Saturday, May 23, 2015

Praying for forbidden fruit by Bart Stouten

Bart forever kind and forever the professional organized a book presentation  unlike any other I have seen and especially heard. The Introduction by Luc Coorevits, was clear and to the point and he was right when he said it was a totally different approach to writing this real novel. In this picture Bart seems to be quietly relaxing, kind of knowing that everything would be fine. It was after all the master who was the master of ceremony. Publisher Friday (Vrijdag) brought another good book out. Once home I started reading and it is quite captivating. Working for Klara, the classical radio in Flanders Bart knows the field of music extremely well. He will find new young talent as Wout Goris and Wolfram Ghesquière, a truly intimate performance with Wofram's lyrics  brought to us in a fragile, husky voice by Wout. I preferred his English ballads over the Dutch ones although those  found a way to touch me.
 Here as a surprise for the evening Bart reading from the book and young Vlad Weverbergh on bas sax intoning, improvising along the reading. I had enjoyed Vlad's work a couple of times before, he seemed as playful yet even more mature as a musician. In other words. What a beautiful, rich evening.
Thanks to all  who made it happen.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Translating The Sahara Testaments

As many things in life translating The Sahara Testaments by Tade Ipadeola happened by circumstance and coincidence. He was due to be the PEN-Flanders guest in spring. For an obscure reason he didn't get a visum from the Belgian embassy. Yet Sven Peeters who was to interview him was all prepared and asked me to translate two poems, which I did. I began thinking and thought our guest should be able to read more poems so I asked Sven if he had any more poems by Tade. I could not have foreseen that then Sven mailed be a pdf file called The Sahara Testaments, containing 200 poems, all quatrains (you remember: four lines) and a fixed rhyme scheme in the greatest majority of them. I looked at it, thumbed through it, fell for the rigorous work (although I am usually a free verse poet) and translate one more, and then an other one. I love the desert. My desert is the Mojave Desert in California and Arizona. A high desert mostly rocky, and here and there an area with sand dunes. Nothing like the vastness of the Sahara being a continent on its own. When Tade arrived  at the flat we met and talked poetry and translation and I translated a few more poems for the two performances we had in the framework of The day of the writer in prison. Too many, although they may count them lucky not to have been killed like happens all too often in South America. Working together was fun and my PEN colleagues suggested I translated the whole book.  Now it is essential to know that he was the recipient of the Delphic Laurel in Poetry. 200, two hundred poems... Delphic Laurel in Poetry is only the biggest, most important poetry prize in Africa. I am still a bit intimidated by the task, yet some poems give them easily in Dutch, others are recalcitrant and I have to be very careful with them, peeling of layer, after layer until the also become a poem in translation.
I am very grateful for the time Tade grants me when I have a question or can't find a reference. When words have several meanings, I don't try to guess what connotation he had in mind but just ask him. His response is always kind, to the point and very helpful. If I don't understand what is meant, I cannot translate it. And although Tade's poetry is highly formalized, it flows as if effortless. The grand gift with this translation is that I get to see the world and the African continent, through the eyes of a keen African observer, in a way rereading history from a different perspective. I am now over halfway through in a first draft. I'll be asking a mutual friend to go through the text with me to catch mistakes, stupid or inelegant constructions.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Struggles and solutions of an aging hippie blogger

When my new laptop came, my daughter did a great job transferring my data and explaining a few things on the way to new bliss on the new machine. So, yes a I struggled a bit, mainly with google.
I may not have found the most logical solution, but in the end found my way around to be able to work on my blog again. I have now two English spell checks (US and GB) and can start working again. I guess that when I started thanks to Fiona, who then had a marvelous, very literary blog, in 2007, I wasn't aware of the addictive aspect of this kind of writing. I have refrained to ever write about myself: there was activism, travelogue, poetry, cultural events were written about: music, book presentations, theater, films (the last one being Tierra Roja, really a must see movie!). Sometimes just musings, art, friendships... So I am wondering where my laptop will take me this time around. This kind a writing seems to be a necessity for me.
By the way, Rose Vandewalle's bilingual book Zwanenzang/Swansong is getting real nice reactions from readers. The presentation of the book will be August 27, in the literary café den Hopsack in Antwerp. If you're around come by and have a good time! The book really looks great and the kind reactions of friends warm our heart.
So this is a new start. See you soon.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Sherman Alexie translation in Dutch has a presentation date

Sherman Alexie is a very special poet. He covers a wide range of forms. From his four first poetry books, all published by Bob Hershon's Hanging Loose Press, I made choice while reading them, translating one, then another one... When Face came out I was stunned... Fibonacci poems, poems with just one end rhyme ... I never found a solution for those technical problems. The choice out of the four first books however will be published in English and in Dutch by Leo Peeraer from Uitgeverij P. October 2nd will be the presentation in the "Black Panter Gallery" in Antwerp at the same time as the presentation of Lucienne Stasssaerts translation of André Chedid. We will interview and introduce each other.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff

Whenever I stay in Chloride Arizona I make it a point to do the three hour drive to visit the Museum of Northern Arizona. That is not a punishment since I always drive the Route 66 then: Kingman, Hackberry, Seligman, sometimes a stop at Williams... This museum just as the Hopi Watchtower on the rim of the Grand Canyon and the Winslow train station "La Possada" where all build by Mary Jane Colter. She used natural materials and thus kept in tone and feeling with the surroundings. her buildings always make me feel good... The collection of the Museum of Northern Arizona is fantastic and I always find books in the museum shop.
Now this museum has been awarded the 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library service. One cannot get a higher honor for libraries and museums. In the whole of the US only 10 institutions receive this medal each year.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

La Tierra Roja

I was lucky enough to be invited by a friend to go to the avant-premiere of La Tierra Roja, directed by Argentinian Diego Marinez Vignatti. The male lead was Geert Van Rampelberg and the female lead Eugenia Ramirez. Geert Van Rampelberg is Belgian. He was invited for the role for which he had to learn Spanish which he did in a relatively short time and although he told  the audience at the end that he was worried about playing in Spanish, since it felt foreign to him, just a different feeling as if some one else was mouthing what he said. I understand the lure of this movie. The main theme is how the paper industry. Ouch! As a writer I use a lot of it, printing out drafts; no I can't do it right on the screen alone:-(. The deforestation, the devastation of the tropical forests mainly done by fumigating, spraying agrotoxic substances and insecticides which make people and animals sick. The peaceful protest by locals is violently squashed, killing. This in order to be able to plant miles and miles pine trees, a softer, fast growing "crop" for which the century old trees like sequoias have to go. Having walked an a Sequoia forest, having felt the presence of history and impressed by their beauty, the subject was close to my heart. The performances are absolutely fabulous. Go see this film: La Tierra Roja is strong, it is true, it will move you.

See the trailer here

Monday, May 4, 2015

Swansong by Rose Vandewalle

Here you see the wonderful book, by Rose Vandewalle. The poetry in it spans three decades: 1982-2012. dodopres, Roses publisher since a real long time was kind enough to publish this bi-lingual poetry book. Rose is a longtime friend, loved by all and appreciated by even more people. She has a loyal group of readers and is respected by many poets.

It is always a challenge to publish a translation. When Bert Jans from dodopres first saw the book with her Dutch lyrics next to my translation he wondered whether an English version could add anything at all... Yet after reading the book through he wrote us that indeed there was this extra value of having a double reading. Knowing Rose real well and having worked together with her often, I knew she would pick up any mistake, or inelegant solution. The book is warm, a heartfelt image of family life, of the city of Antwerp, pain when her mother got Alzheimer, helping me when my mother dementia... And still the strength, the optimism, the honoring of friends, warmth in a loving relationship, life in all its aspect that is what you'll read in this book. 300 books as the first edition is a nice start. Thank you dodo-pers for a job well done, and Rose thank you... The presentation of this book will be July 27, in Den Hopsack, in Antwerp...

Al die zo mooie mondaine vrouwen
als ze elkaar ontmoeten
komt er een explosie
van hello en ça va en salut
adders van ah’ s en oh’ s
en ondertussen hebben ze mekaar
bekeken en betast
met hun vele diamanten vingers

dat spiegelpaleis gooi ik aan diggelen
en bevrijd mijn kraaienpoten-ik

All those so pretty worldly women
when they meet each other
follows an explosion                
of hello and ça va and see you
vipers of ahs and ohs
and in the mean time they have
scrutinized and fingered each other
with their multi diamond digits

that mirror palace I smash to smithereens
and liberate my crowfeet-me

* * *

zijn vrouwen
als wolken
vliedend en vluchtig

zwaluwen doorkruisen
aldoor hun geest
ze buitelen en gieren
bereiken nooit grond

verhuld en versluierd
zijn vrouwen
verteerd door het vuur

niet te vatten
als water
glijdend door handen


are women
fleeing and fleeting        

swallows constantly
cross their minds
they tumble and shriek         
never come down to earth         

disguised and veiled
are women
consumed by fire

beyond grasp
like water
gliding through hands