’n Bloemlesing waarvan die keuse gegrond is op die afsonderlike gedigte is nogal seldsaam, hoe teenstrydig dit ook kan klink.
Per slot van sake is so ’n boek nie in die eerste plek ’n verteenwoordiging deur verse van iets anders nie. In Afrikaans het ons naas hierdie bundeling van “gewildste” gedigte op die vers af bv. Fanie Olivier se versameling Die mooiste Afrikaanse liefdesgedigte (toevallig ook ’n Human en Rousseau-publikasie).
Die internasionale Dansende Digtersfees het verlede naweek by die Spier-wynlandgoed buite Stellenbosch plaasgevind. Dié fees, met Breyten Breytenbach as kurator, het ten doel gehad om 11 internasionale digters saam te roep tot gesprekke oor die digkuns.
Bibi Slippers skryf in Beeld van haar ervaring by die fees. Sy berig dat Breytenbach in sy kuratorswoord gesê het dat die fees ’n “dans” is omdat “die beswerende beweging van poësie vooropgestel word, omdat om te dig ’n dans met die onnoembare is”. Daar was ook ’n troep professionele dansers by die fees te sien om dié tema verder te dra.
Die eerste internasionale Dansende Digtersfees is die afgelope naweek op die Spier-wynlandgoed buite Stellenbosch aangebied.
“Dis ’n dans,” het Breyten Breytenbach in sy kuratorswoord gesê, “omdat die beswerende beweging van poësie vooropgestel word, omdat om te dig ’n dans met die onnoembare is.”
Die teenwoordigheid van ’n troep professionele dansers, die dans van duisende wit vlaggies in die wind en die jolige gedans waarmee die fees afgesluit is, het egter die “dans” ook op ’n letterlike vlak die kern van die fees gemaak.
Gerdus Senekal en Chrizane van Zyl het namens LitNet dié fees bygewoon. Volgens hul verslag het die feesnaweek bestaan uit verskeie begeleide gesprekke “onder andere oor die vertaling van poësie en die rol ‒ of selfs verpligting ‒ van poësie om eties en betrokke te wees.” In ’n tweede verslag deur die tweetal skryf hulle meer oor die gesprek rakende etiek in poësie.
Verlede naweek is die eerste (maar hopelik nie die laaste nie) Dansende Digtersfees by die Spier-landgoed te Stellenbosch gehou. Hierdie poësiesaamtrek is deur Breyten Breytenbach gereël, met ‘n tiental erkende plaaslike en internasionale digters wat die karavaan volgemaak het.
Die naweek se kunsviering het bestaan uit verskeie gesprekke, onder andere oor die vertaling van poësie en die rol ‒ of selfs verpligting ‒ van poësie om eties en betrokke te wees, asook voorlesings deur die indrukwekkende versameling woordwerkers.
Rangeer is die sewende bundel uit die pen van Du Plessis, wie se debuut in 1984 by Perskor verskyn. (Sy debuut is dan ook die enigste van sy bundels wat by ’n hoofstroomuitgewer verskyn het.) Die digter se vorige bundel, talk show hosts & reality shows (wat in 2009 in beperkte oplaag verskyn het) is in Rangeer opgeneem en word vir die doeleindes van die resensie as deel van die bundel beskou.
Ten poets. One wine farm. Four conversations. Two nights of superheated words flung at the sky. Flags and festival. Translators and professors. Food and fire. Violins and mime. An audience, hungry for meaning and merriment, contestation and communication, were recipients and participants at an extended ceremony where stones became bread. A seamstress sat to one side of the stage, stitching together a cloak of connecting words. This multi-faceted spectacle of substance was a modern day miracle of tongues. Held at Spier last weekend, Dancing in Other Words was a vibrant engagement with the time.
“Poetry is the dreaming vein in the body of society” pronounced a flag adorning the walkway to the festival. Folk browsed at the display of poets at the Protea Boekwinkel stall before gathering for the panel discussions that were open to the public. The “Conversations” struck to the core of contemporary concerns about poetry and the world. Those who participated did not flinch from speaking the unsayable.
The first conversation took the form of a master class in translation. Moderater, Gunther Pakendorf, welcomed the gathering with a translation from Breyten Breytenbach’s sardonic observations of the typical literary festival where freeloading and petulance are the order of the day. Not one person in the audience did not raise their eyebrows in mirthful recognition.
Redirecting the energy of the event, he soon engaged the issue of how translation releases and replicates meaning in other languages. Pakendorf raised the memory of the forgotten poet Wopko Jensma by reading his poem “In Memoriam, Ben Zwane”. He described Jensma as “the archetypical South African”, and urged that the little-known poet be taken out of oblivion and given a place of honour for defying the conventions and practices of apartheid. “He was out of bounds. He stepped out of the country to get married to a black woman. He defies all sense of what apartheid wanted to turn us into. Wopko Jensma was ex-territorial, stepping outside the physical space, but also out of the mental space. In a grim poetic fashion, he disappeared and nobody knows what happened to him,” said Pakendorf.
Philip Larkin’s “This Be the Verse” was the subject of “Lost in translation, found in poetry”, a conversation between the Italian-Iranian translator André Naffis-Sahely, Afrikaans poet Marlene van Niekerk, and Slovenian poet Tomaž Šalamun.. Van Niekerk talked about the challenges of retaining the register of the poems in another language. She also mentioned the rivalry a translator can feel for the original poet, and how vital it is to remain conscious of one’s own agendas in re-rendering the text.
André Naffis-Sahely reflected on the value of multi-lingualism, quoting Michael Hoffman: “To speak another language isn’t just cultured, it’s a blow against stupidity”. He spoke of the challenge of allowing meaning to cross over without being entirely faithful to literal language. “Poets must translate poets in order to allow the necessary liberties,” he said. He also spoke of the “snowball effect” of translation. “If one poem is translated, more will come. It may take centuries, but it goes forward,” he said.
Tomaž Šalamun read his translation of “This be the Verse” in Slovenian, saying he couldn’t quite succeed with the rhyme. He took a tabula rasa approach, jumping straight in, and noted that in his language the poem sounded far more cruel and barbaric than in English.
The poem was also heard in Italian, read by UK poet, Bill Dodd. A vibrant question and answer session ensued with vibrant contributions from Victor Dlamini and Leon de Kock. Dlamini noted the tragic deafness of South Africa’s most influential people to the indigenous languages and De Kock said the country needed many people making many translations.
The second conversation took a differently freighted turn with director of the festival, Breyten Breytenbach, Antjie Krog, Yang Lian and Albie Sachs debating the ethics of poetry under the leadership of Dele Olojede. “Poetry is our only mother tongue,” said Yang Lian, who reflected on the need for poets to go deep. Now in “diamond country” the poet must question the reality, history and tradition. “Our language, for me, requires digging eternally inside myself,” he said.
Krog spoke of the failure of the ethics with which she’d been raised and the turmoil of morality the country now faced. She also raised the vexed topic of translation, expressing enormous concern about indigenous voices that are not heard. “We don’t translate. We discuss translation, but this art is not respected. It isn’t a job. No translation bursaries exist. Nobody cares.” She also had sharp words for publishers and the media. Reflecting on the celebrity status of certain poets, including herself, she said, “Only celebrities are marketed. I have more interviewers than readers. They all want to know what I think, but don’t bother to read what I’ve written!”
Albie Sachs spoke of the poetry inherent in the making of the Constitutional Court and the transformation of Constitution Hill. Clearly still smarting from his recent public exchange with Zackie Achmat and Zapiro at UCT over the “Lady Justice” cartoon, he spoke of the disappointing lack of comprehension these two public figures had exhibited. Sachs tried to articulate why defining the legality of the cartoon was easy but the cultural sensitivities and ethical dilemmas it raised were tricky. He said, “The ability to deal with deep tensions, to have powerful interaction and dialogues enables the unpalatable to be spoken, but the historical theme of rape is profoundly fraught.”
Krog responded articulating two ontologies that lead to “an unfathomable problem”. While this enables journalists and cartoonists to make scathing criticisms about what’s wrong in the country, there is something uncomfortable when it seems that “one is not only satirizing Zuma but all black men.” Throwing up her hands, she exploded, “Where are we? What are we doing? We’re an illiterate country and bad English is our main language.”
A question hovered, mumbled in private conversations but seemingly deliberately avoided in the formal fora – even from the Q&A sessions where they were noticeably absent. It was in this session, the Chinese poet Yang Lian raised what had previously not been spoken aloud. As the topic wound around “us”-ness and “other”-ness and the different ways that poets and politicians use language, Yang Lian spoke up. Almost as a non sequitur, he said. “I will really love to come to Dancing Poets next year when black African poets are here. We will see them and translate them!”
The third conversation, taking place on the second day of the festival, included US poet Carolyn Forché, Dutch poet Alfred Schaffer, and the German poet Joachim Sartorius, chaired by Kole Omotoso. They excavated the question, “Is the world decayed metaphor?”. Forché’s take on this question was undoubtedly one of the highlights of this festival. One can but hope that a transcript will be available of the sessions so that her philosophy can be savoured in a more indepth fashion. Her sagacity and insight, borne of her searing experiences, which include a visit to the home of a colonel in El Salvador in 1974 and her later deportation from South Africa, make for scintillating listening.
She spoke with a broad vision on many enormous topics, each worthy of an hour’s discussion. She commenced by observing the substantial changes in the country since her deportation nearly 30 years ago. Acknowledging the disappointment many feel about the failures post-liberation, she said, “Corruption is global. We’re all in the same boat. It’s called a planet. Our reality has much in common and it’s changing us.”
She spoke about the speed of contemporary life and the resultant velocity of experience that has been engendered with technological advances. Reflecting on their recent retreat as a group of poets, she said, “We unplugged ourselves. Turned off the internet. Time slowed down. Poetry does that. It slows us down, the reading and the writing of it. Poetry enables us to increase our capacity for sustained contemplation. The future needs this. Even the smallest, most beautiful poem helps us, those non-political nuggets, koans and strange moments of awakeness, they will help us survive.”
She emphasised the the necessity of the passage of time between traumatic events and their representation in literature for this to be done in an integrated way. She also reflected also on poetry’s return to orality with spoken word poets, and like Krog, who reflected on this in an earlier panel, sees this as no threat to the “poetry of the page”.
Dutch poet, Alfred Schaffer, was another contributor whose wisdom has much to offer. He spoke of the function that poetry serves, saying it is a bridge one traverses to access beauty. “You don’t go to poetry to learn about the world. You go to Twitter for that!”
On another another deep topic, Kole Omotoso referred to the travesties of Auschwitz, colonialism and slavery. He asked whether poets risk making a hero of the devil. “How does one write about evil? How does it affect the relationship between language and reality?”
Schaffer believes that this investigation can be done in poetry. “For the artist, the writer, painter and filmmaker, one has to delve into darkness. But are you willing to go there? It’s a horrible place to go. It can bring up meaningful texts, educational texts, but it takes a toll on the psyche.” Another vital and vibrant question and answer session followed with more fuel raised for many a fine and fiery debate.
South African author Antony Osler, Korean poet Ko Un, and the doyenne of Afrikaans poetry Petra Müller, joined in the final conversation. Chaired by Breytenbach, they took up the fascinating and beguiling topic of “Is there a South African Way to the great Nowhere?”. The answers they came up with were humane, hilarious and high-spirited. Müller’s deadpan account of sweeping the path below the loquat tree and her ensuing visit to Krishna, the shoemaker, who asked her why she looked so cross, revealed, once again, the poet’s remarkable gift of storytelling. Her generous wisdom and selfless telling was utterly delightful.
In a similar vein, Antony Osler spoke of his travels to the festival, charged with the koan of finding the “great Nowhere”. He said, “The willingness to be together is a wonderful thing. From there you have options. You can write a book or stand for parliament, dance with friends or iron a shirt. The road to ‘the great nowhere’ is right here. It exists around our lives, and it is our choice whether to dance it, sing it or weep it. When we open ourselves to meet the great nowhere, we find it everywhere.”
Both evenings brought splendid performances of art and music, song and dance, and of course, the poetry readings. Actors performed ritual cairn building at the centre of the space, dropping and shattering rocks, sprinkling sand and water on the stage. In one particularly amusing pageant, a woman seated in a baroque gown refused to budge, while a rock beside her was lifted easily. Soon the action was inverted and she became light as the rock was wrestled off the ground.
The theatrical mime and movement was directed by Marthinus Basson, with music collaboration under the leadership of Neo Muyanga. Words of the poems and their translations were shone onto the backdrop during the performances and, using drops of ink and freehand paint brushes, an invisible artist extemporised across the “page”. This moving metaphor brought home both the handcrafted dimension of writing and the ongoing shifty nature of representation, the “other words” that come to us from other creative sources. The temporal nature of our existence, the power of the word, the remarkable opening of hearts and hands was cause for the real and imagined dancing that ended this amazing event.
Petra Müller vertaal een van Jalaluddin Rumi, ’n Midde-oosterse digter uit die 1200′s, se gedigte en skryf sy waarom dié literêre reus ’n beskermgees van die fees is.
Rumi, een van die grootste mistiese digters, is in Balkh, Afganistan, gebore in 1207. Sy pa was ook beroemd as teoloog en mistikus. Die gesin het voor die inval van die Mongole na Konja in Turkye gevlug. Rumi het, net soos sy pa, sjeik van die Derwiese – dansende mistici – in Konja grootgeword waar die tradisie van die mistiese vervoering deur die draaidans tot vandag toe voortleef. In 1244 het Rumi die wandelende mistikus Shams van Tabriz ontmoet.
Dit is ’n moeilike vers om te vertaal. (“Vertaal” is om keuses te maak.) Jy word genoop om die prentjies of die storie te “lees” en dan daardie lesing te wil orden en oordra. Miskien laat dit nie reg geskied aan die oorspronklike nie. In Chinees sou die klanke ’n betekenisdimensie hê en elke begrip (ideogram) apart soos ’n klip tussen klippe wees – maar ook verbind in omstandelikheid, implikasies, narratief. Jy verloor die klippe se dubbelklanke in jou “vertaling”.
Antjie Krog verduidelik waarom Duitse digter Joachim Sartorius se werk moontlik vir Afrikaners moeilik verstaanbaar kan wees en vertaal een van Sartorius se gedigte.
Dié gedig van Joachim Sartorius is bedrieglik. Mens vermoed dat ’n skildery beskryf word, ’n soort stillewe wat vertel van oorvloed. Druiwe en olywe word gepars/stukkend gedruk en bring heerlikheid daarmee saam: heuning, bors- en uier-voeding, versorging en volheid. Maar dit is slegs dekor, agtergrond, sê die digter. Wat is dan die werklike aksie?
Marlene van Niekerk skryf oor Tomaž Šalamun, ’ Sloweense digter wat ook aan die fees deelneem. Ook sy werk word deur Van Niekerk na Afrikaans vertaal.
Tomaž Šalamun is ’n Sloweense digter, gebore in Zagreb, Kroasië, in 1941.
Hy het 39 digbundels op sy naam, almal geskryf in sy moedertaal, Sloweens. Sy werk is in 24 tale vertaal. Hy word gereken tot ’n toonaangewende neo-avantgarde digter in Middel-Europa. Sy gedigte word gekenmerk deur ’n dikwels speelse, surrealistiese en ekstatiese opeenstapeling van beelde, asook ’n non-deskriptiewe en vry-assosiatiewe taalgebruik – iets wat in die 60’s, toe hy begin publiseer het, deur die konserwatiewe plaaslike poësietoneel as ’n modernistiese skok ervaar is.
Volgens oorlewering het die Russies Ortodokse Kerk sy bestaan te danke aan ’n ondersoekekspedisie wat ná ’n verkenning van die drie groot monoteïstiese godsdienste aan Keiser Vladimir moes rapporteer. Op grond van hulle terugvoer sou hy sy keuse maak oor watter godsdiens die volke van Rusland sou aanneem. Hulle aanbeveling was die Christelike godsdiens, spesifiek die Ortodokse geloof
Versindaba, a collective website which celebrates Afrikaans poetry, has now made the anthology available for free online, in honour of their fourth anniversary. Soon it might also be available for download as a free eBook.
Here’s an example of a translation of one of Ronelda Kamfer’s poems, by Charl JF Cilliers:
Versindaba is a collective website which celebrates Afrikaans poetry and her achievements. In 2010 a project was initiated by the poet Marlise Joubert, to address the lack of Afrikaans poetry available in English translation. Thirty-one poets, all of whom have published one or more collections of poetry during the last five years, were invited to submit ten poems each to be translated by a panel of experienced translators, including Michiel Heyns, Leon de Kock, Charl F.E. Cilliers, Johann de Lange, Marcelle Olivier, and Tony and Gisella Ullyatt. The selection process was finalised by respected South African author André Brink, who also provided a critical introduction to the collection in a burning sea – Contemporary Afrikaans Poetry in Translation.
This anthology, which has just been published on the Versindaba website, makes available more than 170 poems in translation to the international lover of poetry, with more to read on other pages, which you can find in the index at Versindaba’s Translation.
“in a burning sea – Contemporary Afrikaans Poetry in Translation aims to address a long-standing need to introduce Afrikaans poetry to a local as well as an international audience. While a number of translated works have in recent years been made available to the wider South African readership, only a handful of high-profile individuals continue to enjoy international recognition. This anthology brings together poems from contemporary poets actively engaged in writing and publishing, whose work reflect well the current trends evident in Afrikaans literatures. We hope it will go some way in remedying the present lack of exposure and encourage future publications offering translated writing also representative of the broader traditions of historical and twentieth century Afrikaans poetry.” (From Marlise Joubert’s Preface.)
“It makes sense to compile a somewhat more representative anthology from the veritable volcanic explosion of recent poetry in Afrikaans. Inevitably, it is still only a very small sample of the rich and varied work produced in the post-apartheid years. In an image that has become current in the language, it is no more than ‘the ears of the hippopotamus’; even so, a number of characteristic tendencies and themes are already becoming evident. Even if from time to time traditional lyrical features like rhyme or balladesque repetition recur, the international trend away from metre and formalised patterns towards free verse has become dominant.” (From André Brink’s Introduction.)
Katalekte vorm ’n drieluik met Breyten Breytenbach se vorige twee bundels, Die windvanger en Die beginsel van stof. Die woordgoëlaar en oëverblinderaar is hier aan die woord in ’n bundel wat die subtitel dra: “artefakte vir die stadige gebruike van doodgaan”. By Breytenbach is die ewige verbintenis tussen lewe en dood ’n deurlopende motief en hierom is daar dan ook ’n gedig “bardo” (76) wat hierdie oorgange beskryf.
Alert! Kenyan-born Somali poet Warsan Shire has become the first ever winner of the Brunel University African Poetry Prize, initiated by poet and novelist Bernardine Evaristo. This new prize is aimed at “the development and celebration of poetry from Africa” and open to poets “who have not yet published a full-length poetry collection”.
The judges of the Brunel University African Poetry Prize, Sharmilla Beezmohun, Kwame Dawes, Karen McCarthy Woolf, Mpalive Msiska and Evaristo, were impressed by the “combination of substance, urgency, power and drama” in Warsan’s poetry. She will receive prize money of £3,000, funded by Brunel University, Commonwealth Writers and The Africa Centre UK.
Warsan Shire is a 24 year old Kenyan-born Somali poet and writer, based in London. Born in 1988, she has read her work all over Britain as well as in South Africa, Italy, Germany, Canada, North America and Kenya.
Her poetry pamphlet, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, was published in 2011 by flipped eye. Her poems have appeared in Wasafiri, Magma and Poetry Review and in the Salt Book of Younger Poets (Salt, 2011). They have been translated into Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.