Louis Esterhuizen. Handeklap vir debuutdigter

Vanweë hul enorme produksie gebeur dit nie te gereeld dat daar in die Amerikaanse digkuns hande geklap word vir ‘n debutant nie. ‘n Onlangse uitsondering is egter die Meksikaans-gebore digter Jose Antonio Rodriguez wat enkele maande gelede met ‘n bundel The Shallow End of Sleep (Tia Chucha Press, 2011) gedebuteer het. Rodriguez, wat in die suide van Texas grootgeword het, is ‘n produk van die skryfskool te Binghamton Universiteit en is tans redakteur van die literêre joernaal Harpur Palate. Van sy gedigte het reeds verskyn in die Paterson Literary Review, Cream City Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Connecticut Review en  Ragazine. In 2009 is die Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award aan hom toegeken.

Dit verbaas dus nie dat daar met groot verwagting uitgesien was na sy debuutbundel nie. Op die Latino Poetry Review se webtuiste is daar ‘n besonder insiggewende onderhoud wat Lauro Vazquez met Rodriguez gevoer het. Van The Shallow End of Sleep het Vazquez die volgende te sê: “Jose Antonio Rodriguez’s poems are unlike any I have read. I imagine that for the most part poets are comfortable with the idea of populating the page with words that will inhabit these white spaces. But Jose’s poems refuse to simply fill in white space. His poems have an oral quality to them-they beg to be heard more than being read or written. There is a feeling of discordant conversation, where speech is the beginning of acknowledging that which muffles the everyday poetry necessary for survival.”

Op die vraag hoe Rodriguez self sy gedigte sal beskryf, het hy soos volg geantwoord: “In general I see my work as narrative, conversational, anecdotal, and sometimes overtly emotional in a language that’s quite accessible.  But I have to say, I’m not ‘married’ to the narrative format and am very fond of the lyrical in poetry.  I see myself at the beginning of a journey and I’m open to wherever it may lead me both with regard to content and style.  That’s part of the excitement.  Also, themes of home, belonging, and marginalization are quite prevalent in my work thus far, and I’m curious to see how these themes play out in my future writing projects.”

Gaan lees gerus die volledige onderhoud. Daar is veral interessante vrae en antwoorde oor die kwessie van landskap en die invloed daarvan op die digkuns.

Vir jou leesplesier plaas ek twee verse hieronder. Beide is narratief bedraad, maar die eerste het darem ‘n mate van liriese pretensie terwyl die tweede ‘n deurwinterde prosavers is. Op Ragazine se webtuiste is daar nog van Rordriguez se gedigte wat gelees (geniet?) kan word.

***

The Blades of the Window Fan

The grill is an amputation of old bedspring coils
that supports the pot of beans which are young sediment
and the bed, knowing of its wholeness
commits to the memory of pink walls
the steady weight, the soft curve of elbow
before the necessity of slow dismemberment
and loss.

 I lie on a bed of cotton sheets
            damp and lined with the old maps of explorers
            trampled on by my father’s small horse,
            the one he traded for a smaller pickup truck.
The coils below squeak out rusty crow feathers
to flame the fires in the pit outside.

The blades of the window fan hypnotize my dirt brown stare,
dry away the sweat and urine of wind laced days without baths
in a bucket of well water.

Outside the window is the neighbor’s dog
that surrenders under the low mesquite branch
in a shallow hole it has dug
and lined with feathers,
black with blue and violet reflections
like the eye of a horse.

The rhythmic hum weighs down the eyelids
and kindles the fire.

The beans begin to boil.

***

Avocado

My crotch feels warm before I know to hold it in. The wet blankets will soon be colder than they were last night.  The snores of those who sleep are muffled by heavy fabric. I get out of bed and I don’t mind the jeans and jacket so much anymore, how denim clings to bed sheets, how nylon slides away. I am hungry and the aroma of the avocado makes me almost myopic. This morning, though, the avocado is harder than I remembered it. Spoons are always dull. The cold of the kitchen walls stretches the skin so that I feel like the tips of my fingers are coming undone. The knuckles tighten and I think of my youngish aunt who moves with a walker. Maybe the body dies not all at once but in pieces. The tortilla for the avocado taco blackens over the stove burner but my fingers don’t burn when I touch the part that smolders. I place my hands close to the flame – blue with an orange center – and soon the scent of burnt hair, fine like ice crystals, fills the space before me. I no longer think of the avocado exposed to the air, blackening.  My hands ache something new like my next birthday, but I don’t cry and I wish my father could see me. Later that morning something on TV will mention an overnight freeze, damage to the citrus orchards my father tended to in the night. Within a year he will be out of work, will leave far in search of orchards green instead of ice burnt. I will promise to him that I will no longer wet my bed. I won’t cry. Instead, I will hand him an avocado and tell him to cut it open on a warm day.

 

(c) Jose Antonio Rodriguez

 

 

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