Lawrence Ferlinghetti (foto) is ‘n gerekende digter, oud-uitgewer, boekhandelaar, kunstenaar en menseregte-aktivis wat in sy leeftyd al vele pryse en ander bekronings ingepalm het. Via ‘n skakel by die VSA se Poetry Foundation beland ek toe op New Directions, uitgewer van Ferlinghetti se boeke, se webblad waar die volgende aankondiging gemaak word: “Late last week, we learned that famed poet, publisher, bookstore owner, artist, and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti had been awarded the Janus Pannonius International Poetry Prize from the Hungarian PEN Club, a chapter of the larger PEN organization. Established this year, the prize carries a 50,000 Euro financial award.”
Getrou aan sy aard her Ferlinghetti egter die ontstaansgeskiedenis (en befondsing) van dié prys nagevors en gevind dat ‘n beduidende deel van die prysgeld deur die Hongaarse regering bewillig word; ‘n regering wat al telkens in die verlede gekritiseer is vir die wyse waarop vryheid van spraak op sowel amptelike as nie-amptelike maniere onderdruk word.
Ferlinghetti het derhalwe besluit om dié eer van die hand te wys en het onderstaande brief aan die president van die Hongaarse PEN-organisasie geskryf:
Dear Geza Szocs,
After careful research into the Pannonius Prize and its sponsors, including the present Hungarian government, I have come to the following conclusions: Since the Prize is partially funded by the present Hungarian government, and since the policies of this right-wing regime tend toward authoritarian rule and the consequent curtailing of freedom of expression and civil liberties, I find it impossible for me to accept the Prize in the United States. Thus I must refuse the Prize in its present terms.
However, assuming the total devotion of the Hungarian PEN Club and yourself to freedom of speech and social justice, I propose that the Prize money be used to set up a fund to be administered by the Hungarian PEN Club, said fund to be devoted solely to the publication of Hungarian authors whose writings support total freedom of speech, civil rights, and social justice. These are the only terms under which I can accept the Pannonius Prize.
In defense of individual freedom and democratic institutions, I am faithfully yours,
Hierop het Szocs onderneem om wel die voorgestelde kanalisering van fondse na ‘n gesublimeerde skrywer te ondersoek. As teenvoorstel het hy egter aangebied dat die regering sy bydrae tot die prysgeld geskrap word.
Hiervoor was Ferlinghetti egter nie te vinde nie; sy antwoord was kort en kragtig:
I hereby refuse the Prize in all its forms. There is no possibility of my accepting the prize in a ceremony in the United States or elsewhere. I am sorry it has come to this, and I am grateful to those in Hungary who may have had the purest motives in offering me the Prize.
Nou ja, toe. ‘n Man van intergriteit, inderdaad.
Hieronder volg een van Ferlinghetti se gedigte wat ek op die internet kon opspoor …
Watching baseball, sitting in the sun, eating popcorn,
reading Ezra Pound,
and wishing that Juan Marichal would hit a hole right through the
Anglo-Saxon tradition in the first Canto
and demolish the barbarian invaders.
When the San Francisco Giants take the field
and everybody stands up for the National Anthem,
with some Irish tenor’s voice piped over the loudspeakers,
with all the players struck dead in their places
and the white umpires like Irish cops in their black suits and little
black caps pressed over their hearts,
Standing straight and still like at some funeral of a blarney bartender,
and all facing east,
as if expecting some Great White Hope or the Founding Fathers to
appear on the horizon like 1066 or 1776.
But Willie Mays appears instead,
in the bottom of the first,
and a roar goes up as he clouts the first one into the sun and takes
off, like a footrunner from Thebes.
The ball is lost in the sun and maidens wail after him
as he keeps running through the Anglo-Saxon epic.
And Tito Fuentes comes up looking like a bullfighter
in his tight pants and small pointy shoes.
And the right field bleechers go made with Chicanos and blacks
and Brooklyn beer-drinkers,
“Tito! Sock it to him, sweet Tito!”
And sweet Tito puts his foot in the bucket
and smacks one that don’t come back at all,
and flees around the bases
like he’s escaping from the United Fruit Company.
As the gringo dollar beats out the pound.
And sweet Tito beats it out like he’s beating out usury,
not to mention fascism and anti-semitism.
And Juan Marichal comes up,
and the Chicano bleechers go loco again,
as Juan belts the first ball out of sight,
and rounds first and keeps going
and rounds second and rounds third,
and keeps going and hits paydirt
to the roars of the grungy populace.
As some nut presses the backstage panic button
for the tape-recorded National Anthem again,
to save the situation.
But it don’t stop nobody this time,
in their revolution round the loaded white bases,
in this last of the great Anglo-Saxon epics,
in the territorio libre of Baseball.
© Lawrence Ferlinghetti