Louis Esterhuizen. Om trauma poëties te verwoord

 

 

Lawrence Joseph (foto) is ‘n minder bekende, dog fassinerende Amerikaanse digter wat bekend is vir die besonderse integriteit waarmee hy veral traumatiese gebeure in sy verse hanteer. Daarom dat ‘n artikel by Jacket2 deur John Lowney oor Joseph se mees onlangse bundel, Into it, my aandag getrek het. By wyse van inleiding maak Lowney die volgende opmerking: “Joseph’s poetry has been praised, especially within the study of law and literature, for its honesty, compassion, and intellectual acuity in representing contemporary life. His poetry is also notable for the critical lens through which he views the contemporary world, a critical lens that is as directed toward his own subjective vision – and his professional vision as a lawyer – as it is toward the external world.”

Met die bekende Joseph-gedig, “Some Sort of Chronicler I Am” as uitgangspunt motiveer Lowney se artikel soos volg: “In this essay I will suggest how the modernist intertexts of Joseph’s most recent volume, Into It, from Williams and Stevens to Paul Celan and Bertolt Brecht, inform his distinctive approach to the traumatic site of lower Manhattan on and soon after September 11, 2001. In weaving international modernist responses to collective trauma into the thick fabric of socioeconomic, political, legal, and aesthetic discourses that comprise Into It, Joseph underscores not only the contemporary international dimensions of 9/11 but also instructive precedents for responding to mass violence.”

Dit is egter die gedeeltes oor die rol wat geheue speel in die verwerking van traumatiese gebeure en hoe die digkuns by uitstek geskik is tot die verwoording hiervan wat my in die besonder geïnteresseer het: “Poetry is an especially important medium for coming to terms with trauma, given its distinctive concern with memory. As Walter Kalaidjian writes in his compelling study of modern poetry and trauma, The Edge of Modernism: American Poetry and the Traumatic Past, the formal qualities of poetry furthermore ‘forge a salutary medium for staging traumatic histories in ways that resist the banal spectacle of the image world otherwise governing contemporary consumer society.’ Trauma is generally understood psychologically as a belated response to shocking violence or violation, a response that manifests itself as ‘a dissociation of affect and representation,’ as Dominick LaCapra has written in Writing History, Writing Trauma: one ‘disorientingly feels what one cannot represent.’ Writing as a witness of the traumatic experience of 9/11 in lower Manhattan, Joseph enacts in his poetry what LaCapra has defined as ‘empathic unsettlement – as discursive symptom of, and perhaps necessary affective response to, the impact of trauma.’

Gaan lees gerus die volledige artikel. Insiggewend, inderdaad. Veral die kontekstualisering van Joseph se digkuns in verhouding tot Wallace Stevens en Paul Celan mag vir vele lesers van belang wees.

Hieronder volg enkele reëls uit die gedig “Rubyiat” soos dit deur Lowney aangehaal word.

***

I want you to watch carefully
what I am saying now – are you
with me? An inch-long piece of steel,
part of the artillery shell’s

casing, sliced through the right eye
into his brain, severely damaging
the optic nerve of his left eye,
spraying bone splinters

into the brain, making him quick to lose
his temper, so acutely sensitive to pain
the skin on his face hurts
when wind blows against it …

© Lawrence Joseph (Uit: Into it, pp. 44 – 45)

 

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