Posts Tagged ‘digterskap’

Louis Esterhuizen. Die obsessiewe aard van die digter

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Via ‘n skakel by Ooteoote beland ek op New York Times se webblad waar Charles Simic (foto) ‘n besonder vermaaklike artikel geplaas het ter verduideliking van sy volgehoue drif tot die maak van gedigte; sy hoë ouderdom ten spyt. Sy betoog open hy met die volgende stelling: “Now that I’m in my seventies, I’m asked that question (i.e. die vraag of hy nog steeds gedigte maak) now and then by people who don’t know me well. Many of them, I suspect, hope to hear me say that I’ve come my senses and given up that foolish passion of my youth and are visibly surprised to hear me confess that I haven’t yet. They seem to think there is something downright unwholesome and even shocking about it, as if I were dating a high school girl, at my age, and going with her roller-skating that night.”

Nog ‘n vraag waarop Simic volgens hom dikwels moet reageer (soos menige ander digters, sekerlik) is die vraag wanneer en hoekom hy begin skryf het; en dan in sy geval: hoekom hy in Engels dig en nie in sy moedertaal (Serwies) nie. “. I was often tempted to tell the interviewer with a straight face that I had chosen poetry to get my hands on all that big prize money that’s lying around, since informing them that there was never any decision like that in my case inevitably disappoints them. They want to hear something heroic and poetic, and I tell them that I was just another high school kid who wrote poems in order to impress girls, but with no other ambition beyond that. Not being a native speaker of English, they also ask me why I didn’t write my poems in Serbian and wonder how I arrived at the decision to ditch my mother tongue. Again, my answer seems frivolous to them, when I explain that for poetry to be used as an instrument of seduction, the first requirement is that it be understood. No American girl was likely to fall for a guy who reads her love poems in Serbian as they sip Coke.”

Nou ja, toe. Maar die fassinerende vraag is hoekom bepaalde individue volhard met die maak van gedigte, terwyl ander, wat dikwels van toontjie tot  kroontjie volgeprop is met talent, gewoon belangstelling verloor en ophou daarmee. “The mystery to me is that I continued writing poetry long after there was any need for that,” skryf Simic. “My early poems were embarrassingly bad, and the ones that came right after, not much better. I have known in my life a number of young poets with immense talent who gave up poetry even after being told they were geniuses. No one ever made that mistake with me, and yet I kept going.”

Maar sjoe, dan kom hy met die volgende onthulling wat my besonderse plesier verskaf het: “There’s something else in my past that I only recently realized contributed to my perseverance in writing poems, and that is my love of chess […] Chess made me obsessive and tenacious. Already then, (Simic was 6 jaar oud toe hy begin skaak speel het) I could not forget each wrong move, each humiliating defeat. I adored games in which both sides are reduced to a few figures each and in which every single move is of momentous significance [..]. The kinds of poems I write-mostly short and requiring endless tinkering-often recall for me games of chess. They depend for their success on word and image being placed in proper order and their endings must have the inevitability and surprise of an elegantly executed checkmate.”

Obsessive and tenacious?! Mmmm … miskien is dit daardie twee woorde wat op die voorkop van elke digter ingegriffel staan, want is daar ‘n digter op wie dit nie in minder of meerdere mate van toepassing is nie?

 En vir jou leesplesier volg hieronder ‘n vroeë gedig deur Simic oor skaak.

***

Prodigy

I grew up bent over
a chessboard.

I loved the word endgame.

All my cousins looked worried.

It was a small house
near a Roman graveyard.
Planes and tanks
shook its windowpanes.

A retired professor of astronomy
taught me how to play.

That must have been in 1944.

In the set we were using,
the paint had almost chipped off
the black pieces.

The white King was missing
and had to be substituted for.

I’m told but do not believe
that that summer I witnessed
men hung from telephone poles.

I remember my mother
blindfolding me a lot.
She had a way of tucking my head
suddenly under her overcoat.

In chess, too, the professor told me,
the masters play blindfolded,
the great ones on several boards
at the same time.

 

(c) Charles Simic (Uit: Selected Early Poems (George Braziller Inc., 1999) 

 

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