Saturday, October 3, 2015

A double act at De Zwarte Panter: Andree Chédid & Sherman Alexie

Quite a while ago Lucienne Stassaert proposed  to her publisher of over twenty years to bring out two translations on one evening. The publisher Leo Peeraer said yes and thus last night it happened. We decided to introduce each other, no stuffy professors but just two people who like each other and each other's work.
It came to be that I opened the festivities in Adriaan's and Frieda's "The Black Panter" Gallery, home to such events, introducing Lucienne's translation in Dutch: Bestaan is een zegen voor mij: "Existing is a blessing for me" a book by Lebanese author Andrée Chedid. In reading the texts I understood and felt why she  had to translate this specific author. Chedid has a personal spirituality which leads her but which also is not conform with the laws regulating the way of living together in our society. Luxcienne also abhors our amoral society and she has an outspoken humanitarian world view. Both poets always question their thought experiments in life and work. This leads to  changes in the work she does: translating, writing her own poetry, her souvenirs and she does graphic work as well. Luciennes work and Chédid works stem from the same root: a problematic past, being the endless war in Libanon on Chédid's case.

I love lines like:

I don't dare to speak of mankind I know so
little of my self

The poetry in "Bestaan is een zegen voor mij" is not sweet nor easy. Lucienne would never make such a choice. She is more of 'notwithstanding everything we feast and question in uncertainty.

And then Lucienne introduced Sherman Alexies work: "Over the Backs of Salmon". She referred to "The true diary of an halftime Indian" and pointed to the critical aspect of the book and the fact that it was censored in certain states of the USA for being too positive about masturbation...  She commented on his sharp wit and humor and tragicomic situations on the reservation. The publisher Leo Peeraer himself said that at first he didn't know what to do with the book, since Alexie's poetry is full of surprises, poetry and prose at once. Yes, it took a few years before he was won over to publishing the book till suddenly he saw the element of surprise, the greatness and depth of Alexies work.
Yes Poetry is the result of Anger X Imagination
And yes Beauty begins somewhere.

I must admit I was swamped by the people, I signed books, I probably gave some books to the wrong people. What a whirlwind of emotions.

The poems I read in Dutch are:
Last Will and Testament
The Powwow at the End of the World
Things to do (for an Indian) in New York City) : nr. 10

To Robert Hershon, Sherman Alexie's publisher and a great poet in his own right, I would like to say thanks, also to Leo Peeraer THE publisher for great translations and wonderful poetry in Flanders, Belgium.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Academia and fun

On Wednesday the 16th of September a new Knowledge Center for long term Futures was launched. Maya Van Leemput had invited two colleagues from abroad both involved in applied futures research. The name of the project is Open Time. The Open Time team consists of Maya Van Leemput, Chris De Smedt and Annie Verhaeghen. After the presentation we got more than an inkling of what Open Time Futures research can bring to you.

The program was interesting with a warm and to the point welcome by Maya Van Leemput, coordinator of the knowledge center. After that Cornelia Daheim from Duisburg Germany spoke about using creative methods for foresight in practice. There were practical workshops and I must admit I had a lot of fun of role playing and trying to think out of the box, not always simple, since the items of the day, like the many refugees who need a welcome and a place, a legal status and such in foremost on peoples minds. The other workshops were: The thing from the future, a gaming technique to think up possibilities of futures, there was Futures Wheel, an exploratory workshop technique entailing to alway look at the consequences of a change, and what that changes causes 'down the time-line'. There also was a workshop called: The four quadrants scenario, a rather popular method.
Luc De Boever, the departmental director held a warm and funny speech which touched upon the normal layman's questions on how one can do research about what doesn't exist yet. As Maya had already stipulated that there are no future facts. Thus new ways of research have to be thought off and we got a bit of glance of the possibilities. It is great that Applied Futures Research has found a home at the Erasmus Highschool, in Brussels.
It was an enlightening and fun experience with a lot of food for though. Thanks to all who made this possible.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


As part of mopdo2014, that is a mooc course taught by Al Filreis and the talented group of TA's (teachers assistants). So I was offered Bernadette Meyers who had made lists about what to write. I got intrigued what would happen when I would just start writing. This was the result.

Bernadette Meyers experiments

don’t dream
hardly sleep
do eat
       Do you have a recipe for Eiershekken
       Spending too much?
       Wind in November   -  Sun in October
Frost before leaving after mending house
Every day subjects – reading – beauty
        Found art
        Hiraeth: the longing to return to a home that never was
        Travel tomorrow Thuesday arrive on Thursday
        Las Vegas – Antwerp
        do this-do that
        Sunsets every night
Write every day
Make every word 
        Dog days
        Change the course
Write while it happens:
Make every word 
The sun caresses
the tops of the Cerbats
stretching into shadows
in the valleys the light  can’t linger
darkness there
and silence
of the soul
so it is

The appearance of workers in the desert will happen again and coincidences of meetings will occur at random, a possibility. Yes Emily we all live in possibility, should be aware and use it wisely – always to remembering to gather paradise.
But a paradise without a snake, what would have meant that to humanity? The shadows have stopped in the tree covering the air over asphalt –
This happened – just now –
Did it happen as part of a biography...

The words in a poem most difficult
Most important

The unidentified, open, abstract
This and all that remains is now

I walk this path
Coming going
Endless indivisible
Back and forth
Polder and desert


The process
Of then and now
And the road

I eliminated adjectives and I from the text I wrote, thinking again and again of 'This' and 'it'. The I gone, the text became independent, although flowing around the facts of life of the days I did the work and the essay: traveling with a small dog back to Antwerp, Belgium. My head filled with info about coincidences, chance, freedom... This type of thinking through the experiments was very liberating. Getting out of a comfort zone, feeling challenged and remembering all kinds of lines from poems studied... enjoying the task at hand.

Swansong: The presentation in den Hopsack packed to the rafters

Finally the day came of the presentation of Rose Vandewalle's Zwanenzang/Swansong came. The day before, Jean Demey who was going to lay while Viv who read the Dutch text and I would read. Of course I read the English version since it is my translation. The only thing Jean asked was that I read the 33 poems calm and sober, leave five counts between the different poems. So at the evening Jean brought his black and shiny contrabass guitar and installed himself between the two readers a bid behind them. I loved what he did: a bit Ravi Shankar and a lot of Jean, but intimate, withheld, sober as he  had told me to read. Viv is a different person she taught in the Lemmen's Institute speech and diction. She would accentuate certain words, and thus created a different flow. Being on the stage I have no pictures to show... But the audience was quiet, listened and appreciated the introduction of Bert Jans from Dodo Press and the flow of Rose's work in the music and the different ways of reading. A friend, Bart Stouten was so sweet: he explained me why my translations into English are good. He said he felt I questioned the words at a deeper level in both languages and thus would find a better match between them. I must admit I was a bit flattered... The evening was warm and caring and every one had a good time.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Reading in the Rurhort Gallery.

Reading in three languages is quite a challenge when this is in a small gallery with nice people, and when one tries to give them all something to love. The poetry read was personal, yet in such a way that it could be shared, even without the right language. I have read some poetry by Native American authors and poetry I wrote. The musicians jamming behind me supported my reading. The atmosphere was great. The old ladies were kind and seemed to enjoy themselves. The spirit of cooperation was present and the general sphere generous. Here you find the slideshow Fred Schywek made that night. Enjoy. Thanks for the good time! His reading is outstanding!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Constellation of the Lyra

The VII World Festival of Poetry "The emigrated Lyra-2015" is held in Paris, Brussels and Liège. I was invited to read in Liège. Poems in Russian, Oekranian, French, Dutch, English, Portuguese and Arabic. Al the poems of each participant ( we were 20 poets) were translated into French and Russian and published in a book with all the poets in alphabetical order. Of course there is also a real constellation of the Lyra. It can be found  between Hercules and the Swan. So we were all between heaven and earth. People came from far away: from Australia, from the USA... Each read in his/her mother tongue with the projection of the translation in French and Russian on a screen behind the reader. Two friends of mine, members of PEN-Flanders were there. Actually, it was Alhadi who had to flee from Sudan who had proposed me to the organizers and his buddy Kaptue from Cameroon of course was there too. They both are incredible performers. Alhadi reads in long drawn sounds in Arabic,  moving his right arm and hand to stress  the fact that one is reading a story, a poem, and telling it so all can see and hear it. Kaptue reads differently, rawer, he tells the story of what happened in Cameroon and having to flee he reeds as a protest, and seeing the poem one understands his feelings. Fred Schywek took a lot of pictures of the event. Clicking on this link will give you a good idea of the diversity in languages and nationalities. The event brought poets together and any time people are brought together and work together that is a great thing. I want to make a special mention of the interpreter Valéry Dvoinikov for his ease and and pleasant interpretations of the languages needed.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Sahara Testaments/ Sahara Testamenten by Tade Ipadeola: The proofreading

Proofreading the translation of the Sahara Testaments by Tade Ipadeola is as big an adventure as the translation itself. Frank De Vos was the first to make time for me and to date we have gone through the 17 first poems. Four more hours of hard work will be added this afternoon. Frank questions a lot of things in the text: for instance, in the original are quite a lot scientific terms. In English that is no problem because it stems directly from the Latin root. In Dutch one could keep the Latin word, but since the text of Sahara Testaments has a lot of names of city's, rulers, landscape elements which are typical African, and all the terms derived from Latin would make it hard for a dutch lover of poetry to read the text. So I have been checking on the right Dutch scientific terminology for these words. What do I mean? 'Onomastic totems' is a word or word combination most Dutch speaking readers would have to look up and seen the richness of Tade's language, they probably wouldn't bother to go and look it up, so I looked these kinds of words up for them and then it becomes 'naamkundige totems' and within the context it becomes clear that it is the place where all the names have been brought together so they wouldn't get lost...
An other example is 'constellation'. We have 'constellatie' but also a real dutch word 'gesternte' which would sound more familiar and to boot is a beautiful word. Here you see two different handwritings in and around the text... while proofreading.