Louis Esterhuizen. Natasha Trethewey oor die murg en kraakbeen van ‘n gedig

Op The Atlantic se webtuiste is daar ‘n interessante uiteensetting deur Natasha Trethewey (foto), wat twee maande gelede as die VSA se 19de Poet Laureate aangewys is, oor hoe haar enigmatiese gedig “Elegy” tot stand gekom het. Dié gedig, wat aan haar pa opgedra is en opgeneem is in die bundel Thrall wat volgende maand verskyn, handel oor ‘n visvang-ekspedisie wat sy en haar pa, eweneens digter, in Kanada onderneem het.

Oor hul verhouding het sy die volgende te sê: “Though he wants to look like an expert fisherman, my father thinks it’s a beautiful poem. He says he feels kind of lucky, because most people are not lucky enough to hear an elegy by their child while they’re still living. I think it’s also a way to be slightly in denial about what else the poem is mourning. Even though this poem is called “Elegy,” what’s being elegized is not my father’s lifehe’s not deadbut a kind of loss between a father and a daughter, a kind of estrangement. He’s casting his invisible lines, slicing the sky between us, and I mean that image to suggest a kind of division […] As much as we love each other, there is some growing difficulty in my adult relationship with my father. Because we’re both writers, we’re having a very intimate conversation in a very public forum. Before I was ever a poet, my father was writing poems about me, so it was a turning of the tables when I became a poet and started answering, speaking back to his poems in ways that I had not before.”

Elegy

Elegy

Interessant genoeg is Trethewey een van daardie digters wat verkies om haar verse met potlood op papier te skryf: “Writing [by hand] frees up a mode of thinking that allows me to consider more things without censorship, the way I would censor if I were typing. If I start writing on a computer, I feel that it’s official. When I’m actually writing by hand, I get more of a sense of the rhythm of sentences, of syntax. The switch to the computer is when I actually start thinking about lines. That’s the workhorse part. At that point, I’m being more mathematical about putting the poem on the page and less intuitive about the rhythm of the syntax.”

En oor die struktuur van die vers: “I wanted the poem to feel sinewy, like a fishing line, which is why there’s a step-down second line that moves away from the first line. Something felt right about it, […] Once I’d filtered the material into that form, it clicked. It was like putting the key in the right lock.”

Nou ja, toe. Die gedig volg hieronder. Maar gaan lees gerus die volledige teks; dit bied inderdaad ‘n besonderse kyk na die werkswyse van een van die vernaamste Amerikaanse digters tans.

***

Elegy

for my father

I think by now the river must be thick
          with salmon. Late August, I imagine it

as it was that morning: drizzle needling
          the surface, mist at the banks like a net

settling around us-everything damp
          and shining. That morning, awkward

and heavy in our hip waders, we stalked
          into the current and found our places-

you upstream a few yards, and out
          far deeper. You must remember how

the river seeped in over your boots,
          and you grew heavier with that defeat.

All day I kept turning to watch you, how
          first you mimed our guide’s casting,

then cast your invisible line, slicing the sky
          between us; and later, rod in hand, how

you tried-again and again-to find
          that perfect arc, flight of an insect

skimming the river’s surface. Perhaps
          you recall I cast my line and reeled in

two small trout we could not keep.
          Because I had to release them, I confess,

I thought about the past-working
          the hooks loose, the fish writhing

in my hands, each one slipping away
          before I could let go. I can tell you now

that I tried to take it all in, record it
          for an elegy I’d write-one day-

when the time came. Your daughter,
          I was that ruthless. What does it matter

if I tell you I learned to be? You kept casting
          your line, and when it did not come back

empty, it was tangled with mine. Some nights,
          dreaming, I step again into the small boat

that carried us out and watch the bank receding-
          my back to where I know we are headed.

 

© Natasha Trethewey

 

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