape Town on December 27 last year.

l The following is an excerpt from a tribute to Brutus by Amy Goodman, from the online literary magazine Truthdig, December 29 2009.

"Dennis Brutus broke rocks next to Nelson Mandela when they were imprisoned together on notorious Robben Island. His crime, like Mandela's, was fighting the injustice of racism, challenging South Africa's apartheid regime. Brutus' weapons were his words: soaring, searing, poetic. He was banned, he was censored, he was shot."

But this poet's commitment and activism, his advocacy on behalf of the oppressed, never flagged. His life encapsulated the 20th century and even until his final days he inspired, guided and rallied people toward the fight for justice in the 21st century.

Brutus died in his sleep at the age of 85, but he always lived with his eyes wide open.

lThe SA Literary Awards is a nation-building partnership project of the National Arts and Culture Ministry, wRite Associates, Sowetan, Nutrend Publishers and the National Arts Council.

Sowetan has made the awards a successful part of the youth and community development portfolio of the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation.

lAn event to mark the 2010 South African Literary Awards ceremony will be held in March.