Posts Tagged ‘Waldemar Gouws’

Waldemar Gouws. Baudrillard: Die konstellasie van die misterie

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

Jean Baudrillard

Waldemar Gouws. Baudrillard: Die konstellasie van die misterie

Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) beroep hom, lyk dit my, op die terrein van Versindaba; eintlik op die vlees en gees van Versindaba, in sy opstel Le Mal ventriloque (2008) of dan in die Engelse vertaling Ventriloquous Evil (in 2010 se Carnival and Cannibal; Ventriloquous Evil. Londen: Seagull Books).

Waarop beroep hy hom in hierdie opstel? Op die teenwoordigheid en invloed van die “konstellasie van die misterie” in die kulturele uitspansel van die mensdom. En op daardie insig wat d.m.v. die denke en vernuf van die digters (van hierdie en van alle tye) aan die lig kom: téén die nivellering van kulturele diversiteit in die opsetlike greep van globalisering, en téén die vernietiging van biodiversiteit (dink aan Monsanto, ’n Coca-Cola van kos, nou Bayer se monopolistiese grootskaalse genetiese ingryping t.o.v. graan- en gifstofproduksie in landboukringe wêreldwyd. En ook téén die proliferasie van internet-interaksie.

Ek het ’n paar paragrawe uit bg. Engelse teks vertaal, vanaf p.70 tot 73, en ’n nota op p.91 in die hoop dat Baudrillard se idees tot stimulering en onderskraging mag dien. So skryf hy:

“Ons is almal vandag genoop om die klein bietjie merkwaardigheid, die klein bietjie simboliese spasie en terrein wat vir ons oorgebly het, te red in verset teen ’n globale masjinerie, ’n globale onderneming van Goeddoenery, wat van ons die opoffering van enige wil en intellek eis (dit is nog steeds die verdrag soos deur Dostojewski se Groot Inkwisiteur aan die hand gedoen: welstand en diensbaarheid).

En vanwaar sou hierdie ‘linkse’ energie kan kom? Van daardie ondeurdringbare sone wat in elke individu is; vanaf daardie ‘hart’ wat weerstandbiedend is teen die gebod van al die apparatuur, van al die masjinerie, die gehele meganiek van rasionalisering.

Vanuit die Prometheïese perspektief van onbeperkte groei, gaan dit nie bloot oor die begeerte om alles te laat funksioneer, om alles te bevry  nie, maar ook oor die begeerte om te sorg dat alles betéken.

Alles moet onder die septer van betekenis (en realiteit) gebring word. In sommige gevalle weet ons dat kennis ons almaardeur sal ontkom. Maar in die oorgrote meerderheid gevalle weet ons nie eers wat dit is wat verdwyn het nie en ook nie wat nog die hele tyd aan ons verstand ontsnap het nie.

Nou, die wetenskap is besig met ’n stelselmatige poging ter verdelging van hierdie geheime gebied, hierdie ‘konstellasie van die misterie’* en om die afbakeningslyn tussen die aantasbare – d.w.s. die skendbare – en die onskendbare, of die onontwybare, uit te wis.

Alles wat verborge is moet blootgelê word; alles moet reduseerbaar wees tot ontleding. Hieruit lei die algehele aanslag (veral sedert die dood van God, wat hierdie poging om die natuurlike wêreld oop te breek nog beteuel het) tot ’n uitbreiding van die betekenisveld (van kennis, analise, objektiwiteit en realiteit).

Nou, alles maak ons geneig om te dink dat hierdie ophoping, hierdie oor-produksie, hierdie abnormale aanwas van betekenis (’n bietjie soos die vermeerdering van kweekhuisgasse) ’n virtuele bedreiging vir die spesie uitmaak (en vir die planeet) aangesien dit geleidelik, deur eksperimentering, daardie domein van die onaantasbare vernietig wat so te sê vir ons dien as ’n osoonlaag en wat vir ons beskerm teen die ergste – teen die dodelike bestraling en die uitwissing van ons simboliese ruimte.

Behoort ons nie dan in presies die teenoorgestelde rigting te werk om die domein van die onaantasbare te vergroot nie? Om die produksie van betekenis te temper soos wat daar probeer word om die produksie van kweekhuisgasse in te hou, om daardie konstellasie van die misterie te versterk sowel as daardie ontasbare versperring wat as ’n filter dien teen die warboel informasie, interaksie en universele ruilverkeer.

Hierdie werk wat daarteen kan opweeg bestaan wel – dit is die werk van denke. Nie die analitiese werk waardeur oorsake verstaan word, of die disseksie van die objek-wêreld nie, nie die werk van ’n kritiese, verligte denke nie, maar begrip of intelligensie in ’n ander gedaante, naamlik die intelligensie van die misterie.”

* Volgens die Engelse vertaler van hierdie stuk, Chris Turner, lees die Frans “la constellation du secret.”  Baudrillard haal Heidegger aan in Préau se Frans: “la constellation, le mouvement stellaire du secret” in “La question de la technique,” Essais et conférences, Paris: Gallimard, p.45.

Breyten Breytenbach – Vertaling in Engels

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

late work: Breyten Breytenbach

.

when it gets late in the day
in life

and the evening star is already quivering
like a heartthrob
on the slopes of the day going down
every brush stroke is free
every word thoughtlessly unattached
to significance  and the shell of intensions
you are only aware as well
it’s a shying away of being
so that every stroke and stuttering
will now be a singular relic
on the lips of silence
you won’t be able to return any more
to seam and to hem
all that was not fitting in
till utter astonishment

when it gets late in the day
in life
while birds are already seeking out trees
and looking for the flesh of the evening star
you do dream a night
on the carpet
of uninhibited resignation

©Tr. by Waldemar Gouws / 2015

.

laatwerk :  Breyten Breytenbach

.

wanneer dit laat word in die lewe
en die aandstér reeds teen die dalende dag
se skuinstes bewe
soos ’n hartklop
is elke kwashaal vry
elke woord onbesonne los
van sin en sinne se dop
maar weet jy ook
dis ‘n saamkrimp van syn
dat elke streep en stotter
nou eenmalige nalaatsel sal wees
op die lippe van stilte
jy nie meer terug sal kan keer
om dit wat nie klop
te naat en te soom
tot verstomming nie

wanneer dit laat word in die lewe
en voёls al die bome opsoek
op soek na die aandstér se vleis
droom jy ’n nag
op die lappe
van uitgelate gelatenheid

(Aanlyn op netwerk 24 gepubliseer, 20/9/2015)

Paul Celan. Vertaling in Afrikaans

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

Paul Celan. Vertaling in Afrikaans deur Waldemar Gouws.

.

Paul Celan: Dodefuga

Uit Mohn und Gedächtnis (1952)

Swart melk van vroegdag ons drink dit saans
ons drink dit smiddae en soggens ons drink dit snags
ons drink en drink
ons grawe ‘n graf in die lug daar lȇ mens nie beknop nie
‘n man woon in die huis hy speel met die slange hy skryf
hy skryf as dit donker word Duitsland toe jou goue hare Margriet
hy skryf dit en stap uit die huis en die sterre skitter hy fluit vir sy
trop om te kom
hy fluit vir sy Jode om uit te kom laat hulle ‘n graf grawe in die grond
hy beveel ons om te begin speel vir die dans

Swart melk van vroegdag ons drink jou snags
ons drink jou soggens en smiddae ons drink jou saans
ons drink en drink
‘n man woon in die huis hy speel met die slange hy skryf

hy skryf as dit donker word Duitsland toe jou goue hare Margriet
Jou verkoolde hare Sulamiet ons grawe ‘n graf in die lug
daar lȇ mens nie beknop nie

Hy roep steek dieper in die aardryk julle spul julle ander sing en speel
hy gryp na die yster in sy gordel hy swaai dit sy oё is blou
steek dieper die grawe julle spul julle ander speel verder vir die dans aan

Swart melk van vroegdag ons drink jou snags
ons drink jou smiddae en soggens ons drink jou saans
ons drink en drink
‘n man woon in die huis jou goue hare Margriet
jou verkoolde hare Sulamiet hy speel met die slange

Hy roep speel die dood soeter die dood is ‘n bobaas uit Duitsland
hy roep stryk donkerder op die viole dan styg julle soos rook in die lug
dan het julle ‘n graf in die wolke daar lȇ mens nie beknop nie

Swart melk van vroegdag ons drink jou snags
ons drink jou smiddae die dood is ‘n bobaas uit Duitsland
ons drink jou saans en soggens ons drink en drink
die dood is ‘n bobaas uit Duitsland sy oё is blou
hy tref jou met loodkoeёls so presies tref hy jou
‘n man woon in die huis jou goue hare Margriet
hy hits sy trop aan teen ons hy skenk ons ‘n graf in die lug
hy speel met die slange en droom dat die dood ‘n bobaas is
uit Duitsland

jou goue hare Margriet
jou verkoolde hare Sulamiet

 

© Vertaal deur Waldemar Gouws / 2015

Waldemar Gouws. Putin en Zuma en nog ander kaalkoppe eet saam

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

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Putin en Zuma en nog ander kaalkoppe eet saam

As ek Zuma en Putin wil plaas in die sikliese konteks van Jan Rabie se surrealistiese poёtiese gelykenis “Drie kaalkoppe eet tesame” (21, 1956) kan enigeen van ons sekerlik dink aan die naam van ‘n derde ene, ‘n politiese, of finansiёle figuur – een wat politici kan manipuleer – om vandag ‘n (eietydse) Rabie-opset mee te voltooi. Die restauranttoneel van die verhaal is welbekend: drie baie dik kaalkopmans by ‘n tafel verorber gereg na gereg, wat algaande almal in die eetplek verstom. Hul mega-aptyt, gepaard met woeste ongeduld, oortref die Gargantuaanse speel-speel. Mettertyd word dit duidelik dat daar menslike snitte vleis op hulle borde is.

“Die omstanders hyg van walging, maar die drie kaalkoppe gewaar daar niks van nie. Hulle eet met ontstellende wellus, en vergeet selfs [soos wat my ma ook eerste sou gemerk het] om die strome vet wat oor hulle wange loop, af te vee. Hulle gun hulself geen verposing tussen elke nuwe stuk mensvleis nie; hulle monde maal soos groot vleismeulens.”

Uiteindelik verorber die drie mekaar ook en ‘n volgende sessie is Nietzscheaans in die vooruitsig.

Dis opmerklik hoeveel ram- en ooipokkers hul grafies skaamteloos gedra in die politieke magsgestoeltes. Met skaamteloos betrek ek implisiet ‘n veronderstelde etiese samelewingsnorm. Maar nieteenstaande sulke verwagtings, bly die spieёls, geproduseer uit die gekniehalterde lewenskwaliteit, die kortgeknipte vryhede en selfs uit hele verlore lewens van medeburgers, besig aan die mure en teen die plafonne van die selfsugtigstes om beeld na selftevrede beeld vol gloriestories op te gooi. Die baie selfbewuste kykers het mos gearriveer!

Twee verwysings wat ek opgemerk het verlede week in die koerant na Putin se Rusland, kan ons ongemak met Suid-Afrika se om-die-harde-hals-val verhouding met Moskou nog ‘n verdere paar menslike kerwe verhoog. Eerstens is berig dat twee Oekraïners, Oleg Sentsov en Alexander Kolchenko, in Rostov deur ‘n Russiese militȇre hof tot onderskeidelik twintig jaar (in ‘n hoё-sekuriteitsstrafkolonie) en tien jaar gevangenisstraf gevonnis is vir “terreuraanvalle” in die Krim. Die Krim is die Oekraïnse skiereiland in die Swart See wat laas jaar deur Rusland geannekseer is. Dat die aanklag teen die twee polities van aard is, en nie krimineel gegrond nie, lyk onbetwisbaar. Sentsov is ‘n bekende Oekraïnse filmregisseur. Hy en Kolchenko het saam in die traliehofhok met die arm om mekaar se skouers die Oekraïnse volkslied aangehef tydens vonnisoplegging. “’n Verhoor deur die besetter kan per definisie nie regverdig wees nie,” het die president van Oekraïne, Poroshenko, ter ondersteuning van die twee aangeklaagdes gesȇ.

Dancing in Odessa

Sȇ Oekraïne en jy sȇ ook Odessa. Die Odessa van die digter Ilya Kaminsky en sy bundel Dancing in Odessa, (2004) met hier een van sy tekste:

Dancing in Odessa

   In a city ruled jointly by doves and crows, doves covered the main district, and crows the market. A deaf boy counted how many birds there were in his neighbour’s backyard, producing a four-digit number. He dialled the number and confessed his love to the voice on the line.

   My secret: at the age of four I became deaf. When I lost my hearing, I began to see voices. On a crowded trolley, a one-armed man said that my life would be mysteriously linked to the history of my country. Yet my country cannot be found, its citizens meet in a dream to conduct elections. He did not describe their faces, only a few names: Roland, Aladdin, Sinbad.

Is dit in Odessa waar Putin die een of ander tyd met ‘n jakkalsdraffiedans trag te spog, soos wat Hitler sy triomfantelike baltshop (glad nie hopscotch nie) gedans het destyds in Parys na die Nazi-besetting van Frankryk? Teoreties kan Putin aan bewind bly tot in 2024 (d.w.s. twee sesjaartermyne na 2010) met baie tyd vir sy diep-skadelike magsmanewales. En hy kan met reg die “Neighbourhood Bully” genoem word, om ‘n satiriese Bob Dylan lied se titel van sy Infidels album (1983) te gebruik.

Dat Oleg Sentsov sy vonnis in ‘n Russiese strafkolonie moet uitdien, herroep die plek waar Nadezhda Tolokonnikova haar tweejaar-vonnis in Strafkolonie 14, by Partsa in Mordoviё, duisende kilometer van Moskou, moes uitdien, nadat sy en Maria Alyokhina in Augustus 2012 skuldig bevind is aan “vandalisme” en “opstokery van godsdienstige haat” na ‘n veertig sekonde betoging in Rusland se beroemdste katedraal van die Ortodokse Kerk (die Patriarg van Moskou is ook ‘n oud KGB-medewerker en ondersteuner van Putin). Tolokonnikova is lid van Pussy Riot, die aktivistiese groep wat teen Putin se outokratiese regeerstyl en sy derde termyn as president van ‘n outoritȇre Rusland , asook teen globale kapitalisme optree. Gevra oor Pussy Riot se vonnis, het Putin op 12 Oktober 2012 gesȇ: “Die hof het hulle ‘n dubbeltjie gegee. Ek het niks hiermee te doen nie. Hulle het daarvoor gevra, en dit gekry.” Hierdie versetsgroep het ook die huidige verskynsel van globale kapitalisme gedekonstrueer en die lewendige verband met Stalinisme blootgelȇ. (Anders as die onvertaalbare name van The Beatles en die Rolling Stones, kan mens seker probeer om Pussy Riot as Koekie Oproer [of Uitspattigheid] te vertaal. Koekie Onlus is regtig oksimoronies benard). As ek self ‘n band op die been sou bring, sal die band se naam dooier wees – die verset teen onreg moet openlik op die verhoog uitbroei. Met elke optrede dus nóg opstandelinge.

Waarvoor beywer Pussy Riot hulle? “We’re on the side of those who don’t offer final answers or transcendent truths. Our mission rather, is the asking of questions… We count ourselves among those rebels … who hold that the only truth lies in perpetual seeking,” het Tolokonnikova in ‘n brief aan Slavoj Zizek geskryf. En verder haal sy die Russiese denker uit die negentiende eeu, Berdyaev, aan: “… truth is no extraneous thing; it is the way and the life. Truth is spiritual conquest; it is known in and through freedom.” Teenoor hierdie idee staan die geloof van die onderhoofbewaarder van Strafkolonie 14, Lt.-Kol. Kupriyanov: “You should know that when it comes to politics, I am a Stalinist” (in Comradely Greetings: The Prison Letters of Nadya and Slavoj, 2014). “So ‘n bek moet blue label kry. En ‘n vakansie in die wildtuin. Stryk die renostervelle vir spesiale gaste oop vir sy helikopter,” sal lede van die Nasionale Uitvoerende Komitee sekerlik sȇ.

Tweedens (die eerstens is so belangwekkend, en uitgerek, dat ek amper van die tweedens vergeet het) dus waaroor ek tweedens verlede week in die koerant gelees het, is dat ‘n ekonomienavorser dit bevestig het (28 Augustus vanjaar) dat elke enkele Russiese ministeriёle aankondiging en vooruitskatting sedert Desember 2014 m.b.t. die stand van Rusland se ekonomie heeltemal verkeerd was, d.w.s. pure bog. Die krisis is nou hoёr as die geїdealiseerde Kremlinmure, want dis die dat Putin sy biljoenȇrvriend, Timchenko (een van die min of meer tien vertrouelinge van Putin wat die land feodaal regeer volgens Nadezhda Tolokonnikova) afgevaardig het om by die Chinese om ekonomiese hulp te gaan vra ten spyte van lg. se geregverdigde wantroue in die spekskiet Russiese regering. Nou, my eerste kennismaking met ‘n miljoenȇrfiguur en die se voorgestelde oormaat aan lewensmiddele, was danksy Peter Blum se uitwysing van ‘n ou miljoenȇr in sy gedig “Die miljenȇr se kombuis” (Steenbok tot Poolsee: Verse, 1955). Hierdie ou miljoenȇr is klaarblyklik nie deel van die kaalkopkliek onderdrukkers nie. ‘n Kaapse kok beskryf sy werkgewer se kombuis aan ‘n vriend:

Tsaaina en messegoed tot anie nok,

Fridzidȇrs volgaprop met piekfyn vleis,

Eiers, vrugta en groentes oppie ys,

En die jele karkas van ‘n soort bok.

 

… Ennie kjeller’s die ena kroeg –

whisky en brannewyn, dzien en muskedil.

Toe sȇ ek, “Wragtie, dié baas is gaseёn!

 

Ga’ hy nou patie skop? Daa’s oorganoeg

om twintag ouens ‘n week lank te laat smul.”

“Nei,” sȇ hy, “Die baas eet altyd alleen.”

‘n Mens wonder oor die moontlike eksklusiewe verstandhouding tussen die plesierige landsleier Jakob (Boggelkop) Zuma en Putin t.o.v. die oprigting van R-triljoen se kernkragsentrales hier te lande. (Ek het die boggelkopwoord in Breyten Breytenbach se bundel Lotus, 3.13 [1970] gevind, in ‘n on-Zuma verband, bygesȇ. Die Engelse ekwivalent, “hunchhead,” slaan wel ‘n semantiese slaggie, maar dis al, qua Zuma).

Kyk mens kursories na Zuma se kop, selfs by fakkellig saans, of m.b.v. die ekonomiese LED’s, is die duimafdrukke van Putin daarop duidelik merkbaar – die Suid-Afrikaanse leier is dus (frenologies?) onder die invloed van Putin, sowel as almal van ons, Suid-Afrikaners, by implikasie (Putin-pionnetjies, wat iets heel anders as bv. Giotto se bruin monnikkies is).

Waldemar Gouws

Waldemar Gouws

Breyten Breytenbach – vertaling in Engels

Friday, November 21st, 2014

 Breyten Breytenbach – vertaal deur die outeur (en ander) /translated by the author (and others)

 

 

poem

take me through a zone of snow
farmlands with bales of hay in summertime
where birds eat the patches of words
then swarm to rhythms in motion
towards clearness, towards some clearness

take me back over the courses of a life
where loved ones lie with decayed faces
in cribs of dust
show me the purpose of the tortoise tracks in the sand
let me see the stars another final
first time blessing the earth
with clearness, with thirsty clearness

let me grasp how the wind hangs out
flags and joys for the fluttering
in the tremor of tree tops
let me hear the child cry
the boy’s laugh on his way to school
the lament of the hailer of darkness at night
for clearness, for the dream of clearness

let me stretch this body for a while yet
over the folds and the sighs of a woman
let the quivering of the spinal column be a flame
it’s all right that dark like day against the window glass
sheds the recalled in seed of forgetting
and that love and grief were mentioned
for the sake of clearness, for the sake of the silent song of clearness

take me to the highest mountain
let me carry stones in my trouser pockets
fit the wings of plastic across my shoulders
that I might soar where everything blue crackles
and only the empty level sea-mirror glitters
of clearness, of the blinding quality of clearness

lower me into the deepest well
where walls are damp from the searching of hands
for the moon that like a thought
is bobbing faceless in the deep’s dark
string the flow of words like a rope around my neck
and let me hang from the raw intertwinement of clearness

but let me sit squatting in silence
let it all come and go
let me forget and be absorbed in coming and passing away
let me hear the heart swobbling in the void
as it is a journey, a space of breath
of clearness, oh the clearness

 

(©Tr. by Waldemar Gouws / 2015 of the unpublished poem “gedig” of Breyten Breytenbach)

 

*

 

(n)oneness

“Move on!”[1] : Breyten Breytenbach

 

You will see, dear reader (have seen and read)

that for long I’ve been trying to turn so many seasons and years and cycles

into poetry

to set up a description or experience

(to kiss and to bless)

that could have been on a par with this world

 

O, not of the same kind – for inherently

something else subject to processes peculiar

to the nature of that other foot rule – writing –

and even less as gloss or fleeciness to cover that

(the fish of a different flesh)

which begs description

 

However, then rather a membrane to convey

the throbbing faithfully: to live

is really very much like living

en route to degeneration, obscuration, substitution, oblivion

 

So: not to pass off words

on whatever vibrates within or outside around you,

also not as addition to the all-around

which is without early or late or any jointing,

what is is not

 

But to learn to move. To tremble

at first light. To know (clarify)

nothing explains the bird’s piping

because it is already completely clear.

To help prevent that the again and again

not merely constitutes the multiplication of folly:

 

Disintegration really happens to be the only defence

against mortality.

 

And then to sift through the words every night

for the sake of the overriding knowledge that everything

is nonpresence

and to know you are living alongside your own

survival like a spot of shadow in the dark

 

All journeys have a beginning: even though

the final one has no end

 

Until the squall arrives or the sun splits

and you, stripped of all appearance and being, realize

it was of no avail,

the writing a fluttering

of which broken-winged birds dream,

no hem on the seamless garment

of what was lived through,

my writing that couldn’t even stir a leaf

or make a lizard sing

 

O reader – now isn’t it liberating

to could have lived for nothing

in the never-ending silent moving?

 

(c) Tr. by Waldemar Gouws / 2015 of the unpublished poem “(n)oneness” by Breyten Breytenbach

 

*

in the Rue Monsieur-le-Prince

going down on the left side

thus the Luxembourg Gardens side

where nightly little twigs are burnt by the sun

to nestle scrochingly in the trees

and this bridescake of the Odeon Theatre

that used to be a honey house of freedom

so long ago already in May sixty-eight

 

in the Rue Monsieur-le-Prince

is the restaurant where we precisely

at nine o’clock and not a day later

will meet

you will recognize me because I shall

again have a beard

even if of cheap silver

or a tree of burnt-out twigs

and the Algerian boss-cum-chef

with the mustache in the nest of red cheeks

will put his arm full of bees around my shoulder

to say

alors, mon frére – ca fait bien long temps…

 

will we order couscous mouton for two –

I can already taste the crumbly snow-yellow grains

and the bit of butter – ?

and a flask of very dark Sidi Brahim

with the taste of the sun and the sea

of the Maghreb’s vineyards?

 

what do you say to a thé à la menthe

measured in glowing glasses with little flowers

and some of that sweet stuff

which is heavy and light of honey?

 

listen how the same wind

calls through Paris’s old-old streets

 

you are my darling and I am so glad

 

(my seventy six)

 

Breyten Breytenbach (from/uit Die ongedanste dans, 2005:100-101. Lewendood, 1985; vertaling/translation Helize van Vuuren)


Breyten Breytenbach

Breyten Breytenbach is a distinguished poet, painter, novelist, playwriter, essayist and human rights activist. He is considered one of the greatest living poets in Afrikaans.  His literary work has been translated into many languages and he has been honoured with numerous literary and art awards.  Having exhibited worldwide he is also a recognized painter, portraying surreal human and animal imagery.  He was born on 16 September 1939 in Bonnievale and studied art at the Michaelis Art School in Cape Town.  In 1960 he left South Africa and went to Paris where he married Yolande Ngo Thi Hoang Lien (Yellow Lotus), a French woman of Vietnamese origin.  But he could not return to South Africa because of the Mixed Marriages Act, which classified Yolande as Coloured.  A committed opponent of apartheid in South Africa, Breytenbach established the resistance group Okela, and from 1975-1982 he was a political prisoner in South African prisons serving two terms of solitary confinement.  Both his paintings and his literary work include the notions of nomadism, values of the outsider, incarceration, death and decay, pain, movement, social criticism, memory, identity and consciousness.  Breytenbach made his debut with a collection of innovative poems in 1964 with the publication of Die ysterkoei moet sweet.  In his latest collection of poetry he engaged in a nomadic conversation with his friend, the late Palestine poet, Mahmoud Darwish.  He received the Protea Prize, Mahmoud Darwish Prize and for the French translation of Oorblyfsels/ Voice over, the Max Jacob Prize. His latest volume of poetry, forty five twilight songs, appeared with Human & Rousseau in 2014.

 

 

the opening poem

(“in the beginning there is love”)

 

to her with the tiny feet like tamed pigeons

to her whose warm breath will be strung from your mouth

as the bunting of a pleasure cruiser

to her with the mother-spot a morning star

burning next to the scar under the breast

to her for whom the crest is a barely discernible sigh

to her with the black buttocks but purple flames

in the small of the back

to her who is the consort of a king enjoying you from up high

to her who is fresh snow between the sheets

to her with the slanted eyes and the bashful nether mouth

to her who laughs at your puny haft

to her who spits in your face in a foreign tongue

to her with the long grey memory and the wrinkles

the dim sight and the initiate’s know-how

to her who chases you away like a dog

to her who gurgles when stiffening in a jerk

like a body hanged from the rope of pleasure and pain

to her who takes all the Holy Names in vain

to her with the frog between the legs

to her with the pudendum like a green guitar

swollen and smooth

never yet plucked by a singing finger

to her who thought you had wings

to her with the pitch dark mouth and the powdered tits

to her who takes you for a dead lover

to her with the erotic hands

to her who killed herself

to her who murdered you

to her whose belly is a banked fire

to her who quite still turns her head away

so that you might not taste the tears

to her with the dorsal vertebrae like a ladder of notes

praying through the fingers

to her who relishes humble pie

to her who whispers unbelievable unlawfulnesses

in your ear at first

only to spout a sudden inkwell

to her with the brown body like a master violin

to her who talks to darkness

to her who like a snake

will let all of you slither down a smooth throat

to her who has forgotten you

to her who has never heard of you

to her for whom you write dedications like nuptial dances

 

to her, for all of her

this poem

 

(From: Lady one:Of love and Other Poems, Harcourt, 2002)

(Tr. by the author)

 

 

the way back

 

then Wordfool told the woman and the child

come let us squat on our haunches

here against the climb

and look down on the smoking city

to take stock-

we remain tied to the road

as the place of origin

even though we’ve forgotten the people’s names

 

then Wordfool told the woman and the child

we are free

I know it is hard

and once every year it is good

to turn around

and look back

on the journeys and the state of the dead

 

once every year

the season goes dark

and the time is right

and ripe to bring the pumpkin

a celestial fruit of eternal life

to market

 

come let us sing

 

how shall we preserve the flesh?

in crypts mummies nod their heads

heavy with the travels of decay

moths and blight darken their coats with holes

 

how shall we exorcise distance?

we stuff the trips and the tides

with desert honey and locust meat

and forgotten remembrances of the Old Country-

that a good fragrance may come from the hills

and keep book in the dust

 

then Wordfool told the woman and the child

let’s imagine ourselves as scouts

gather wood and light the fire

to signal to the dwellers

of the dead city

that we wish to entice the moon

from her dark hollows

to reconcile with the pumpkin

 

moreover Wordfool told the woman and the child

forgive me please

one makes poems also from sticks and seeds

to capture the soft words

one is always looking for measure and rhyme

and then the combustion of incarnation

you mustn’t tell anybody

 

(From: Windcatcher: New & Selected Poems, 1964-2006, Harcourt, 2007)

(Tr. by the author)

 

 

for Michael Fried: Paris, December 21, 2004

 

we live in dark times

birds of heaven are poisoned

we roam through brightly lit halls

stare myopically at exhibitions

of grey imaginaries, encyclopaedias of passing

meticulously annotated absences of sense

 

the emptier the contents the more painfully

perfection and the perfidy of looking will flow

as the world completes itself through us

and we see corpse camps, genocide, man

abjuring his skein of belonging

in a desperate wing-beat to be

 

free of death

the birds of heaven are poisoned

and we live in dark times

 

and somewhere on fetid waters of holy rivers

burning effigies of dark-faced goddesses bob

they’ve long since stopped singing to us

 

in closet spaces we stare myopically

at the skinned life of the writer

naked like a soft dragon on the floor

to kiss a black tongue to the shoe

of his cruel beloved

the spine a curve of cursed words

and we see death camps, genocide, troughs

stuffed with corpses, man

jeering at his rope of legitimacy

in a thrashing wing-thrust

to be free of passing

has long since stopped singing to us

 

“finally, when I shave my sombre morning face

I have the impression of shaving

my cadaver before it is put on its bier

and let to water

in the putrid river of oblivion”

 

from the void comes incarnation

comes dark wind

will the wind be a wound

and signal the blind child

 

in twilit cellar chambers

we eat salad and lard and bread

suddenly recall the stories of illicit ancestors

how clumsily our mouths fold around deceased tongues

to elicit murmurs of forgetting

man relinquishes the illumination

of ever again being mad and clear

 

and out there the clear city rises

magnificent ruin of man’s monstrous imagination

where much love was committed

and murders often done by knife

while the writer sang

of incandescent rivers where goddesses bathe

the water dragon naked and blind

 

to the left a high moon slips

as petrified subconsciousness

chafed pale by dust of space and time

 

tomorrow paper snow will litter and letter

the roof-map and the nest of streets

and from gutters icy drops will drip

on dark faces of shivering wanderers

 

(From: Windcatcher: New & Selected Poems, 1964-2006, Harcourt, 2007)

(Tr. by the author)

 

 

midmorning in heaven

 

midmorning in heaven above West Hill

with moon a perforated dipper

of light       dredged from time

bone-bleached by gospel tides

of verbs become verbiage

to stool in stone the size of a dream

 

which only goes to show

that since the outset of stellar configurations

there’s been a door to life in the dark out there

 

oh watchmen, you lying low in the lee of your blindness

to leer at the light in our salt

and the shimmering of rose roosting our wounds:

if you were to gaze on the gazetted faces of the dead

you’d remember gossamer mothers in gas chambers

and know: this is not the way

to recover your identity

 

you standing in the doorways of our demure dwellings:

come inside from the blind binding out there

come darken our thresholds

come rest your whitened eyes

so that we may know ourselves

as people just like you

 

come, come drink Arabic coffee with us

and you will see us weep

and fit into coffins just like you do

 

(From: Voice Over: A Nomadic Conversation with Mahmoud Darwish, Archipelago Books, 2009)

(Tr. by the author)

 

 

measures

 

you can’t let a drunken man hold a pen

he will try to tack and sail against history

you can’t let a drunken man leave the house

before dawn

when streetlights are still green

he will go to the quay to bellow at the wind

you can’t ask a drunken man to think straight

he will tell you all about rodents in Siberia

you can’t let a drunken man walk through town

where women have long and sly eyes

he will stumble over his words and his feet

and go piss behind the laurel bush in the park

with a shiver down his spine

truly, you can’t ask a drunken man what about a poem

he will pull faces by the window at passers-by

and pretend he’s looking to rhyme with fold

you can’t believe a drunken man

when he says he has flown

even if he’s covered in bumps and bruises

and though a dirty pair of underpants

be slapping from the flagpole on city hall

you cannot ask a drunken man after the whereabouts of God

he will intimate that his underpants have been stolen

you can’t allow a drunken man to work on the roof

he will tell you he knows the ins and outs of the sound of singing

while in his naked skin listening to the greediest secrets

whispered in chimney flues

you can’t question him at all about love

for as drunken suitor he will stumble

when he offers you his heart as bag of rotten tomatoes

while his mouth is still red

you can’t expect a drunken man

to snitch on dead friends

he has a knife with a white blade in the pocket

you can’t inquire of a drunken man

if he ever thinks of death

he splutters too much when he curses and laughs

verily, I say to you

you can’t have a drunken man

cry on paper

it becomes a shitting of flies

with tears and snot

      and old wine stains

here

 

(Uncollected)

(Tr. by the author)

 

***

Other:

Breyten Breytenbach – translated by Tony Ullyatt

 

26 November 1975

May trees remain ever green
and all the stars white,
and may there always be people
who without shyness can look
each other in the eye –
because life is only one breath long
and all the stars of the Nether Regions dark –

 

I shall die and go to my father

I shall die and go to my father
in Wellington with long legs
shining in the light
where the rooms are dark and heavy
where stars sit on the roof’s ridge
and angels dig for worms in the garden
I shall die and with little baggage
hit the road
over the Wellington mountains
between the trees and the dusk
and go to my father;

The sun will beat on the earth
the wind’s waves cause the joints to creak
we hear the tenants’
abrasive shuffle above our head
we will play draughts on the back stoop
– old father cheating –
and over the radio
listen to the night’s news.

Friends, dying’s cohorts,
do not hesitate; now life hangs
still like flesh on our bodies
but death does not disappoint
we come and we go
are like water out the tap so
like sounds from the mouth
as we come and we go
our bones will know freedom –
Come with me
in my death in me go to my father
to Wellington where the angels
angle with worms for stars from heaven
let us die and perish and be cheerful:
my father has a huge boarding house.

 

[Untitled]

and the poem is the meaning
of the poem

 

(Tr. by Tony Ullyatt)