Monday, April 15, 2019

Resensie | Loftus Marais - Jan, Piet, Koos en Jakob (2019)

Loftus Marais - Jan, Piet, Koos en Jakob. Human & Rousseau, 2019. ISBN-13: 978 07981 77177

Resensent: Joan Hambidge

I
Die derde digbundel van Loftus Marais dra die onpoëtiese titel Jan, Piet, Koos en Jakob. Die digter wil dus hiermee die argetipiese wêreld van die cruiser aktiveer. Dis die Janalleman van die onderwêreld wat hier beskou word. Mans wat opgetel word in gyms (die Virgin Active), in donker stegies en op straat.

Die swart sirkel op die voorblad suggereer 'n gloriegat binne die kode van cruising, 'n judasoog, en daarmee saam privaat teenoor openbaar. Dit maak ook van die leser 'n voyeur wat op die private lewens (openbaar uitgespeel) deur die loergat spioeneer.

Hierom is daar 'n Jakob Engelstoeier, 'n Jantjie Skuinsdwars, Piet X, Jakobstaf, Piet Pixel, 'n Koos Merwe in die galery, 'n Geldpiet, Jan Bantam, Jan Balie, Bang Jan dooie Jan, 'n Ware Jakob – en selfs 'n Jakob Zuma op sy perd. En die duiwel in die slotvers oor Bloukoos.

Die bundel is 'n mengsel van boere-idiome (-taal) en 'n moderne, navrante blik op die digter se herkoms. Die openlikheid van die gay-bestaan is deur figure soos Hennie Aucamp, Stephan Bouwer en Johann de Lange oopgemaak. Sonder hierdie voorgangers sou Marais dit nie na 'n nuwe domein kom neem nie.

Hierom dan 'n motto uit Ernst van Heerden uit "Die bokser" wat in sy latere bundels die homo-erotiek verken het:

Wie is die man wat roerloos lê,
wie't 'n bekende naam gesê?

Mense word roekeloos naamgegee en uit die kas geruk soos in "Heet" (51).

Die digter skep skerp, konkrete beelde wat 'n mens altyd sal bybly. Die dot matrix printer se gaatjies herinner aan naambandjies in 'n hospitaal (31). 'n Spoorlyn lyk soos 'n omgekeerde xilofoon (35).

Die gedigte is oënskynlik 'n parlando- of praatvers. Fyner kyk wys egter op klankbeheer, binneryme en intertekstualiteit met kopknikke na Eugenio Montale en Rosa Nepgen. Ook Andrew McMillan kom aan bod.

Daar is 'n behendige distigon ("Koos van der Merwe by die huis", 43) en 'n spel met die sonnet soos "Shakespeare, sonnet #1". En ekfrastiese verse met hoogtepunte die een oor Pierneef en Piet Mondriaan.

Humor is hier in oorvloed soos "Die bosveldbome van Jacobus Hendrik Pierneef" (58) waar die landskap verpersonifieer word:

tog halwe haarstyl, yl, nes meeste kuns maar
comb-over oor die verlatenheid

"Die groot digteres probeer parkeer" (15) is erg humoristies en digterlik knap, omdat metriese begrippe gebruik word (soos spondee) om die ellende van 'n moeilike parkering aan te stip in 'n 15-reëlige vers wat kommentaar lewer op die sonnetvorm.

terwyl die oggend se verkeer in sag bebriekligte enjambemente 
werk toe gly.

Daar is ágter die gedurfdheid ook pyn wanneer die Amerikaanse lover agtergelaat word. Die spreker het niks om te verklaar op die lughawe nie; net 'n pynlike gedig.

'n Slim bundel met verwysings na die cédille en 'n speelse trille-idille. Die abjekte word beskou in die geur van die naeltjie ("Jan Pierewiet", 26) en 'n vrou se blik op die fallus is humoristies en uiteraard vir háár bedreigend en fassinerend ("Jakobregop/Jakopslap", 28).

Marais debuteer in 2008 met Staan in die algemeen nader aan vensters en in 2012 volg Kry my by die gewone plek aguur (2012). Die derde bundel het dieselfde hou-in-die-maag-effek as die debuut. Onder die verse lê daar woede wat broei ...

Hierdie digter skroom nie om gevaarlike ruimtes te betree nie. Goeie gedigte is immers altyd gevaarlik; op alle vlakke omdat dit die leser moet uitdaag en ontstig.

Daar is 'n fyn balans tussen die konkrete en die abstrakte, ook tussen die konvensionele verlede en die grensoorskrydende ervarings van die digter.

II
Die onderliggende Nomine Patris en die "O name, o versugtigtinge" aktiveer eweneens Jacques Lacan se nom-du-père of die naam-van-die vader. Die naam van die vader aktiveer die begeerte tot die moeder. In hierdie substitusie ontstaan digterlike taal wat die verlies aan die simboliese fallus impliseer. Metaforiese taal het altyd vir Lacan te make met iets wat vervang word. Die gedig hier staan in die plek van verlies of ontnugtering. Of die wete dat die spreker bevoorregting geniet.

In 'n vers krap 'n man in sy naeltjie. So word die abjekte (Kristeva) geaktiveer, maar die grote Rembrandt het sy handtekening (dus sy naam), 'n R, in die naeltjie van die lyk geplaas in sy skildery Die Anatomie-les van dr Nicolaes Tulp.

Met hierdie bundel aktiveer die digter name en hul betekenisse. 'n Naam vertel iets van jou herkoms. Jy ís uiteindelik jou naam. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Interview | In conversation with Sally Ann Murray (2019)

Congratulations on your lovely volume.

1.You are a novelist, short story writer, poet and a professor. How do you juggle the different roles? And why the long break between open season (2006) and now?

Ah, clever trap. See how you make ‘roles’ sound like significant achievement, in the first question – and like lack, in the second! Tricky… Anyway, once we add in all the female reciprocities, for good measure (wifemother-daughtersister….), then maybe I don’t juggle very adeptly, after all, and only muggle by, adaptly. But look, I have become more forgiving of myself: if a woman drops the ball, I like to think that in scrabbling to find it there’s the opportunity to discover something you otherwise wouldn’t have. A kind of aleatory, chance procedure! More systematically, I’ll admit that I am a mental list maker, a virtual box ticker, and even creatively I find deadlines helpful, a way of working to task that stokes the old engine. Overall, as a professional person, while I take things seriously, I don’t take myself too seriously. It’s liberating to own the accomplished persona of the satirical clown, the provocative gadfly. A predisposition to playful curiosity, even in situations that prefer doxa and gravitas, this makes space for creativity, inventiveness, odd new alignments and lived connection. Your second question, about the ‘long gap’. So, I have several poetry collections. An odd novel. But don’t forget that writing – across various modes  hasn’t stopped, since Small Moving Parts came out in 2009. Hardly. There have been scholarly articles and chapters, several successful PhD and MA supervisions, and I’ve had many short stories published, some of them formally unusual, others focussing on difficult areas of gender and sexuality. There’s a stand-alone collection there, advanced in the making. 


2. Please comment on the lovely cover.

The image resonates with the collection. It’s a piece by artist-architect Renée Rossouw. A 2018 linocut called ‘Kabuki in Ochre’, part of the series ‘Line Kosmos’. Even the simple, geometric Bauhaus typography and the layout of the text…these feel beautifully designed but also visually experimental. At the same time, the image carries with it some of the Kabuki characteristics: not only a type of Japanese theatre, but a Japanese drawing practice that follows meditative, unplanned forms in making and drawing. The artist tries not to lift her pen so that the lines flow like life organically and without the driven idea of a determinative ending. (Apparently the word ‘kabuki’ derives from the verb ‘kabuku’, meaning ‘to lean’ or ‘to be out of the ordinary’. Very loosely, kabuki can be interpreted as ‘avant-garde’ or ‘bizarre’ artistic practice, and this sits well with several elements of Otherwise Occupied.  I think the cover image serves to push open, from the start, a potential reader's approach to the ideas, topics and methods that the poetry will venture. I love the play of black and white, of dense and open (no simple binaries); the splash of yellow from an oozy egghead, a mind matter rich and sticky as egg yolk. The sinuous pathways of thoughts shaking and snaking and waking up the mal skull. (A student saw the cover and said it reminded her of those largescale weaver’s nest sculptures that have been installed in the children’s play garden at places like Babylonstoren? Big ‘human nest’ habitats – simple and functional but wonderfully varied and innovative - designed by Porky Hefer and woven by his team.)


3. Your blurb is spot on:
In this serious, often playful, sometimes outrageous volume, Murray draws inspiration from contemporary women’s experimental poetics. The collection recognises female writers’ equivocal relation to forms of the linguistic avant-garde such as L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry, and brings embodiment and affective voicing back into the provocative equation. Yet, this is not a simple return to lyric intimacy. Murray inflects poetry’s familiar inner speech with the sounds and shapes of found materials and engaging cultural noise. In Otherwise Occupied, the seamlessness of the beautiful, expressive poem becomes otherwise under the innovative necessity of the page as an open field of multiple (mis)takes and (mis)givings. Here, a poem is a space of enactment, a process of thinking-writing and performative exploration: ideabody, lyriclanguage, innovative necessityenduring convention. And in the end: there is no subject outside language.
Please comment on how you see language poetry and also found poetry.

Let me give just a few sketchy (but I hope not caricatural) remarks.

Language poetry:
A great deal of critically-praised poetry (what Charles Bernstein once called ‘official verse culture’) has been premised rather formulaically on the lyric, even confessional impulse. A kind of narcissistic poetic selfie, some might say. The 1970s Language poets in the US were impatient with this. The journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E fostered a new kind of poetics located not in personal voicing but aligned with critical theory, a poststructural, deconstructively theorised awareness of the limits and possibilities of language as a signifying system that escapes meaning, rather than serving as an unproblematic conduit through which to channel polished little gems of sincere personal experience. Language poetry is notoriously dissensual, but versions of this poetics now inflect poetry that is variously called experimental or radical or avant-garde or postmodern, where there is the impulse to engage the possibilities of an abstracted linguistic system, deliberately breaking up received conventions of coherent self and sense and syntax and – by extension – political-ideological practice. You’ll see tactics such as disruptive form, typographical play, strange orthographies, polyphonic and even cacophonous voicing, deliberate typos, mistranslated words, visual-verbal ploys and concrete poetries, fragmentation, citation, argument, process-oriented work, in all an understanding of the page and the poem as a more projective space than lyric verse was accustomed to allow, with its emphasis on the poem as perfectly achieved, emotionally rich artefact. 
      This interest in a Language-focussed poetics has certainly enabled many new kinds of work to be created by female poets, but there has also been a sense that a L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetics, with the emphasis on cerebral abstraction and difficult intellection, has not always also respected questions of embodiment and power that some experimental female poets remain  interested in tackling, even while they want to work simultaneously with linguistic, semantic and conceptual disruption. So that has brought back into the uneasy equation the issue of voicing, affect, identity (even identity politics). 
      For my own experimentalisms, it’s not a matter of favouring either/or, but of mediating both/and. Rachel Blau DuPlessis puts it well. She writes of practising a poetics that works through rupture and rapture to bring abstraction into generative relation with experience. There are wonderful possibilities here for a poetic practice of the im/personal. I’m interested in the doubts of language, not only its confident, intimate, cultural assertions. I like to be waylaid by its twists, turns, slippages. The incoherences and messy incidentals of parole that unsettle received grammars, syntaxes, conventions. Just by the way: I do think that for the present collection my experimentalism has toned down a little and that is a good thing in the sense that the writing show innovation but it accepts the need to be accessible, rather than only a space of intellection.

Found poetry:
I’ll be briefer, here! The found poem is a notion of the early 20thC avant gardes. Think Kurt Schwitter’s work. The inspirations of Cubist citation, collage aesthetics, Dadaist found objects. All manner of urban and cultural objects/detritus, overheard snippets; clippings, pastings, shreds of phrases, material from advertising, and lifted from supposedly unpoetic/non-poetic discursive contests… Resituated in the context of ‘a poem’, and the expectations of poetry… this kind of deliberate sampling or clutter invites ‘interpretation’ differently. It demands an otherwise kind of (re)reading. It destabilises the conventional expectation of poetic utterance as emanating from the confessional sincerity of the individual heart, soul, psychology. The found poem enables a poem to find intriguing encounters with the languages of everyday culture, or with a crazy panoply of different, contradictory, digressive discourses. It’s a form of poetic impersonality, a curious dis/claiming of authorship by the poet that disturbs the expectation of the coherent personal lyric subject and oversteps the bounded proprieties of poetic discourse. I find the found poem a compelling kind of vagrancy, a form of conditional utterance that disturbs the received conditions of speech. 
      This found element is relevant to the formation of poetic voice in a mediatised cultural context: there’s a blur between exterior ‘culture noise’ and the ventriloquy of a persistent if erratic “inner speech” as poet Denise Riley calls it. She explains that a poet’s inner speech “is no limpid stream of consciousness, crystalline from its uncontaminated source in Mind, but a sludgy thing, thickened with reiterated quotation, choked with the rubble of the overheard… crammed with slogans and jingles, with mutterings of remembered accusations, irrepressible puns, insistent spirits of ancient exchanges, monotonous citation, the embarrassing detritus of advertising, archaic injunctions from hymns, and the pastel snatchings of old song lyrics”. These are forms of odd ready-made, if you will, that a poet then gathers and sifts and selectively orchestrates into potent form.


4. You address intimate areas: motherhood, children, your past  how do see autobiographical poetry?

Does a poem ever relate unambiguously to the author’s experience? Can we assume directed, unmediated representation of life? Supposed authenticity of self should really be read as a writerly ploy or tactic. Others speak through a poet’s voicing, and not in some hubristic sense of vatic insight or superior comment, but as a more quotidian polyphony that signals the difficulties and im/possibilities of simply claiming self, distinction, identity and position. All is relational. Even if the ‘I’ implies a connection with the life of ‘the poet’ (whom many readers simply assume is also ‘the speaker’), this is not a straight line; we need to allow for assemblage and dissembling. The poem does not accumulate an archive of autobiographical fact. It works through suggestive imaginative gap, more than the assumed logical coherence of the Self. So the voice in a poem may carry extremely varied valence. I may be she, she may shape-shift, and the first-person poet may be beside herself in the third person, assuming the position of critical distance that has become an academic norm. A self may be otherwise; it may be other to itself, staging an occasion of error, with changes over time. 
      To return to elements of the found poem: ‘self’, ‘autobiography’, ‘confession’: these are messy, their reciprocities oblique. In a poem, you enter a mind field, and that is not only a poet’s personal mind, belonging to the individual’s interiority and intimate experience. It’s a cultural space, noisy, marked by sedimented habits, by excessive and vertiginously careening sweeps. There is no constant Self. There is containment and eruption. Balance and inelegance. A poem scavenges selvings and selvages from all of this, absorbs them into the interior mind graffiti of volatile selves, and inviting a reader to participate in elusive, often difficult process of meaning making. An experimental poem, even if on the surfaces it is not overtly formally innovative, may be a subtle reminder of the cacophonous, interruptive speech spaces of what is too easily thought of as the singular company of self-centred lyric expressivity.


5. I love your poem on Lady Gaga. What does she represent to you?

Well, it’s in fact only one in a series of experimental, unconventional poems on different kinds of influential women artists/writers. There’s another, for example, on fifteenth century feminist writer Christine de Pisan (author of The Book of the City of Ladies) in conversation with contemporary French queer rocker Chris, of Christine and the Queens! But back to Lady Gaga. I love her protean range of personae; her skills of pastiche and parody and appropriation. My poem is not a naive celebration of her radicalism or supposed subversiveness. But I admire her performance skills, her powerfully beautiful voicing. Her art refuses to essentialise some proper female appearance. She shape-shifts; is aggressively transgressive. She cites from other artists. She performs identity to the degree of externalising and making emphatically visible the culture’s damaging assumptions about femaleness. In Lady Gaga, we are obliged to see our own grotesqueries of bodies and beauty and binaries bizarrely made into a carnivalesque spectacle; estranged, newly de-formed ... various embodiments are dragged, to flout convention and flaunt apparently outrageous possibilities.

Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl Performance Divides America

Shoutout to Lady Gaga’s stomach roll for showing girls
that you don’t need to have a perfect body to absolutely kill it;

love how Lady Gaga’s belly bag over her shorts
makes her seem more relatable;


6. Comment on the words (and the deconstruction of meaning) in the poem "Life support" – one of my favourites. 

Whew. Too much to say, really. Let me gesture. Again, this is another poem that works with found elements, but then transposes these to a sphere marked by the poetic, which a reader has been taught to associate with meaning and conventions of sense, even sensitivity. The piece insists on the performative interplay of visual and verbal signs. It works as a concrete poem, but also teasingly as a more conventional poem inviting interpretation at the level of deep meaning, even as the experiment also skitters across the surface of a normalised cultural zeitgeist, picking up random text, fluff, re-directing a reader to re-think a habitus in which self, life, identity are produced through the endless deferral and substitution of commodities, yes, but also shifting the view to the impossibility of ever utterly fixing linguistic referents. There are tensions between the settled and the utterly disruptive; between a ream of arbitrary signifiers which nevertheless seems to ‘want’ the attribution of meaning. The very placing of the ‘cushion’ shapes over the linguistic markers also introduces a deliberate perplexity in a space that can, at some level, seem susceptible to a banal legibility. (Life support? Enough. Let’s spare readers the critical theory.)


7. The title of your collection Otherwise Occupied resonates with Jeanne Goosen's volume Elders aan diens. Do you know her work?

Well, I know she’s a novelist, short story writer and poet. The author of Ons is nie almal so nie. That novel, translated into English as Not All of Us works so well with colloquial idiom, backed by sharp critique of the ordinary, of the dangerous nonsense of doxa and received truths. Her character voicing: well, there is the speaking out against institutionalised madness, and the counter-claim of othered, marginalised lives and truths. The voices debunk bullshit; give the lie to conventional pieties. When it comes to her poetry: I hadn’t known of her collection, no. It’s a marvellous serendipity, across Afrikaans and English, that our collections both envisage the poet as somehow ‘busy elsewhere’, not on call but necessarily and very busily engaged somewhere else, or with other things. The title of my own collection…there are so many angles. A poetry that is purposefully skew, slantwise, rather than paying obeisance to norms. A form of odd alternative other wise dom, with all the riffs possible, there, of difference and insight and stupidity coming into hopeful/hopeless play. Otherwise. Otherwise what? A threat? Hmm…more of an open-minded acknowledgement that a poem, in this collection, is a slippery creature, in relation both to received ideas of both lyric and experimental traditions. The words even hint at a very small room of her own, in which she is occupied otherwise with this strange but engaging body of work.

My mamma is bossies
uit haar een oog huil sy Puccini
uit die ander oog betig sy my
Snags kweel sy: Bedaar, my kind, bedaar
môore kry jy van soetpap en melk

My mamma is bossies
Ia sona molto felice, sing sy
en pak haar kaarte uit
Hoe mooi is sy nie
sy met haar hare soos pruimedante
my bossiesma met haar taai drome
en onverwagte uitgelatenheid.

My mamma is bossies 
Sy is dood nou
ingeweef in die familietapisserie
Sy jaag haar ganse strandlangs
met ’n dun swepie aan
Sy draai om, sien my 
my agterstevoorkind, sê sy
mag dit goed gaan met jou

Uit: Versindaba 2007, Marlise Joubert [samesteller], Protea Boekhuis, 2007


8. How do you see the literary scene in South Africa and the role of the critic? A very active Afrikaans scene versus a more subdued English canon. I sometimes feel that poets live in different worlds ...

Joan, I don’t know if I’m totally up to responding well here. I mean: Afrikaans literature: proportionally there is such a vast body of work that has established through a vibrant creative, critical, scholarly and publishing scene. It doesn’t look to Holland in the way it once did, and yet the literature still successfully sets up conversations with literatures and cultures from Europe, and elsewhere. When it comes to the idea of a ‘more subdued English canon’? I’m not convinced of that, actually. It depends if you insist on narrowing ‘English’ and of still believing in a canon. I’m more inclined to consider that South African English and inherited traditions have been wonderfully animated through contact with multiple elsewheres and diasporas, to the extent that boundaries of language and culture have blurred, as well as given rise to a vital online scene of literary commentary and publication. Certainly, literatures in ‘English’ in this country have grown more diverse, and old-style idea about literary and genre fiction have been eroded, as have outmoded models of cultural purity. For myself, as a writer, I’m not interested in holding to categories and separations (though, granted, for some these may still be strategically necessary). I am interested in the possibilities of translation; I value inspiration from many languages. That’s part of the experimental vitality, isn’t it, to be able to live in the protracted moment of ongoing change, and to see what can be made of this?


© Joan Hambidge

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Gedig | Joan Hambidge - My Tante Ettie



my ma se suster
was die laaste tak
aan hul familieboom.
Nou's die boom gesnoei
deur die groot Tuinier en
vanoggend met sonsopkoms hoor
ek twee duiwe in 'n boom roep na my ...
My Tante Ettie, 
met haar lang, lang grys hare
was ook 'n ma vir ons
en smiddae wanneer sy en ma
praat oor hul kinders - vol knoetse en knikkels -
met my ouma in die Altena-outehuis in die Strand,
luister ek hulle af in daardie huis op Sarel Cilliersstraat.
In hul breiwerk word die name van kinders en kleinkinders 
en agterkleinkinders kruis-en-dwars ingeweef.
En op 'n keer vra sy my openlik - soos sy was -
na my aard sonder oordeel of verwyt,
omdat ek nie kon brei of dubbelweef nie.
Nou roep ek terug na hulle, na ons moeders;
veral na my Tante Ettie-van-die-Strand.
Vanoggend bots weefwerk nog met snoeiwerk:
'n oorgang van die lewe na daardie donkerboom.

© Joan Hambidge

Monday, April 1, 2019

Resensie | Dolf van Niekerk – Legkaart van 'n jong lewe (2019)

Dolf van Niekerk -Legkaart van 'n jong lewe. Protea, 2019. ISBN: 978-1-4853-1009-9

Resensent: Joan Hambidge

In my jeug was daar so 'n lelike bruin boek in ons dorpsbiblioteek met die titel Herinnering se wei. Dit is 1966 uitgegee. Hoe wonderlik was hierdie jeugherinneringe nie wat my na skrywers se ervarings vervoer het. En my gelei het na hulle boeke.

In 2013 het Leti Kleyn en Riana Scheepers 'n opvolg saamgestel met die uitstekende titel Spoorvat. Nou kom Dolf van Niekerk, 'n gesoute en bedrewe, veelkantige skrywer, en publiseer Legkaart van 'n jong lewe.

Die jeug of herinneringe aan jeugervarings het 'n vormende invloed op 'n skrywer se psige. Die Pools-Joodse psigoanalis Alice Miller meen jy moet 'n pynlike jeug herleef sodat jy dit kan besweer. Die uwe is van mening: dit is nooit te laat om 'n gelukkige jeug oor te hê nie; om die bekende stelling effens aan te pas.

'n Legkaart is 'n puzzle. Party mense (soos skrywers) het eindelose geduld om die verskillende stukkies in mekaar te pas; ander het nie. Hierdie boek gee dan sulke stukkies weer wat 'n mens telkens kan inpas by 'n gedig, jeugverhaal of dramateks.

Van Niekerk is vanjaar 90 en is 'n kenner van en behaal 'n doktorsgraad in die filosofie. Hier is dan dikwels verwysings na Nietzsche, Dostojefski, Van Wyk Louw, en ander denkers. Terselfdertyd word sekere stukkies van 'n legkaart vir die leser gegee uit die beskeie jeug soos 'n kind wat vals beskuldig word van diefstal of per ongeluk 'n suster se pop beskadig. Hierdie sketse het my opnuut na Miller se The drama of the gifted child (1978) teruggeneem.

Hierin beweer sy: “Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery and emotional acceptance of the truth in the individual and unique history of our childhood.”

Die voortydige dood van sy moeder, 'n moeilike stiefmoeder, sy andersheid as jong kind, hul armoede, oorloë en ander onsekerhede wat die jong gemoed kwel, word in hierdie onthouskrif onder die loep geneem. Soms neem hy jou na gedigte wat jy nou anders vertolk; ander kere is dit 'n stuk Boeregeskiedenis of die Voortrekkers se manier van doen.  Daar is ook humor.

'n Mens het dus twee stemme tegelykertyd aanwesig. Die onskuldige kind wat deur die wyse en terugkykende (en vergewende) skrywer bekyk word. Van Niekerk is dus outobiografies aan die woord en wat hy nie vertel nie, kan die leser self invul. Of uit sy fiksie byvoeg.

Hy vang 'n vervloë era vas en hierdie leser moedig almal aan om hul herinneringe of memories op te teken sodat niksverlore gaan nie, om met Hennie Aucamp saam te praat.

Jy kan net wees wie jy is, en jy is wat jy word, meen Van Niekerk. 

Die boek karteer in 48 sketse en essays sy lewensloop van vyf tot twintig jaar. Maar deur die ouer skrywer opgeteken. Die dubbelperspektief van die memoir of herinneringsteks is immers bekend, tegelyk karakter en verteller. Die koshuislewe, die gespook om geld te kry vir studies, die vriendskap met G.A. Watermeyer, die meisie wat 'n blaar pos aan die ouer Dolf, is so helder weergegee dat dit 'n mens altyd sal bybly.

Die betekenis van briewe in “Posjong” is 'n hoogtepunt soos die aanhoor van D.F. Malherbe. Wie kén vandag nog die verskil tussen bo-dorp en onderdorp? Of President Steyn se uitspraak dat die veroweraar se taal van mense slawe maak?

Ons lees hoe die vader gedwing is om uniforms te maak anders verloor hy sy werk.

Smoelneukers, leiwater, vandisiekrale, skotige – begrippe wat 'n ou vergange wêreld aktiveer. Nes byname (Hansie Grootskrik of oom Johnnie Botter-by-die-vis).

Die impak van die Tweede Wêreldoorlog word helder vertel, soos die jong kind se voortdurende blootstelling aan siekte en die dood. Rasverskille kom eweneens aan bod en so gelees, is die boek 'n historiese dokument. Sou kinders byvoorbeeld soveel mog deurmaak vandag?

Edenburg word 'n argetipiese dorp. Hier is die lewendes en dooies en die skrywer se teks bewaar. Hierna keer hy telkens terug.

Memories, reminisensies, mémoire, outobiografie, selfgesprek – dis hoe 'n mens hierdie teks kan tipeer. Hierdie leser sien dit meesal as sketse; soms is daar wel essays.

Die digter praat saam: “Die ou jaar is ’n geliefde, ’n bêreplek vir die smart. En die hartseer oor sy einde is ’n bymekaarkomplek vir al die ander verdriet.” 

Of: “die sterre kry drade om.” Hierdie leser het weer Nag op 'n kaal pleingelees.

Proust het met 'n madeleine-koekie sy assoisiasies losgemaak; Dolf van Niekerk doen dit met 'n kerfie biltong.

alles keer in siklusse terug,
alle syn herhaal sigself
deur die tyd, wat was word nou
en nou is môre soos dit was ...

Die voorblad is aangrypend mooi met die jong, maar terselfdertyd ou, wyse mensie op die voorblad saam met die sibbe.

Mag niks verlore gaan nie en mag almal ouer as sestig hul herinneringe opteken.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Resensie | Ivan Vladislavić – The distance (2019)

Resensie | Ivan Vladislavić – The distance. Umuzi, 2019. ISBN 9781415210260

Resensent: Joan Hambidge

I

So word die roman bemark:

In the spring of 1970, a Pretoria schoolboy falls in love with Muhammad Ali. He begins to collect cuttings about his hero from the newspapers, an obsession that grows into a ragged archive of scrapbooks. Forty years later, when Joe has become a writer, these scrapbooks both insist on and obscure a book about his boyhood. He turns to his brother Branko, a sound editor, for help with recovering their shared past. But can a story ever belong equally to two people? Is this a brotherly collaboration or a battle for supremacy?

This is an intricate puzzle of a book by a writer of lyrical power and formal inventiveness. Against a spectacular backdrop, the heyday of the greatest showman of them all, Vladislavić unfolds a small, fragmentary story of family life and the limits of language. Meaning comes into view in the spaces between then and now, growing up and growing old, speaking out and keeping silent.

II

In 1980 het Robert de Niro die rol vertolk van Jake LaMotta in Martin Scorcese se Raging Bull, ʼn onthoubare film waarin De Niro gewig moes optel om soos hierdie bokser te lyk. Jare gelede het ʼn kollega in die Regte my bewus gemaak van die nuanses van hierdie sportsoort. 

Ek was ʼn bewonderaar van Muhammed Ali en het, toe hy oorlede is, selfs ʼn gedig oor hierdie fenomeen geskryf. Norman Mailer se studie The Fight (1975) is ʼn belangrike studie oor die 1974 geveg tussen Ali en George Foreman in Kinshasa: die sogenaamde “Rumble in the Jungle”.  Mailer, sélf ʼn bokser op sy dag wat ook nie geskroom het om sy vuiste vir ʼn letterkundige opponent te lig nie, is ʼn moet vir die leser van Ivan Vladislavić se briljante roman The Distance.

III

Joe is ʼn skrywer wat terugkyk op sy jeug en sy notaboeke – en sy aantekeninge deurgaan. Sy bewondering (en obsessie) met Cassius Clay (Ali) vorm die basis vir sy sieninge van skryf. Net soos De Niro vir jare daarna gesukkel het om gewig af te skud na die vertolking van sy rol as Jake, kyk die ouer skrywer terug op sy jeug wat hy nie kan afskud nie.

Trouens, die skrywer soek na ʼn “punchy metaphor” vir die skryfaksie wat die leser soos ʼn linkerhou op sy kaak moet tref (74). En: “I go on writing, like a slugger who isn't smart enough to stay in his corner when he's beaten, who wants to go the distance” (269). Die kommentaar van Branko en die hulp wat hy gegee het, word kantlyn-kommentaar op sy broer se manuskrip. Hiermee dan die vraag: wat behoort aan wié in die skryfproses?

Die broer is bewus van sy broer se skaduboks wanneer hy gaan slaap. (“Ja, I say, float like a bumblebee,” 10).

Die gebruik van ʼn boks vol knipsels en die stories róndom die Grootbek Bokser is ʼn belangrike gegewe. Nie alleen in die skaduboks wat die skryfproses impliseer nie, maar deur die gebruik van hierdie komplekse ikoon, word die apartheidsjare van Suid-Afrika opgeroep. Daar was nie televisie nie en vandag kan ʼn mens al hierdie wedstryde op google aktiveer wat op ʼn afstand anders lyk as wat dit in die werklikheid was.

Twee broers aktiveer die oppervlak-verhaal. Joe die skrywer teenoor Branko die klankingenieur. Hulle is uiteenlopend en hierom sal hulle waarnemings of herinneringe verskil. Weliswaar nie so dramaties soos in Patrick White se The solid Mandala (1966) nie. Nietemin “doubles” van mekaar. Ego en alter-ego. Bokser en opponent. Soos wat Muhammad Ali teenoor Joe Frazier geplaas word.

Branko Blahavic teenoor Joe is dan die twee broers. Die roman is gesitueer in die sewentigerjare, aanvanklik in Pretoria. Dit gaan oor boks en rofstoei. Visvang en ʼn ma wat brei. 

Werklike plekke soos Verwoerdburg, Club View, Pretoria-Wes en die Bon Accord-dam, suid van Louis Botha-rylaan, Von Willich, begrond die roman. En die gebruik van Afrikaans soos “Jissimpie” en “voetstoots”, die LM-hit parade, Reader's Digest-boeke, rofstoei, ysskaats, die walvis-skelet voor die museum in Pretoria, die Perm, maak hiervan ʼn realistiese teks. 

Pulpfiksie en fotoboekies word ingeweef en ontluister. Mark Condor met sy E-Type Jaguar is hier aanwesig as ʼn hoenderboer (58, 59). Ek wil nie die leesplesier hier bederf nie, maar dit is ʼn wonderlike vinjet vir die spel tussen werklikheid en fiksie.

Walter Battiss is ʼn ander belangrike kode. En die breimasjien van die moeder aktiveer die skryfaksie as een van samesnoering. Nes die verwysing na Woody Allen se onderskatte Scenes from a mall.

Die moeder met ʼn voorskoot (as tweede seks, as onderhorige) verbrand haar notaboek (“dreambook”), terwyl die skrywerseun toekyk. So ʼn tersyde-moment: die stemlose word weer stilgemaak gemaak (116 - 117). (Haar seun teken wel haar pyn op.)

Ons weet nie wat sy in daardie droomboek opgeskryf het nie; ons kan net raai.

Vanuit ʼn agternaperspektief met ʼn Pres Les Boks vol knipsels oor Muhammad Ali, oftewel Cassius Clay, word die roman in 15 hoofstukke opgedeel met die twee broers telkemale afwisselend aan die woord. Daar is knipsels as motto's uit The Star en The Pretoria News.

Sportskrywers soos Norman Canale en Alan Hubbard, o.a. word erken. En goeie sportskrywers soos Michael Green en Louis de Villiers tans is eweneens gerekende romanskrywers.

Vladislavić kyk terug op ʼn ou bestel: die 1976 Soweto-opstande word op televisie verbied.

Die “fight of the century” het anders afgeloop as wat voorspel is; nes die politiek van hierdie land. In 1993 het Ali die land besoek op dieselfde dag wat Chris Hani vermoor is.

Die aanhalings van Ali-die-digter (Hoofstuk sewe) en verwysings na Cinema Paradiso, George Plimpton en Hunter S. Thompson gee verdere resonansie aan hierdie geskakeerde teks.

Ek ken min romans waar die slot so behendig al die drade saamtrek. Dis ʼn roman wat jou soms laat lag; ander kere is jy hartseer oor die lot van die outsider en immigrant. 

IV

En anders as wat Michiel Heyns meen in Rapport (“‘Boksverslag’ oor 1970’s is ʼn uitklophou”), is hierdie nie ʼn postmodernistiese roman nie.

ʼn Postmodernistiese roman skep ontologiese onsekerhede en breuke.

Dit is ʼn roman met vyftien rondes. En ek is uitgetel ...


Cassius Marcellus Clay (1942 - 2016)

Muhammad Ali,
wêreldkampioen driemalig,
glo meer binnegoed as bek,
het ge-Rumble-in-the-Jungle,
ge-Thrilla-in-Manila;
selfs buite die kryt óm
geveg, baklei, geboks
vir vryheid van spraak.
“No Vietcong ever called
me a Nigger”, byt hy terug.
Gestroop van titel en eer;
selfs bokslisensie op
vyf-en-twintig verloor
toe hy Viëtnam kets.
Driejaar lank die kryt belet:
hierdie god van die harpuis.
Met tronkstraf opgeskort bly
hy “float like a butterfly,
sting like a bee”
teen swartlyste in:
dié vrypostige, allemin-
tige, vreeslose Louisville Lip.
Totdat ʼn groter,
venyniger opponent
as Foreman, Frazier,
Liston of Norton
hom ont-
troon, planke
toe stuur:
Parkinson,
ʼn skadu-bokser,
se kris-kruis:
een-twee-drie …

© Joan Hambidge

Ivan Vladislavić, foto Minky Schlesinger

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Filmrubriek | Sylvia (2003)

Vandag 21 Maart is Internasionale Poësiedag en Menseregte-dag hier te lande. Ter viering van eersgenoemde, kyk ek weer na die film Sylvia (2003: regisseur Christine Jeffs).

Die verhaal van Sylvia Plath se verhouding met Ted Hughes word in hierdie film ondersoek. Gwyneth Paltrow vertolk die rol van Plath en Daniel Craig is Ted Hughes.

Paltrow is soms oortuigend as die neurotiese en ingewikkelde Plath. Van die ontmoeting by Cambridge in 1956 tot haar selfdood in 1963, word onder die loep geneem.

Die gedrewe, ambisieuse en briljante Hughes word swak vertolk deur Daniel Craig. 'n Mens kan soms nie hoor wat hy mompel nie. Sy twee gesigsuitdrukkings is eweneens irriterend. Paltrow vaar wel beter en 'n hoogtepunt is die ete wanneer sy haar man voor sy minnares, Assia uittrap oor sy liefdesverraad. Hy verlaat Plath uiteindelik vir Assia, maar keer telkens terug uit skuldgevoelens en verlange na die twee jong kinders. Hy en Sylvia kan nie versoen nie, weens Assia se swangerskap.


Al Alvarez, die poësieredakteur en "ontdekker" van Plath en ook die skrywer van The Savage God, word flets vertolk deur Jared Harris. 

Die film beweeg van Cambridge, na Massachusetts, na Devon ...

Dis egter geskiet in Dunedin (Nieu Zeeland) en die Universiteit van Otago staan in vir Cambridge.

Twee aspekte kelder die film. Die musiek. Gabriel Yared, blaas sy siel, steur die donker storie. Dit is gewoon te hard. En stroperig. Dan die sekstonele waar die twee pragtige lywe in naaktheid voor ons stoei, is eweneens steurend. Dis nie hoe 'n mens dink Plath gelyk het nie.

Plath se kinders het die film indertyd as 'n geldmaak-foefie afgemaak.

Na Plath se dood, is Ariel gepubliseer, 'n uitstekende digbundel wat haar poëtiese talent bevestig. Wanneer Hughes haar verlaat, kan sy uiteindelik skryf.


Die Bitter fame soos 'n biograaf, Anne Stevenson, haar lewe tipeer het. Hughes publiseer kort voor sy dood in 1988 die opspraakwekkende Birthday Letters wat hul verhouding karteer. Hierdie bundel is en bly een van my gunstelingbundels van alle tye.

Hierdie film neem my vandag terug na hul gedigte.

Lady Lazarus 

I have done it again.   
One year in every ten   
I manage it——

A sort of walking miracle, my skin   
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,   
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine   
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin   
O my enemy.   
Do I terrify?——

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?   
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be   
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.   
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.   
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.   
The peanut-crunching crowd   
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot——
The big strip tease.   
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands   
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.   
The first time it happened I was ten.   
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.   
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Dying
Is an art, like everything else.   
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.   
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.   
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute   
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.   
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge   
For the hearing of my heart—
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge   
For a word or a touch   
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.   
So, so, Herr Doktor.   
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,   
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.   
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash—
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there—

A cake of soap,   
A wedding ring,   
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer   
Beware
Beware.

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair   
And I eat men like air.

Sylvia Plath, “Lady Lazarus” uit Collected Poems (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1992).

So lees Plath self hierdie gedig.

The blue flannel suit

I had let it all grow. I had supposed
It was all OK. Your life
Was a liner I voyaged in.
Costly education had fitted you out.
Financiers and committees and consultants
Effaced themselves in the gleam of your finish.
You trembled with the new life of those engines.

That first morning,
Before your first class at College, you sat there
Sipping coffee. Now I know, as I did not,
What eyes waited at the back of the class
To check your first professional performance
Against their expectations. What assessors
Waited to see you justify the cost
And redeem their gamble. What a furnace
Of eyes waited to prove your metal. I watched
The strange dummy stiffness, the misery,
Of your blue flannel suit, its straitjacket, ugly
Half-approximation to your idea
Of the properties you hoped to ease into,
And your horror in it. And the tanned
Almost green undertinge of your face
Shrunk to its wick, your scar lumpish, your plaited
Head pathetically tiny.

You waited,
Knowing yourself helpless in the tweezers
Of the life that judges you, and I saw
The flayed nerve, the unhealable face-wound
Which was all you had for courage.
I saw that what you gripped, as you sipped,
Were terrors that killed you once already.
Now I see, I saw, sitting, the lonely
Girl who was going to die.
That blue suit,
A mad, execution uniform,
Survived your sentence. But then I sat, stilled,
Unable to fathom what stilled you
As I looked at you, as I am stilled
Permanently now, permanently
Bending so briefly at your open coffin. 

Ted Hughes: Birthday Letters*

Het hy hierdie gedigte voor sy dood begin skryf of dit opgeteken deur die jare? Ek vermoed daar was notaboeke - in die aangesig van sy eie dood moes hy waarskynlik die volle verhaal vertel.

Joan Hambidge