Leon Retief.Minder bekende digters van Canuckistan, deel 1

zwicky-jan (1)Jan Zwicky


Met “minder bekend” bedoel ek digters wat na my mening (vir wat dit werd is) nie so internasionaal gereken word as wat die geval behoort te wees nie, alhoewel hulle wel hier te lande hoog aangeslaan word. Dieselfde is ook (weereens, vir wat my mening werd is) die geval met sommige Afrikaanse digters maar dit nou daar gelaat. Jan Zwicky is inderdaad baie goed bekend in Kanada maar na die beste van my wete geniet sy nie juis internasionale erkenning nie. Sy is professor emerita in Filosofie (ek sal dit nie teen haar hou nie J) en skynbaar ‘n bedrewe violis. Ek het haar sonder sukses probeer kontak, dit kom my voor asof sy ‘n baie privaat persoon is.

Lees: http://www.brickbooks.ca/reviews/rapprochement-the-poetry-of-jan-zwicky/

Die “boom under the river ice” waarvan sy in Recovery skryf is die knars- en knalgeluide wat mens in die lente hoor wanneer die ys in die groot riviere begin smelt en reuse plate en brokke ys teen mekaar bots, opbreek en in die snel vloeiende water verder dryf. Die video (net ter inligting vir die wat nog nie so iets gesien het nie) gee ongelukkig nie die klank baie goed weer nie maar ek dink dit wys darem so min of meer hoe dit lyk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1RhkrnV-qM



And when at last grief has dried you out, nearly

weightless, like a little bone, one day,

no reason in particular, the world decides to tug:

twinge under the breastbone, the sudden thought

you might stand up, walk to the door and

keep on going… And in the seconds following,

like the silence following the boom under the river ice, it all

seems possible, the egg-smooth clarity of the new-awakened,

rising, to stand, and walk… But already

at the edges of the crack, sorrow

starts to ooze, the brown stain spreading

and you think: there is no end to it.


But in the breaking, something else is given – not

that glittering jumble, shrieking and churning in the blind

centre of the afternoon,


but something else – a scent,

like a door flung open, a sudden downpour

through which you can still see the sun, derelict

in the neighbour’s field, the wren’s bright eye in the thicket.

As though on that day in August, or even July,

when you were first thinking of autumn, you remembered also

the last day of spring, which had passed

without your noticing. Something that easy, let go

without a thought, untroubled by oblivion,

a bird, a smile.




The rock weeps into its own whiteness

Sunny meadow slopes, the gentians,

far above,

the sun, too, tumbles down. A symphony

of spruce boughs sinks into the fiery moss.


Jewel-music, the amber roar of the falls.

No one thinks of home.

Waiting in the cool shadows,

we are dappled with hope.




Remember how the track swung out

around the cutbank in the full light of the moon?

In my dream.


I took off my rings then, my bracelets,

the gold locket

to stand bare-headed among the pines!




The fascination of water

is the laughter of geometry.

Wind plunges down the hillside:

a longing to embrace.


The mountain drifts in twilight.

When we draw the blinds at dusk

is the moment we most want to open

them again.




Delicacy of mule deer, the sharp

dry scent of spruce –

we have been grateful for the smallest kindnesses:

a shelf that holds up books, dry socks.


Rain streaks the windows of the cabin.

Of course, the earth once moved

on fragile stilts like theirs,

thought rolls down a crack, is lost.


A sky with holes, a desert

in the Amazon,

you, black stump, rigid in slash: –

mist writhes from the surface of the lake.


We are tired.

The wooden bowl is empty.

All night, arguments with strangers, dim

corridors, panic.




It is spring, the gullies are dry.

One makes camp in a rocky meadow

under a plain of stars.


The hands hold themselves in sleep then:

and the ears, the eyes, the tongue

in its dark cavern.


The mind walks alone to the horizon.


When it returns, its face will be white,

the compass will be broken

in its broken hand.


And when the tent flap flutters

in the windy dawn, where the heart lay

will be nothing.




There had been flooding all that summer, I recall

acres of grey-brown footage from the Midwest –

but with reports confined to property, and human interest,

the reasons for the land’s incontinence suppressed, those images

had skimmed past, seeming, as usual, not quite real.

The day had been hot, clear,

we’d eaten supper on the porch, and

later, quite late, had turned the radio on upstairs –

some thought of midnight news, perhaps –

I don’t remember now.

The signal we pulled in – strongly,

because we weren’t far from the border then –

was the last half-hour of a Brewers-Red Sox game.

It was coming from Milwaukee,

top of the ninth two out, the Brewers leading,

and we hadn’t been listening long when the announcer,

between a line out and hatcher’s

coming to the plate, commented on the weather:

there’d been a rain delay, it had been raining heavily before,

but now it was easing up, just a light shower falling,

though a lot of lightning was still visible to the east and south.

Raised on the prairies, I

could see it clearly, suddenly

could see the whole scene clearly:

the crowd dwindling, several

umbrellas, the glittering aluminum of vacated seats,

the misted loaf of arc-lit night, the night,

deeper by contrast, thick and wet and brown

around it, flickering.


And at the same time I was struck, too – like

looking out across a huge relief map – by the hundreds of miles

between our bedroom and Milwaukee, by that continental

distance, and was overtaken inexplicably

by sorrow.

It was as though

in that moment of deep focus

I had tasted the idea of America.

As though it really might have had

something to do with baseball and radios and the beauty

of the storms that can form in the vast light above the plains – or,

no, extremity of some kind – clarity, or tenderness –

as though, that close to the end, levels

already rising on the leveed banks again,

the mistakes made might have been human:

not justifiable, but as though

some sort of story might be told, simply,

from defeat, without apology, the way you might describe

the fatal accident – not to make sense of it,

but just to say,

something had happened:

there was blood, blood everywhere, we hadn’t realised,

by the time we noticed, rivers of it,

nothing could be done.





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3 Kommentare op “Leon Retief.Minder bekende digters van Canuckistan, deel 1”

  1. Andries Bezuidenhout :

    Dankie hiervoor Leon. Dis ‘n heerlike manier om die week te begin. Iets in veral die laaste gedig laat my aan Szymborska dink (nie vorm nie, eerder emosionele lading en hoe sy die idee van ‘n plek op ‘n landskap kan verbeel deur iets soos radiokommentaar op sport). Dalk maak ek die konneksie omdat ek eers in jou inleiding gelees het dat Zwicky die filosofie bestudeer.

  2. Maria Snyman :

    Wonderlike idee Leon, sien uit na die res van die reeks – jy het nou maar eenmaal ‘n oog vir gedugte gedigte!

    En ek is bly jy hou Jan Zwicky se filosofiese agtergrond nie teen haar nie, want ek sien iets wonderlik “filosofies” in haar werk raak. Jy moet onthou daar is/gebeur [dit is logies asof voorgeskrewe] ‘n letterkunde in die geheim in filosofiese sisteme … filosowe, totaliseerders par excellence, weerspreek hulself op ‘n punt op onhebbelike snaakse maniere …

    Mens sou kon sê dit is “Something that easy”, die filosoof “let go” op ‘n punt – soos iemand in diep en konkrete pyn, soos “Recovery” so byna onmenslik mooi van vertel – “without a thought, untroubled by oblivion” en wat ons kry is “a bird, a smile.”

    Oe, hoe eenvoudig, hoe pragtig!

    Lekker gedigte oortik (of kopieer & plak waar jy gelukkig is) intussen.

  3. Leon Retief :

    Maria daar was darem ‘n smiley agter my opmerking oor Zwicky se filosoofgeit maar om een of ander rede het dit deurgekom as ‘n J.