Toon Tellegen se gedig vir New York

Toon Tellegen

Toon Tellegen

Met hul laaste uitgawe verlede jaar het Poetry International Web verras met die insluiting van die Nederlandse digter Toon Tellegen se gedig ‘A poem for Henry Hudson‘. Hierdie gedig het hy in opdrag geskryf vir die gala-aand van die herdenkingsfees ter ere van Henry Hudson in 2009. En watter indrukwekkende gedig is dit nie! Nie net is dit ‘n besonder treffende ode aan die stad New York nie, maar die manier waarop Tellegen daarin slaag om die persoonlike en alledaagse belewenisse van die gewone New Yorker met die historiese gegewe te verweef, is myns insiens briljant.

By wyse van aanvulling hou ek graag enkele aanhalings voor uit Thomas Möhlman se inleidende artikel oor Tellegen op Poetry International Web: “Tellegen experiments with human identity, and the poem is the ideal place for reflecting on the subject. This could easily be heavy-handed, except that his poetry stands out for its ligh-hearted, lucid tone and its unphilosophical, indeed extremely evocative, narrative style. Most of the poems are miniature stories, written in free verse that resembles prose but for its line distribution […] Tellegen is a master at projecting emotional states such as fear, helplessness, alienation, surrender, delight in narrative poetry. Strikingly often, he is concerned with disappearance, grief, death. He lets an apple rot slowly, he kills a mosquito, conscious of guilt, he discovers a bull in the china shop of his soul, he watches himself climb a wall on the edge of his thoughts.”

Ten slotte, iets wat Philip Fried, redakteur van The Manhattan Review, oor Toon Tellegen se gedigte gesê het: “Tellegen’s poems are parables for grown-up children. Their world is stripped-down, urgent, playful, quirky, familiar as children’s games yet strangely disorienting. They induce a mini-millennial fever, the disquieting excitement of being about to pass through the needle’s eye.”

Ai, wat ‘n digter … Op ‘n manier herinner sy gedigte ‘n mens aan Tony Hoagland, is dit nie? Nietemin, die gedig waarna hier bo verwys is, volg onder aan vanoggend se Nuuswekker.


Sedert gister is die uwe se fotobeeld tot sy embarrassement geplaas. Gelukkig is daar darem ook nog Philip de Vos se bydrae oor sy vroeë ontdekkings van musiek, plus ‘n nuwe gedig deur Johann Lodewyk Marais om te geniet.

Hê dus pret met dit alles.

Mooi bly.



A poem for Henry Hudson

My father
lay in the arms of my mother,
my brothers entered the room, asked:
‘Are we in your way?’
pulled him to his feet,
gave him a good shaking, shouted:
‘We want to know now! Are we in your way?!’ –
but my father tore himself loose
and vanished in my mother –
philosophers rushed forward, searched for him in vain,
fumbled at the gates of life,
pulled answers out of their hats in desperation

and water fell on the barren heath and between the wild corn,
sparkled in the sun, enticed butterflies, wolves,
carved itself a path through pine forest and birches,
quenched the thirst of Indians, bears and deer,
wondered at the immense silence
                                             of the world all around,
carried death and life and uncertainty along with it,
stumbled into chasms,
seethed with rage and pulled itself together again,
wrestled itself through cracks and crevices,
called out to the tiniest and most timid of brooks:
‘I am a river. Come with me!’
‘Where to?’
‘To the sea!’
‘To the sea?’
‘Yes, to the sea!’
saw the sea
and sighed the way only a river can sigh
                                            out of immortality and melancholy,
nestled itself in the arms of a bay and slept –
until one day – ships sailed by
and the river awoke, opened its mouth wide,
cried: ‘Hudson! You! I have been waiting for you! I knew you would come!’
and Henry Hudson put his telescope to one eye
                                             and called out to his sailors:
‘This is where we are meant to be!
This is the centre of the world.’

I went to the centre of the world,
I wanted to hear Thelonious Monk,
John Coltrane at the Village Vanguard
                                           playing the first notes of ‘My Favourite Things’,
I wanted to go to Minton’s Playhouse on a Monday night
and hear Charlie Parker play ‘I Got Rhythm’, each time in a different key,
I wanted to see the Yankees, witness Casey Stengel come out of the dugout,
hear the Moose call for Moose Skowron,
see Mickey Mantle hit a first pitch into the bleachers –
I would never bet against them –
I wanted to see Roosevelt Grier, Sam Huff, Dick Modzelewski, Jim Katcavage and Andy
standing unshakeable on the goal line in Yankee Stadium,
the Rocky Mountains of my imagination,
I wanted to take the ferry to Staten Island for a nickel
and eat one of Nathan’s foot-long hotdogs on Coney Island,
with chilli, pickles and extra mustard,
I wanted to see the ferris wheel and walk along the boardwalk
like the father and mother of Delmore Schwartz in an irresponsible dream once,
I wanted to be a poet, make girls look at me in wonder,
run their hands through my hair,
wake up beside one of them, one morning, for the first time,
I wanted to walk where Jimmy Walker had walked
                                          at the head of the Police Parade,
I wanted to let him know, my Jimmy, my hero,
that I would still love him in December,
even if it meant trudging through the snow,
I wanted to hear LaGuardia – O Fiorello, how I love you too! –
as he read the daily cartoons on the radio,
I wanted to think:
here Joe Louis, the ‘great brown bomber’, would saunter between two fights,
and here walked Ray Robinson in his sugar-pink coat, a girl on each arm,
I wanted to nod at Jack Dempsey through the window of his restaurant
and slowly, very slowly count to ten, without him noticing,
I wanted to sound a barbaric yawp over the roofs of Brooklyn, like Walt Whitman,
I wanted to close my eyes tight and cheer Lafayette in Fulton Street
and the GIs along Broadway in ’45,
I wanted to be in the centre of the world,
which was once in Voorstraat, at the corner of Asylstraat,
in a small town in Holland,
but had now changed places and was here –
I was just a boy, still wore the wrong clothes,
blushed each time someone asked me a question –
I wanted to see subways ride past, ‘whole cars’, ‘whole trains’
by Dondi, Lee, Rammellzee and Blade,
I wanted to know where e.e. cummings gave his capitals to the garbage man,
where Dutch Schultz drew his final breath with his head in his plate
and where on 15 June 1904 – the day before Bloomsday – the General Slocum went down
with more than a thousand children on board,
the greatest disaster in the ninety-seven years that followed,
I wanted to be here, stay here, far away
and yet nowhere so close

and morning came,
philosophers slept their hermetic sleep,
the sun came up
and my father crawled out of my mother,
became immense, grey and almighty,
stretched out his arms –
my brothers, my millions of brothers,
swarmed at his feet –
and he said:
‘No, you are not in my way.
You are never in my way,’

and my mother wept.


© Toon Tellegen (Vertaal deur Judith Wilkinson)


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2 Kommentare op “Toon Tellegen se gedig vir New York”

  1. Desmond Painter :

    Briljante gedig!

  2. Louis :

    Ek’s bly jy het gehou hiervan, Desmond. Vir my eweneens ‘n aangrypende vers. Ek is veral beïndruk met die manier waarop hy die ietwat konvensionele “belydenis”-aspekte vermeng met die anekdotiese, of te wel die persoonlike met die historiese. Tellegen is inderdaad ‘n gróót digter wat nie altyd – selfs in Nederland – na waarde geskat word nie. Myns insiens.