Thursday, December 18, 2014

Abandoned by the muse by Bieke Stengos

Having moved in the same circles when young, the setting full of street musicians, painters and poets our lives took different paths. Bieke Stengos emigrated to Canada, studied some more and has a magnificent daughter. What is the same in our lives is that we both write. She just has a book out published by Vocamus Press, her second  book of poetry. Her inspiration is the land, the landscape, the changing season. her poetry is filled with the strange beauty of melancholy. She came back to Belgium for a brief time and thus salon 12b invited her and the other poets present for a reading: Lucienne Stassaerts, who read impressive poems from work in progress: Souvenirs part II, Frank De Vos, Silent Bear, myself.
One poem by Bieke: 
When I dream you into being
I find myself lost in a fog-invaded forest
Of glimmering naked trees
That rise
from the blue-white snow
cold like your body
Before heat devoured it

I search for a place to breathe freely
But I get lost
In the press of your lips
Against the stretched skin of time
And the memory of you fading
Like a melting negative
Of a city with no sun
Where streets run dead into low walls

When I open my eyes
To a black line of upright trees
I vanish from sight
Translation nto Dutch for whom needs it:

Als ik je tot leven droom
Verlies ik mezelf
In een nevel doordesemd bos
Van glimend naakte bomen
Die oprijzen
Uit blauwwitte sneeuw
Koud als je lichaam
Voor de hitte het verslond

Ik zoek een plek om vrij te ademen
Maar verlies mijzelf
In de druk van je lippen
Tegen de gespannen huid van de tijd
En de herinnering aan jou vervaagt
Als een smeltend negatief
Van een stad zonder zon
Waar straten dood lopen op lage muren

Wanneer ik mijn ogen open
Op een zwarte rij loodrechte bomen
Verdwijn ik uit het zicht

Monday, December 15, 2014

The movie 'Coming home'

Last night with a friend, in my festively lit town, we enjoyed a nice sashimi dinner: excellent raw fish, healthy and delicious. After green tea ice cream and white sesame ice cream, we saw in my preferred movie theater 'Cartoons' the movie Coming home. The story about love, guilt and grace is set in China. The father was a dissident and ended up for 30 years in jail. The daughter grew up under the so called "Cultural Revolution". She is a great and ambitious dancer and will do anything to secure the lead role, even betraying her father. The mother is a professor, loving and missing her husband. Finally a date is set for his return and then the movie turns into the sadness of dementia. She doesn't recognize her husband and for the betrayal by her daughter, she has chased her off. The husband, an intelligent, kind and compassionate man, comes up with ways to try and make his wife recognize him, which happens just one fleeting moment. He reads the letters he wrote but could send from jail to her... So he becomes the 'letter reader', he tunes the piano and he is the piano tuner. The daughter confesses it was her who betrayed him... He said I knew. It is all right... He knew what the cultural revolution did to people. He finally writes a letter asking the mother to let her daughter stay with her again... so that she can take care of her. The father becomes an accepted presence in whatever role it is that day. It is a beautiful and sad movie. I shed a few tears for my mother who passed away in February with dementia.

So with the beauty and understanding coming from art, I try to live my life to the fullest. I wish you all a beautiful end of year season.... May it be Hanukkah, Christmas, or a family fest... May there be peace, food, health and beauty for all.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Poetry has been an important factor in my life. I always read a lot, beginning with stories three book a week from the local library. When I had read everything in my age group for girls, the librarian refused to give me boys books or books above my age. I was devastated. Undaunted I roamed my mothers library, most were in Signet Pocketbooks, in English, whereas I had learned to read and write in Dutch. I felt hungry, actually starved all the time. I had Cinderella, a Disney book, the now politically incorrect, Little Black Sambo and a German book "Struwels Peter, an educational book with examples of what not to do... I was looking and looking for something else. I kept a slim notebook with quotes I came about or an occasional poem. I remember the first quote I noted was: No man is an island. "Man" then already meaning human to me and thus including my young self. And then one day at secondary school, there it was, a dark poem, I did not understand by the Dutch poet Hendrik Marsman:

Salto mortale
(‘Variété’, 6e acte)

 Ik zelf maakte, van trapeze
zwevend naar trapeze, den duizelingwekkenden
en in de ondeelbare eeuwigheid
dier seconde, bliksemde ergens

 - beneden mij? boven mij?
aan welken kant en in welk heelal?
de laatste regen der sterren voorbij

nu flikkert mijn leven mijn lichaam uit.
de eeuwigheid fluit in een kogel voorbij.

 (Kiriloff, Kiriloff in de Daemonen!)
 - ‘Vang!’ -
 het lijf vangt de ziel als een boemerang.

terwijl ik sidderend tusschen de sterren hang,
zit ik beneden - ‘hier is mijn hand’ -
de laatste acte is aan den gang.

As I said, I didn't understand the poem, yet I knew it was important to me, that it was a turning point. I had no idea Marsman had taken Kiriloff, Kiriloff in de Daemonen from Dostojevsky... Had never heard from Dostojevksy... And then I came upon this poem by the same poet:

Lex barbarorum

Geef mij een mes.
ik wil deze zwarte zieke plek
uit mijn lichaam wegsnijden.

ik heb mij langzaam recht overeind gezet.

ik heb gehoord, dat ik heb gezegd
in een huiverend, donker beven:
ik erken maar éen wet:

And that was the start of reading poetry, of writing poetry and translating poetry, and finally to the incredible Modern American Poetry course by Al Filreis: I found the course in 2013, took it again in 2014, am doing the 'modpoPLUS' and intend to do also modpo15. It is all about reading and wondering, close reading and wondering more deeply... So did poetry start for me.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Maono 2012-2013-2014

Maono means vision in Swahili. My daughter Maya and her partner Bram have worked very hard to make this project work during these three years. Maya being a futurist has developed road book with tasks all having to do with images of the future. Bram's pictures and films have contributed to the great visual aspect of the project.
The three closing days at the VUB Salle Nelson Mandela where very intense. Two students held incredible speeches about how thinking  about the future and having the exchange with the local students and artists had changed them forever thanks to Maya and Bram.
Here you find a short video with an overview.
The following day a walk through Brussels was organized with all the colonial and post colonial aspects highlighted. Interesting, even on a cold day. The buildings, the banks, the administrative centers, Matonge the African section of Brussels, we saw it all and had even a nice moambe with chicken and fried bananas and saki saki for lunch. The project took place in Lubumbashi, Katanga and also yielded literary results also as a comic strip and some paintings and lots of photographs holding a view of the future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mozert: an homage to gerard Mortier

Gerard Mortier was the Belgian opera innovator. He passed away and the concert was to pay homage to his life and work.

The first violin and the director were great, very expressive. The choir had wonderful voices. I also admired  Anne Cambier: with a reach of two octaves. The technique she has in singing is exceptional. People totally enjoyed the performances of the young orchestra and of the more seasoned voices. It was a great evening with neighbors and friends and lovers of music.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Leaving friends - gratitude

In a few days I'll be leaving to go back to my life on the other side of the ocean. It is always hard to leave friends behind. The kindness and generosity, the humanity, their wildness as Giant fans, their artistic flair... all that will be missed. Also the friends they invited to watch the movie Bagdad Café together after eating cornbread and corn chowder, a great salad and enough beer for a café in Antwerp. The chairman of all the groups, the lady who walks and walks with her dogs, the friends who have known me since 1991, my roaming friend and activist... I learned from all of you. I will practice gratitude for all you have so generously given me.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


My friends C&I and R and myself watched the the game last night. I am just learning the language and symbols of basebal, am still confused about certain actions, but have already my darlings in the Giant team. I am proud to know the bottom and top of an inning, I know the importance of the 7th game and I love Sandoval and of course the intensity of Bumgarner... I am even willing to wear a SF cap, even in Belgium... Penske, Panik These Guys are amazing... I know, I kwo I know still nothing  about this sports but it has a hook in me.
Now I even understand Sheerman Alexie's poem:

The Game Between the Jews and the Indians is Tied Going Into the Bottom of the Ninth Inning

By Sherman Alexie

So, now, when you touch me
my skin, will you think
of Sand Creek, Wounded Knee?
And what will you remember

when your skin is next to mine
Auschwitz, Buchenwald?
No, we will only think of the past
as one second before

where we are now, the future
just one second ahead
but every once in a while
we can remind each other

that we are both survivors and children
and grandchildren of survivors.