Brittanje se beste onbekende digter

Sean O'Brien

Sean O'Brien

Op die oog af lyk die Britse digkuns vandag kerngesond en tog, luidens ‘n onlangse berig by The Telegraph bestaan daar wel kommer oor die stand daarvan; ten spyte van die ongekende suksesse die afgelope jaar of wat. In die betrokke berig vewys Philip Hensher na die prestasie van digters wat op ‘n streep die vernaamste pryse verower, soos Jo Shapcott byvoorbeeld wat verlede maand met die Costa Award vir die beste boek van die jaar bekroon is. Ook is daar vele inisiatiewe en publikasies wat alles daaroe bydrae dat die Britse digkuns tans ‘n besonder dinamiese aansigvertoon.

Tog is Hensher van mening dat die media se erkenning en beriggewing oor dié prestasies nie na wense is nie; as voorbeeld plaas hy die fokus op Sean O’Brien, wat sekerlik as Brittanje se beste onbekende digter gereken moet word: “Despite all the prizes and the publicity, there is a sense that poetry is losing its way; that it has not quite found the audience today that, surely, it deserves. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that poetry today never, or almost never, sells at all. Take a single example: Sean O’Brien. Professor O’Brien is about as well esteemed by his community of writers as a poet can be. Every one of his seven volumes has won prizes. The last, The Drowned Book, published in 2007, won the Northern Rock Foundation Writer’s Award, the Forward Prize for Best Collection and the T S Eliot Prize. That netted him £85,000 in prize money, which was just as well, because it sold sod-all.”

Hierteenoor stel hy die verering wat Derek Walcott in St. Lucia, sy eiland van herkoms, geniet teenoor die blootstelling wat in Brittanje bykans volledig ontbreek: “When this year’s T S Eliot winner, Derek Walcott, comes to Britain from his native St Lucia these days, he may feel like Virgil visiting the rudely unpoetic outer reaches of a civilised empire. In his tiny Caribbean nation, a poet is given his due: St Lucia has a national Nobel Day, marking his 1992 triumph at the grandest of all literary prizes, as well as naming streets and popular dishes after him. It is safe to say, on the other hand, that Jo Shapcott, despite her excellence, is walking the streets today quite unrecognised. Who was the last British poet to have a street or a cake named after him? Kipling?”

Nou ja, toe. Of is hierdie maar net nog ‘n voorbeeld van iemand wat met ‘n wit brood onder die arm staan en kla?

Hoe ook al – as toegif volg ‘n gedig deur Sean O’Brien soos gebruiklik onder aan die Nuuswekker.

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Vanoggend verwelkom ons twee nuwe deelnemers aan die webblad. Ten eerste maak Stefaan Goossens van die Poëziecentrum in Gent sy toetrede as lid van Wisselkaarten. In sy eerste aflewering vertel hy van die Lae Lande se Gedichtendag-vieringe wat enkele weke gelede plaasgevind het. Dan is daar ook na gesprekvoering met Bernard Odendaal besluit om die botter op die resensiebrood ietwat dunner te smeer deur ‘n paneel van drie vaste resensente byeen te bring. Hiermee maak ons dan bekend dat Zandra Bezuidenhout voortaan ook resensies vir die webblad gaan lewer. (Die derde lid van dié paneel sal binnekort bekend gemaak word.)

Hierdie week behoort Joan Hambidge se nuwe digbundel, Visums by verstek, in die handel beskikbaar te wees. Ter viering van dié geleentheid plaas ons met dank ‘n onderhoud wat met haar hieroor gevoer was. Voorts is daar ook nog nuwe bydraes deur Andries Bezuidenhout, wat oor Lucas Maree skryf, en Leon Retief wat dit weer oor stede in die sneeu het. (En maak ook seker dat jy nie die gedigte van Glen Sorestad aan die einde van Leon se blog mis nie; dié man kan waaragtig dig!)

Mag hierdie week vir jou ‘n spesiale een wees.

Mooi bly.

LE

 

Cousin Coat

You are my secret coat. You’re never dry.
You wear the weight and stink of black canals.
Malodorous companion, we know why
It’s taken me so long to see we’re pals,
To learn why my acquaintance never sniff
Or send me notes to say I stink of stiff.

But you don’t talk, historical bespoke.
You must be worn, be intimate as skin,
And though I never lived what you invoke,
At birth I was already buttoned in.
Your clammy itch became my atmosphere,
An air made half of anger, half of fear.

And what you are is what I tried to shed
In libraries with Donne and Henry James.
You’re here to bear a message from the dead
Whose history’s dishonoured with their names.
You mean the North, the poor, and troopers sent
To shoot down those who showed their discontent.

No comfort there for comfy meliorists
Grown weepy over Jarrow photographs.
No comfort when the poor the state enlists
Parade before their fathers cenotaphs.
No comfort when the strikers all go back
To see the twenty thousand get the sack.

Be with me when they cauterise the facts.
Be with me to the bottom of the page,
Insisting on what history exacts.
Be memory, be conscience, will and rage,
And keep me cold and honest, cousin coat,
So if I lie, I’ll know you’re at my throat.

 

© Sean O’Brien (Uit: “Cousin Coat: Selected Poems” (Picador, 2001)

 

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