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:
(‘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:
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.
Clowns from Amsterdam
6 years ago