Posts Tagged ‘Glen Sorestad’

Leon Retief. Glen Sorestad in Kuba

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014



Ter inligting aan nuwe lesers van Versindaba en om moontlik ‘n paar geheues te verfris: Glen Sorestad is ‘n Saskatoonse digter en een van die leidende figure van die prêrie-digkuns. Ek is al ‘n paar jaar met hom bevriend en van sy gedigte het al op hierdie webwerf verskyn. Na ‘n onlangse besoek aan Kuba het ek die volgende van hom ontvang:

 Cuba is one of the many small islands in the Caribbean Sea lying between North and South America and as such, it is a popular tourist destination, especially for Canadians who have had an interesting historical attachment to Cuba since 1959 when Fidel Castro took over control of the island. Canada has been a supporter of the island nation, whose north shore lies only fifty miles or so south of the southern tip of Florida, a nation which has been almost peevishly blockaded by the U.S. since 1960. My wife and I have made three trips to Cuba and have come to be fascinated with the island and its people, so much so that I fear we have both fallen in love with the Cuban people. Despite the incredible hardships ordinary Cubans have faced for over 50 years as a people blockaded by the world’s most powerful nation, the Cubans have proved themselves a most remarkable people. One of the most highly educated nations in the world, Cuba and its people are also among the most talented artistically and nowhere is that more evident than in their completely remarkable musical scene. We immensely enjoy our time in Cuba with these friendly, hospitable and unusually gifted people. I hope my poems are a reflection of how highly we regard the Cuban people we’ve met and how privileged we feel to be welcomed into their midst.

Glen beplan om ten minste sommige van hierdie gedigte, heel moontlik in verwerkte vorm, in te sluit in ‘n bundel wat voorlopig die titel het van Dancing with Dinosaurs: Cuban Poems.

It All Began With 82


It’s all so utterly preposterous.

Really, just think about it.

Can anything be more brash,

more completely outrageous?

Imagine what Clint Eastwood

could do with a story like this!

Start with a small armed force —

a rag-tag army, aiming to overthrow

a firmly entrenched dictator

with an assault from the sea

in a single landing craft

(named Granma, for pity’s sake!),

an invading army of 82 men!

Look, I’m not making this up –

it’s a matter of public record.

Can you imagine an invasion

less likely to succeed? Then,

when the attacking force lacks

the element of total surprise

in the face of daunting odds,

and when the eighty-two are

summarily reduced to nineteen,

who flee to the rugged heights

of the Sierra Maestras, that fiasco

should have written finis

to such an ill-conceived scene.

Had Fidel and Raul and Che

been among the initial fallen,

the story would have ended

in the bloody streets of Santiago.

But the trio was of the nineteen

and they wrote a different ending –

one even Eastwood would

never get away with..


The Gracious Waiter


Osmani is a tall Cuban whose lineage appears rooted

in the Middle East. A most gentle, gracious soul,

he lacks the ebullience of his fellow waiters.

Quiet and efficient, Osmani glides about his job,

with neither fuss nor favour, serene, as if serving

a host of angels. How could anyone not like him?

Like most dining room servers he was here two years ago,

likely much longer. Such positions are sinecures

for Cubans.  Easy to imagine the senior waiters having

spent their entire working lives here.

Osmani, the gracious waiter, offends no one.

Wrapped in his distinct aura of silent warmth,

he returns home each night better off than when

he began the day, thankful for this tired crumbling

resort hotel and its ongoing life as winter home

for hosts of geriatric Canadian sun-seekers.


How Day Unfolds on the Playas

Each morning after the sun lights the sands,

young men who work the tourist-only beach

begin their job of hauling out of night storage

the white plastic chairs, matching tables,

large green parasols to shade the mostly white

sun-bathers from omnipotent sun. They set

everything out on the manicured sand for tourists

to loll away their day according to their desires.

Before sundown, these same young workers will

begin the process of undoing, of deconstruction.

One by one, two by two, they stack and hoist

and tote all the paraphernalia away from the sand,

back into the security of the night storage shed.

This Sisyphusan task must and will be repeated,

day after day; it is the bloodstream that feeds

daily life on the groomed sand of the Playas.


Afternoon Seminar


Around 2:00 in the afternoon a half dozen or more taxis

pull up alongside our Cuban hotel and park. They are

ready for fares, of course, but this is the slow time

at this beachfront hotel, so the cabbies all clamber out,

exchange greetings, handshakes or high fives,

then sit together on the grass to talk. They become

vociferous, animated, and though I know little Spanish,

I imagine they are chewing on the very same bones

workers on a break would be gnawing in my country,

or any other – local politics, sports, families, and sex.

Occasionally a fare shows up and one of them returns

to the reality of work, but chances are another cab arrives

and a new driver is welcomed to the ongoing deliberations.

Afternoon wanes and one by one, each cab driver leaves,

but the next day some combination of them will reassemble

alongside the hotel and the seminar of Cuban taxi drivers

will reconvene to continue their search for enlightenment.


Looking North

Here on Playas del Este, popular beaches east of Havana

on Cuba’s northern shore, from our window I look north

across the moving Gulf waters to where America,

in all its might and fervour, its zeal and self-proclaimed rightness,

is not even the faintest outline, an incomplete thought.

The most powerful nation on earth — invisible to the eye

as I gaze across this ceaseless sea, waves that crashed here

before all nations, large and small, that will in the end

outlast them all. The Gulf keeps things in perspective.

Here, its hue might even be a Cuban shade of blue.

I am just reporting to you what I see.


© Poems: Glen Sorestad. 2014

(deur Leon Retief)

Leon Retief. A thief of impeccable taste

Monday, July 1st, 2013


                                               Glen Sorestad


Un ladrón de impeccable buen gusto


Glen Sorestad is ʼn prêriedigter van Saskatoon wie se verse ek al voorheen geplaas het. Sy jongste twee publikasies is ʼn sakboekie Along Okema Road en dan bogenoemde bundel wat verlede jaar op die rakke verskyn het met die Engelse gedigte op een bladsy en die Spaanse vertaling op die teenoorgestelde bladsy. Die vertalings is gedoen deur Manuel de Jesús Velásquez León, lektor in “Studies van die Engelssprekende Kulture” aan die universiteit José de la Luz y Caballero in Kuba.

Die Thief bevat ʼn voorwoord deur die vertaler, ʼn taamlike lang een om die waarheid te sê, dus sal ek net enkele sinne uit die eerste twee paragrawe aanhaal” “Generally, (Sorestad) lets the words find their own way through the woods, blazing their own trail, up to the hidden clearing of light, the unexpected spot of finding and conception. Once there, the solid power of the poet makes creation endure.”

“The first surprising thing… is that scenes are illuminated by a luminescence that comes from understanding. The lens that visualizes his world is not myopic. Maybe that is why the poetic reconstruction of what has been lived is impeccable, faultless. The plots of reality offered to scrutiny sometimes reveal niches of an almost painful naturalism. One may feel the wintery cold alienation of those earthly artifacts that just seem to be there. Nevertheless there are conducting wires among the objects, underground connecting tunnels providing sense to the structures. In that way, a universe of indifferent, almost astral nakedness is coloured by hope.”

Soos dit teen hierdie tyd waarskynlik vir almal duidelik behoort te wees, Sorestad is nie ʼn hermetiese digter nie. Trouens, ek het tot op hede nog nie ʼn hermetiese prêriedigter teengekom nie. Sorestad se gedigte is vir my kenmerkend van die prêries en prêriedigkuns waarvoor my vrou Lesli en ek lief geword het.

Die bundel het ʼn rustige toonaard, ʼn dikwels mediterende kyk na die prêries en sy mense, sy vriende en na die lang verhouding tussen hom en sy vrou. Dit is dan ook Sorestad se eggenote wat via die digter aan die woord is in The Thief Reflects.




Sometimes I am shaken

by a desire to return

to that child I was –

endless days under a vast sky,

sun omnipresent as the mongrel

that dogged my footsteps.


A half-century and more

removed, I remember each day

bloomed wonder. Never bored,

I did not realise how poor

we were, having so much.


On second thought, it’s possible

my retrospective vision is

blurred, selectively smudged.

Perhaps it is our nature to hold

hard to what causes least pain?


To indulge moments of nostalgia

is bo act of foolishness. Though

time past will not return,

we still can marvel

at the road we’ve travelled,

at the one that lies ahead.




Bullets of snow blast the polished casket poised

in funeral home harness above the open grave.


Mourning family huddled close to one another,

drawn snug to the living, their backs buffeted


by hard gusts. Needles of ice probe napes of neck.

Vestments aflutter, numb-fingered, the priest


clings to his prayer book, while manic wind worries

the pages, snatches words, scatters them like flakes.


At the graveside slim fingers of snow writhe,

curl over and descend, while others leap the chasm.


Last words said, family, one by one, step to the fore,

red rose each – this final act of love and letting go.


The casket lowered, everyone turns away. Wind blows

mourners to cars. Left behind – red roses and snow.




Tell me, what have

I stolen from you

that you have missed?


Surely you know

I have taken only

inessential fragments


you would have shed

without my help.

I can in no way be


dismissed as common

thief, nor as cheap

trickster. You must


agree I am a thief

of impeccable taste:

I did choose you.




Through my cabin window

needled branches interlace

against a splash of sky.

A fidgety Tree Sparrow

perches on the drooping

finger of spruce for a moment,

adding an apprehensive note

to a subdued backdrop

or trees and sky.


The bird frets its way

along the thin bone of spruce,

stops a moment,

and I wonder

what thoughts, if any,

run through its mind

this splendid morning?


Exorbitant gas prices?

Not an iota. Nor taxes,

nor promises unkept.

But surely every small bird

must, from time to time,

cease its song to reflect

on the precariousness

of being small

and feathered in a world

that prizes neither.




I am curious

to see whether

      that paper birch



in capturing

just enough breeze

to make

                  a further


                          and hold

if only for a moment,


within its cup


                               the dropping sun.



Emma Lake





The evidence lies everywhere. Grains of sand.

Our day are lost in the trivia of meetings,

appointments, To-Do lists, post-it notes stuck


to cupboard doors where we can’t miss them,

magneted to the refrigerator door like commandments,

or posted like tearful pleas for lost kittens,


terse reminders how our lives have become

a musical score of comings and leavings,

the sound and voices of calendars and daybooks.


We ignore the image – the bottom half,

its increasing sand. It is funerals we attend

with growing frequency that give us pause,


make us feel the measure, the urgency,

the anticipatory drum roll.

Beat by beat, grain by grain.



remembering John Newcombe


What we want from the start,

most of us, is never little.


Our dreams, our desires

seldom come as miniatures.


Our appetites are rapacious,

our lusts loom mountainous.


Time erodes them all –

dreams, desires, appetite, lust.


Floating dust motes in our lives.

Little becomes its own desire,


its own measure. Little will do.

It is little, but it is little enough.*


*Hierdie laaste reël kom uit ʼn gedig van John Newlove (1938-2003), ʼn vriend van Sorestad. Newlove het om dit saggies te stel ʼn stormagtige lewe gehad, meestal weens sy verslawing aan alkohol. Die gedig waaruit Sorestad aanhaal bevat tot ʼn groot mate outobiografiese materiaal en omdat dit vir my ʼn treffende gedig is plaas ek dit graag.




Then, if I cease desiring,

you may a sing a song

of how young I was.


You may praise famous moments,

all of them, of the churches

I broke into for wine,


not praise, the highways

I travelled drunkenly

in winter, the cars I stole.


You may allow me moments,

not monuments, I being

content. It is little,

but it is little enough.


Enkele gedigte uit die pas gepubliseerde Along Okema Road.




I was awakened about five this morning

by the persistent calling of an owl.

Whoo-hoo, hoo-hoo.


I don’t know whether it was horned or barred,

grey or white, long-eared or earless –

I did not see the owl at all.


Whoo-hoo, hoo-hoo,

it seemed to call straight to me through

the open window of the cabin.


Was it an omen? I ask myself this now,

later in the day when the hooting returns

to resonate loudly inside my mind.


I’d rather not see this as an omen or premonition.

Nothing in the articulation or tone made me

think for a moment it was my name

on the creature’s tongue, nor that the bird

intended its message just for me. Perhaps if I

was of the Pacific Coastal people of the rainforest


who link the call of the owl with impending death,

I would be predisposed to view such a visitation

as a dark precursor, enough to set every nerve


on edge – but I don’t see it that way at all,

perhaps because I regard myself as one who resists

absolutes of most belief systems. Show me.


But then, but then…

If I am recalling this early awakening

with accuracy and not creating specifics


in the aftermath of the creature’s presence,

something any writer might well incline to do,

I seem to remember the owl hoo-hooed at me


from different locations at different times,

spokes on a wheel, the hub being the cabin

where I lay, my eyes looking out a skylight


at the morning light, my eyelids still heavy

with slumber as if they ere weighted down

beneath a pair of large George V pennies.




Carl Sandburg


Rain comes along

with a soft-soled shuffle

on the cabin roof,

stays a short while,

then moves on.



Robert Frost


Something want saying about this spruce –

The homely, forlorn way its limbs droop

As if the Creator had been playing fast and loose

With its upward-reaching arms. A somber troop –

These conifers, ramrod straight, refuse to stoop.



William Carlos Williams


So much depends

upon a green luggage cart


with four rubber wheels

waiting in the parking lot


empty and expectant

alongside a black spruce



William Stafford


Brother Wind, what news today?

Stop a moment in your turning

of birch leaves and speak to me

of all those places you have been.


Perhaps you will recall a house,

abandoned on the gritty plain,

the gathering dust, shreds of hearts

still clinging there, including mine.





Die man van Saskatchewan

Thursday, February 24th, 2011
Glen Sorestad

Glen Sorestad

Met sy bydraes tot Buiteblik het Leon Retief al dikwels verwys na die Saskatchewaanse digter, Glen Sorestad. So ook met sy mees onlangse blog oor stede in die sneeu. En telkens vind ek dat ek gewoon nie kan ophou om Sorestad se gedig oor en oor te lees nie. Hoekom? Wel, waarskynlik het dit iets daarmee te make daarmee dat daar bepaalde ooreenkomste tussen die Afrikaanse en Kanadese digkunste bestaan.

Uiteraard is dit gevaarlik om te veralgemeen – en ek is hoegenaamd nie in staat om met gesag hieroor te praat nie – maar volgens my oordeel word beide digkunste gekenmerk deur ‘n sterk teenwoordigheid van belydenispoësie in parlando-styl. Voorts is daar natuurlik ook nog die prominente teenwoordigheid van landskap in die Kanadese digkuns; soos dit ook met ons eie digkuns die geval is. En dan is die Kanadese boonop in ‘n oorlewingstryd gewikkel met die magtige ooraanbod van die magtige buurman suid van hulle, maar met literêre reuse soos Margaret Atwood, Anne Michaels, Anne Carson en Michael Ondaatje staan hulle inderdaad g’n duit terug vir enige digkuns ter wêreld nie.

Maar terug na Glen Sorestad, wat in 2000 as die eerste poet laureate van Saskatchewan aangewys was. Sorestad is in 1937 gebore en het in 1960 met Sonia Talpash in die huwelik getree; ‘n uiters produktiewe vennootskap wat tot vele literêre inisiatiewe aanleiding gegee het, soos byvoorbeeld die gerespekteerde uitgewery, Thistledown Press, wat in 1975 deur hulle tot stand gebring is. Die volgende aanhaling, wat op die Universiteit van Toronto se webtuiste verskyn, bevestig sy statuur as internasionale digter: “His career has taken him all over North America and to various countries of Europe. He is the author of eighteen books of poetry, many short stories, and he is a co-editor of many well known anthologies. He has given well over three hundred public readings of his poetry in every province of Canada, in many parts of the United States, and in Europe (including at a reception held in his honour at the residence of the Canadian Ambassador in Oslo and broadcast on Norway’s public radio network). In 2001 he was one of a small number of poets invited to read at an international poetry reading in Lahti, Finland, and the following year was invited to read his work at the Vilenica Poetry Festival in Slovenia.”

Mmm, myns insiens ‘n geregverdigde handeklap vir ‘n digter wat nogal ongewoon vormvaste gedigte skryf binne ‘n bepaalde tradisie en tog daarin slaag om die leser telkens na sy asem te laat snak voor die eenvoud en skoonheid daarvan.

Hier kan jy nog van Glen Sorestad se verse te lese kry, terwyl jy hier kan kyk na die lys van kontemporêre Kandese digters.

Vir jou leesplesier volg die gedig “We need these silences” onder aan die Nuuswekker.


Sedert gister het daar geen nuwe bydraes verskyn nie. Gebruik dus die geleentheid om op jou agterstallige leeswerk in te haal.

Mooi bly.



We need these silences


the spaces that lie
between moments of sharing,
those times when it is
enough to feel the presence
of the other, the knowing
that this silence, too,
is a gift;

the silence of the mountains
or the dark forest,
or the plains at night,
reaching out to touch
some part of us
that craves time alone;

the moments before sleep,
or after waking, when the world
rises or falls into order,
finds shape and meaning
of its own.

We need these silences
as we need the words
we must first learn to say
and then forget
as we come to know

(c) Glen Sorestad (Uit: Leaving Holds Me Here: Selected Poems. Thistledown Press, 2001.)



Leon Retief. Stede in die winter

Sunday, February 20th, 2011


Die Kanadese spot dat hulle land vier seisoene het: amper winter, winter, nog steeds winter en padherstelwerk. Ons is tans so tussen winter en nog steeds winter maar ek moet byvoeg dat hierdie seisoen tot dusver darem baie gematig is in vergelyking met die vorige winters wat ons hier ondervind het. Die laagste temperatuur in Moose Jaw hierdie jaar was -44°C, in vergelyking met -54°C in Januarie 2008 en meeste van die tyd het temperature so tussen -10°C en -25°C gefluktueer, wat eintlik heel draaglik is vir hierdie geweste. Natuurlik waag mens dit steeds nie buite sonder ‘n parka, serp, dik handskoene en balaklawa nie en selfs dan word dit, wel, baie koud om te gaan stap, iets wat my vrou Lesli en ek graag doen, want eienaardig genoeg hou ons van die winter. Die enigste irritasie is dat die koue mens se neus laat loop en jou snot laat vries as jy nie gereeld jou neus afvee nie.

Winters in die prêrie het sy eie bekoring – ‘n strak, skoon wit landskap wat kilometers weerskante van die pad strek, so rein asof daar geen kwaad in die wêreld is nie, met net die gitswart kaal boomstamme en -takke wat kontrasteer met die wit skerpte van die sneeu. Hier en daar sien mens plaaswerwe half begrawe deur ‘n meter of meer sneeu, verlate want die gesin het die Kanadese winter in Arizona of Florida gaan deurbring – daar is niks wat hulle wintermaande op ‘n prêrie plaas kan doen nie en dus gaan hou hulle maar vakansie. Die meeste bome in die prêrie is bladwisselend, maar baie opstalle is omring deur Jack Pines (Pinus banksiana) wat nie bladwisselend is nie en wintermaande swaar dra aan die sentimeters sneeu op elke tak.

Jack Pine in Crescent Park, Moose Jaw

Jack Pine in Crescent Park, Moose Jaw

Wanneer die son uit ‘n wolklose lug skyn, soos wat dikwels die geval is, smokkel dit met jou kop – sou jy uit jou kar klim om die toneel te bewonder vind jy meteens uit dat, sonskyn of te not, dit steeds -25°C buite jou kar se verwarmde kajuit is.

In Moose Jaw self is die winter ongelukkig nie so skoon soos buite die dorp nie. Karre moet die strate gebruik en omdat die stadjie nie genoeg sneeuploeë het om elke straat daagliks skoon te skraap nie, word sand na elke sneeuval op die nuwe sneeu gestrooi. Dit help tot ‘n mate om traksie te verbeter, maar na slegs ‘n paar uur verander die strate na ‘n bruin, glibberige pappery en selfs ek, wat daarvan hou om te alle tye my kar spiekeries blink te hou, het al moed opgegee – mens kan net eenvoudig nie ‘n kar in die wintermaande skoon hou nie.

‘n "skoon" kar in die winter ;-)

‘n "skoon" kar in die winter 😉

Om op sypaadjies te loop of ‘n straat oor te steek word ‘n waagstuk – die sneeu word platgetrap tot ‘n spieëlgladde oppervlak en mens moet baie, baie versigtig loop om nie te val nie. Elke nou en dan sien ek ‘n pasiënt wat iets gebreek het nadat hulle op die ys gegly en geval het. Meestal is dit ‘n bejaarde tannie met ‘n heup of polsgewrig fraktuur, maar selfs tieners val soms en breek ‘n elmboog of ‘n skouer (gelukkig darem selde ‘n heup – hulle het nog die ouderdom aan hulle kant). ‘n Mens leer gou die “newfie shuffle” aan (genoem na Newfoundland waar dit nog meer sneeu as hier): jy loop met sulke kort pikkewyntreetjies, sit nooit jou hande in jou sakke nie en kyk die heeltyd na waar jy jou voete volgende gaan sit. Ten spyte hiervan val mens tog en soos ek hier sit, troetel ek ‘n seer skouer, elmboog en polsgewrig na ‘n onlangse harde kennismaking met die sypaadjie.

Die meganisme van so ‘n val op die ys is nogal interessant: Dit wil vir my voorkom asof die meeste valle sywaarts is. ‘n Mens se voet gly net onbeheerbaar na binne en dan val jy sydelings. Jy steek dan refleksief jou arm uit met die gevolglike mooi (vir my) akroniem FOOSH (Fall On OutStretched Hand), wat jou polsgewrig beseer, waarna die gladde ys jou arm lateraal laat gly sodat jy ewe hard op jou elmboog te lande kom. Dit veroorsaak ‘n harde impak op jou skouer wat meteens die hele gewig van jou bolyf moet ontvang met gevolglike skade aan die skouer se rotatorkraag. So hier sit ek met drie pynlike gewrigte, alhoewel die skade aan my trots waarskynlik erger is.

Ek stap elke oggend die sowat 400 meter werk toe en dikwels sien ek die spore wat takbokkies (en af en toe ‘n coyote) die vorige nag in die sneeu gemaak het. Hierdie diere kom wandel dikwels snags in die dorp rond en selfs bedags sien mens van tyd tot tyd ‘n takbok wat ewe ongeërg deur Moose Jaw se downtown drentel.

In die prêrie is die ses maande-lange winter nie net ‘n seisoen nie, maar ‘n leefwyse.

Verlede jaar Januarie was ons in Ottawa waar ek ‘n kongres bygewoon het en toe ‘n paar dae langer gebly het om die stad beter te verken. Die Kanadese weet hoe om ‘n kongres te organiseer, anders as die Amerikaners of Suid-Afrikaners: Daar is voldoende geleentheid om die stad te eksploreer en as jy nog ‘n paar dae verlof kan byvoeg, dan kry mens genoeg tyd om rond te loop en te snuffel en die vibes van die stad te ervaar.

Die Rideau-kanaal vloei deur die middestad en in die somer is dit ‘n gewilde bymekaarkomplek vir kanovaarders. Gedurende die wintermaande vries dit solied, dik genoeg om ‘n sedanmotor te dra, en is dit weer vol skaatsers wat dit elke dag gebruik, nie net vir ontspanning nie maar ook as ‘n manier om by die werk te kom – dis niks snaaks om iemand soggens met ‘n aktetas in die hand werk toe te sien skaats nie.

Rideau-kanaal op ‘n Saterdagmiddag. Ignoreer die datum, die koue het ons kamera se kalender heeltemal deurmekaargekrap.

Rideau-kanaal op ‘n Saterdagmiddag. Ignoreer die datum, die koue het ons kamera se kalender heeltemal deurmekaargekrap.

Met die dat Ottawa die Kanadese hoofstad is, word die middestad natuurlik spiksplinterskoon gehou en is daar nie ‘n enkele vlokkie sneeu te bespeur binne ure na ‘n sneeuval nie. Nogtans is die sypaadjies so koud dat honde steweltjies moet dra – en Phillip, na jou pragtige inskrywings oor jou honde is hierdie foto spesiaal vir jou.

Hond in Ottawa

Hond in Ottawa

Ek het per e-pos met Glen Sorestad van Saskatoon bevriend geraak. Hy het onlangs twee gedigte oor die winter aan my gestuur. Beide is nog “works in progress” en sal beslis veranderinge ondergaan voordat hulle gepubliseer word, maar met sy toestemming plaas ek dit op Versindaba.

Just Another Winter Storm

A friend tells me this Monday morning

she has been snowbound in her home

since Saturday. As I write this poem

she could be gazing out her window,

as the snow pack rises foot by foot

in a cloistered valley somewhere

tucked deep into the Rocky Mountains;

or perhaps in Corner Brook, Newfoundland,

where winter and heavy snow are synonyms.

She lives in neither of these locations,

nor in Orillia, Antigonish, nor Rimouski;

neither Inuvik, Churchill, nor Prince Albert,

places for whom the season’s snows are

a regular annoyance but an expectation.

No, my friend has been winter-marooned

this weekend at her home in Greenville –

a name that bespeaks warmth and sun –

in South Carolina. She probably does not believe

such a thing has actually happened, nor do I.

Just one storm with arctic breath has swept

away my images of the South: how can

one even begin to conceive of magnolias

and cypresses laden with snow? Or Southerners

shut behind their windows, their baleful stares

at the unaccustomed white, this cold affront.


Winter Window

Snow overnight. Fresh rabbit tracks

in early light. Buildings rise from dawn

like sleepers from their blankets.

Wind wakens, shifts its shoulders,

stretches itself and goes to work,

sandpapering shadows on new drifts.

A tuxedoed Magpie flaps by, silent –

going or coming? Hard to say.

The cold air opens for its passage.


Leon Retief. Om in Moose Jaw oud te word

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Om een of ander rede is Moose Jaw ʼn gewilde aftreeplek. Moenie my vra waarom nie want dis nou nie juis asof ons ʼn subtropiese klimaat het nie. Die dorp is vol ouetehuise, die hoogste gebou in Moose Jaw (15 verdiepings) is ʼn ouetehuis skuins agter ons woonstelgebou.

Saam met ouderdom kom ook die onvermydelike aftakeling en ek sien elke week twee of drie pasiënte wat nie weet waar of wie hulle is nie. Ek staan soms verstom oor die handevol pille wat hierdie ou mense gebruik – en dan nie oor-die-toonbank pille nie maar medisyne wat net op voorskrif beskikbaar is. Dit wil my voorkom asof Kanadese dokters refleksief na die voorskrifboekie gryp wanneer ʼn pasiënt ʼn klagte het. Of Kanadese so oud word as gevolg van al die pille of te spyte daarvan weet ek nie…

Selfs in die middel van die winter sien mens soms ou mense stap met daardie looprame op wieletjies, hul emfisemateuse asems wat wit wolke voor hul gesigte blaas. Meestal word hulle deur die provinsiale departement van gesondheid se “Home Care Department” versorg en ek moet sê dat Saskatchewan baie goed na hul oumense omsien maar dit plaas natuurlik ʼn geweldige las op die provinsiale begroting. As die huidige tendense voortduur sal mediese sorg van die bevolking as geheel teen 2030 sowat 70% van die beskikbare finansies opslurp – ooglopend ʼn onhoudbare situasie.

Glen Sorestad, die Saskatoonse digter wie se verse ek al voorheen hier geplaas het, beskryf in sy bundel Today I belong to Agnes hoe hy sy moeder se stadige aftakeling beleef het.


Care Assessment


 The woman from Home Care talks with Mother,

asks her various questions; Mother proffers

quite credible replies and everything is well

until the assessor asks how old Mother is.

“Oh, I’m a hundred years old,” Mother says

without the slightest hesitation; she’s eleven years

off the mark this time. “Really? One hundred?”

“Oh, yes,” Mother smiles her sweetest affirmation

 as the other seeks corroboration in her files.


Now why has Mother decided that today

she will be a hundred years old? Was she

thinking of her favourite aunt who lived

to her hundredth birthday? Has she decided

if her aunt could do it why not she? Or is

Mother engaging in a bit of harmless sport

with this earnest woman, leading her on

before her laughter lets the other know

she’s been duped by an eighty-nine year old?


I’m leaning towards the latter when the woman

asks Mother to tell her what time it is. “Why?”

Mother wants to know, “Can’t you tell time?”

I sense a caginess from Mother that is beyond

the game she may be playing with her opponent.


“Yes, I can. What I want is for you to look

at that clock,” and she points to the wall,

“and tell me what time it is right now.”

Mother looks at the clock for a few seconds,

then turns to woman and says, “I don’t see

why I should tell you the time, if you can see

the clock perfectly well yourself.” Then she refuses

to play the match further. But perhaps she knows,

even at this moment, that time has made

an unexpected turn, one she’ll not set right,

no matter how she plays the game.





It’s been weeks, but seems years now

that we’ve been cleaning Mother’s apartment.

Now that she’s moved to a private care home

she has no need and less room for all

these possessions that have surrounded her –

reminders of who she is, where she’s lived.

At times these comfort objects become puzzles

she’d pick up and stare at: tangible links

to fading times, the confusion of years.


This burden of survival to her tenth decade

is that she sees parts of herself fall away

like dead skin: two husbands, a succession

of homes in different places, two children,

grandchildren, great-grandchildren – all

become many-faceted pieces grown

harder to fit in the jigsaw puzzle

that her life has now become.


But what are we to do with all these things?

At times despair mounts that I must be

the one to decide what shall be kept,

what discarded of this, my mother’s life,

part of me in the history of these keepsakes.

Of course, we too have gathered our own,

the incriminating evidence of a lifetime,

plot details of a fiction all too real.

Are we to leave four decades worth

of our own packratting to our children

so that they too must someday

lift and hold each item and agonize

over what has meaning or worth,

what is treasure and what is trash?


Dit is natuurlik nie net die bejaardes wat deur ouderdom en aftakeling geraak word nie maar ook hul kinders.






Each Thursday the tall

immaculate man arrives

without fail to visit

his mother, but only Thursdays.


Newly retired he now

looks for meaning in life

without work,

an organisation man

who has lived

a structured life

and will never

bend to chaos.


Still, I’d like to ask

him why it must be

Thursday only;

his mother would

be pleased to see him

any day, frequency

would do no harm,

especially since her days

are swiftly moving

to that moment when

one Thursday she

will no longer give

his afternoon its purpose

and the neat order

of his week will

collapse upon him.





This woman must be a school teacher

because she wants to scold her mother:


sit up straight now! Where’s your hankie?

Tuck in your blouse! Are you listening?


Is this a daughter’s revenge on her mother?

Must it come to this? The daughter can


not help herself, it seems. No matter how

warm her greetings, no matter how much


or little they have to say to each other,

at some point the visit always comes to this.


Perhaps it is a kind of love, the only kind

These two have ever known, or ever shown.





Each time this woman comes

she works so hard to hide

how her mother’s falling back

to childhood upsets her –

as if somehow this should

not be so, as if someone here

must be responsible for

what she sees happening.

She is not yet ready

to see herself

in her mother’s place,

refuses to see

what each of us must see.


Ou mense het nou maar eenmaal die manier om dood te gaan en baie sterftes beteken noodwendig baie begrafnisse. Die kombinasie van ysige winters en teraardebestellings kan soms nogal problematies wees. Sommige bejaardes stipuleer in hul testamente dat hulle nie veras moet word nie en dat hulle op die konvensionele manier ter aarde bestel moet word. Nou is dit so dat die grond hier in die winter sowat twee meter diep vries en dus lol dit maar om grafte te grawe. Niemand wil ʼn lyk maande lank in ʼn koelkas laat lê tot die grond ontdooi het nie, dus het die munisipaliteit van Moose Jaw ʼn spesiale apparaat aangeskaf wat die grond oor ʼn tydperk van ʼn paar dae ontvries sodat ʼn meganiese graaf dan die graf kan kom grawe.

Rosedale Cemetery, die eerste begraafplaas in Moose Jaw, is in die 1880’s in gebruik geneem en in daardie tyd was daar natuurlik nie sulke moderne gedoentes soos krematoria of meganiese grawe nie. Die Moose Javians van daardie tyd het ʼn eenvoudige en baie praktiese oplossing gevind: ʼn kapel is in die gronde van die begraafplaas gebou en van ʼn groot kelder voorsien. Voor die preekstoel was ʼn groot luik waarmee die kis na die roudiens tot in die kelder laat sak is. Wintermaande was die kelder koud genoeg om die lyke bevrore te hou totdat die grond genoegsaam ontdooi het om grafte te grawe. Ek neem aan dat daar destyds nie so baie bejaardes in Moose Jaw was as tans nie want vandag sal die kelder beslis nie groot genoeg wees nie.


Een van die grafte is dié van ʼn jong lid van die Heilsleër-orkes wat tydens die Titanic-ramp omgekom het en om een of ander onbekende rede in Moose Jaw sy laaste rusplek gevind het.

Soos die gewoonte destyds was kon net blanke Kanadese in Rosedale Begraafplaas begrawe word. Hierdie tradisie is in 1910 verbreek toe die eerste inheemse Indiaanse vrou, Tasinaskawin Brule (Kombersvrou van die Wit Maan) daar begrawe is. Of dalk klink dit beter in Engels: Blanket Woman of the White Moon.

Sy was lid van die Lakota-stam, wat tesame met die Santee en Yankton-groepe die Sioux-nasie gevorm het wat kolonel Custer in 1876 by Little Big Horn verslaan het. Na die veldslag het die Indiane na Kanada gevlug en in die omgewing van Moose Jaw gevestig. Tasinaskawin was die eggenote van Swart Bul, die plaaslike opperhoof. Toe sy besef dat sy sterwend is het sy versoek dat die flap van haar tepee oopgemaak moet word sodat sy vir die laaste keer die son kon sien opkom. Sy het al haar besittings (sewe ponies, ʼn wa, die tepee en ʼn kombers) bemaak aan ʼn blanke Kanadese vrou met wie sy bevriend was. Sy het ook versoek dat sy in Rosedale Begraafplaas ter ruste gelê moet word. Haar graf is die enigste een bekend van al die inheemse Indiaanse vroue wat sowat ʼn eeu gelede hier geleef en gesterf het.






Leon Retief. Seisoene in die Prêrie

Sunday, June 27th, 2010
karre in die sneeu

karre in die sneeu

Om in die winter in die prêrie te bestuur kan nogal ʼn aardige ondervinding wees, selfs vir gebore Kanadese. Daar is nie genoeg sneeuploeë om alle strate gereeld skoon te maak nie en die munisipaliteit strooi dus na elke sneeuval sand op die sneeu wat die strate bedek. So ʼn sand-sneeu mengsel verskaf wel bietjie ekstra traksie, maar ook maar net totdat dit deur die karre se wiele gekompakteer word tot ʼn glibberige, smerige, gladde bruin oppervlak. Mens kan voel hoe jou kar se traksiebeheer oortyd werk maar ʼn viertrekvoertuig is ook nie die allerantwoord nie en botsings is redelik algemeen in die winter. Gelukkig besef meeste bestuurders darem dat mens op sulke oppervlaktes stadig moet ry en is die skade meestal nie groot nie.

Karre met agterwielaandrywing word hier maar op blokke gesit tot die winter verby is en van motorfietsry is daar geen sprake nie – om met sulke voertuie op die ys te ry is moeilikheid soek.

Een van die mees irriterende dinge vir ʼn motoris is om ys aan die binnekant van jou kar se vensters te kry en dit gebeur maklik wanneer mens nie ʼn verhitte motorhuis het nie en soos ons onder ʼn afdak parkeer. Elke keer wanneer mens in jou kar inklim beland ʼn bietjie sneeu wat op jou skoensole vasgesit het onvermydelik op die kar se vloer. Hierdie sneeu smelt natuurlik elke keer wanneer die kar gebruik word en die water wat so gevorm het verdamp sodat mens nie eintlik weet hoeveel sneeu al gedurende die afgelope paar weke in die kar ingedra is nie. Wanneer daar nou al genoeg ys in die kar beland het en mens ry ʼn paar kilometer (natuurlik met die verwarmer voluit aan want buite is dit -30°C) dan parkeer mens jou kar ewe niksvermoedend, prop die enjin in sodat die olie nie vries nie en gaan slaap. Die volgende oggend is die binnekante van al die ruite bedek met ʼn dun yslaag en moet mens die enjin eers vir tien minute laat luier sodat dit warm genoeg word, dan die verwarmer aanskakel en dit vir nog tien minute voluit laat loop sodat die ys kan smelt.

Swart ys is nog ʼn kalant waarvoor mens op die uitkyk moet wees. Die ys is nie werklik swart nie maar deurskynend en lyk dus dieselfde kleur as die teer. Dis vir alle praktiese doeleindes onsigbaar en mens kom eers agter dat jy op swart ys ry wanneer jou kar meteens onbeheerbaar word, en dan help vierwielaandrywing niks. Wanneer jy briek trap gly die kar stadig en elegant oor die stopstraat en jy hoop maar net dat niemand anders in aantog is nie.



Ook voetgangers val dikwels op swart ys en dit gebeur vroeër of later met almal. Mens voel nogal ʼn taamlike gat wanneer jy die eerste keer neerslaan maar jy besef gou dat die Moose Javians dit aanvaar as maar net nog een van die dinge wat in die winter gebeur en sommige mense raak heeltemal blasé daaroor. Die eggenote van een van my kollegas het een dag in die middel van die straat geval en die ys was net te glad om te kon opstaan – toe beweeg sy maar so op haar sitvlak tot by die naaste lamppaal, trek haarself daaraan op en stap ewe doodluiters verder.

Om in ʼn sneeustorm (“blizzard” of “white-out” op syn Kanadees) te bestuur is ʼn gebedsaak vir diegene wat daaraan glo. “White-out” is ʼn baie beskrywende term, mens sien werklik niks anders as net wit deur jou kar se vooruit en truspieëltjies nie, net-net die kar se neus en jy wonder hoe jy nog op die pad gaan bly want dit is nie meer sigbaar nie. Ry maar voort, hoop jy bly op die pad is al raad want as jy stilhou gaan die sneeu jou kar binne minute begrawe en/of iemand gaan in jou vasry.

Wanneer die wintermaande aanbreek word motoriste gewaarsku om nooit ʼn dorp te verlaat sonder ʼn vol petroltenk, ʼn space blanket, sterk flitslig en proviand nie. Elke jaar verkluim ʼn paar mense op afgeleë paaie wanneer hul die pad verlaat en in die sneeu vassit.


When the World Disappears


Driving through a flat-out prairie

blizzard is a classic struggle between

terror and faith. Between Paynton and

the Battlefords the world disappears –

horizon, buildings, trees, traffic,

the road itself, all gone. Snow, 

blasted by a fierce south-easter,

obliterates equally land and sky.


On this two-way stretch of highway

we drive into the snow cloud.

As vehicles behind and in front

vanish from my sight, so too have I

from them, my hands iron vises

clinging to the steering wheel,

clinging to frail threads of reason,

clinging to little more than blind hope

as the white-out erodes confidence

and panic probes below

the thin skin of logic.


We hurtle through nothingness,

my silent prayer willing that whatever

lies on the other side of this void,

whatever other drivers are steering

the margins of their own misery,

their paths do not intersect mine.

We are, all of us, blind pilgrims

groping for some distant shrine

lost from our view, alive only

in the minds that will them.


Glen Sorestad


Uit Blood & Bone, Ice & Stone (Thistledown Press, 2005)


Sorestad is na my mening by uitstek die digter van die prêries: die landskap, die seisoene en die mense vind almal neerslag in sy verse, alhoewel nie al sy bundels oor hierdie onderwerpe handel nie. Hy dig dikwels oor die alledaagse, gewone dinge soos ʼn wandeling in ʼn park of in ‘n sneeulandskap, maar hy slaag daarin om dit te beklee met ʼn perspektief wat ander mense dikwels nie raaksien nie, sowel as ʼn besef van ons almal se sterflikheid. Ek dink nie dat hy as Kanada se grootste digter beskou kan word nie, maar tog is sy verse vir my die beste poëtiese beskrywings van die omgewing waar ons woon.

Glen Sorestad
Glen Sorestad


Lente in Saskatchewan herinner my aan wat Lenin geskryf het in “The Crisis in Our Party: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” want hierdie seisoen benader ons op dieselfde manier, so suutjies, voetjie vir voetjie, nes mens dink nou is dit uiteindelik lente dan deins dit terug, val die sneeu en is dit weer bibberend koud. Nie verniet dat Kanada se vier seisoene bekend staan as alreeds winter, winter, nog steeds winter en padherstelwerk.




is mercurial. One day

the ogling sun blows

kisses at young women

flaunting halter tops and shorts;

the next day snow sneaks back in

and crashes the party.


Spring comes here

whenever it damn well wants:

some time between April and June.

It may even alternate days.

Predicting its arrival or its presence

is a foolish game:

animals and birds get confused.

Canada Geese picking sprigs on the golf course

in the heavy snowfall complain

to anyone who will listen.


The pumpkin-breasted Robin

that just yesterday dazzled

from its song-full rooftop perch

huddles today, a forlorn puff

of feathers tucked in the lee

of a spruce bough cluster.


With growing impatience we

await its arrival, but Spring marches

to its own eccentric beat

and nothing we can do

will speed it a single day.


Here in Saskatchewan we learn

to hold our tongues.


Uit What We Miss (Thistledown Press, 2010)




November and snow flakes like leaflets

fall soft as breath as we tread the path

between the park’s two ponds. Motionless


beside the only open water stands

a Great Blue Heron, forlorn in the soft

flutter of wet flakes. Does the bird know


it is an anachronism of the month,

obtrusive against a wintry backdrop?

Perhaps it is wounded; or old and weak


it sees its fate reflected in the cold water

and simply waits out its remaining time –

falling prey to sharp teeth or winter chill.


Its kin, long flown to warmer waters,

are receding memories of what once was.

Silent snow falls on the heron, falls on us.


Uit What We Miss (Thistledown Press, 2010).


In die volgende gedig beskryf Sorestad die stadige verval van die honderde klein nedersettinkies wat oor die prêrie versprei is.




Summer is hot and dry. Not unusual.

The ambient sounds are here: wind

in old elm trees, grasshoppers buzz

the daylight. Sounds of farms –

tractors, road and field sounds.

A chatter of sparrows in carraganas.

At night the long quaver of coyotes,

A yapping of foxes.


                                  But something is missing.

Some remembered sounds, no longer there.

Where is the soft call of mourning doves?

What has happened to the nighthawk’s cry

Balancing on the margin of day and night?


The hamlet shrivels like droughted wheat.

Someone else dies, houses empty mourners.

Fewer gardens echo the sounds of spring,

Fewer hoes at war with weeds.

Fewer pails of water hauled from the well.

Ebbing sounds.


An absence of birds is its own sadness:

Each year another sound heard no more.

Who will restore the chorus to what memory

Desires, what the spirit demands?


 Uit WEST INTO NIGHT Thistledown Press, 1991)


Ek kan nie die versoeking weerstaan om ʼn voorbeeld te plaas van die humor wat soms in Sorestad se gedigte voorkom nie.




when I unfold

from sleep and struggle

upright from the bed

to the edge of the world,

I am overwhelmed by

an acute palimpsest of time:

this body: its creaks and groans,

its under-used muscles bitching,

joints complaining,

whereas once they moved,

silent and precise

as doors on a Mercedes-Benz.


It’s not that I didn’t

see it coming. But most

mornings when I rise

I emerge from a world

in which the body was

young and strong and lithe,

brimming with confidence

this present weary round-up

of bones, ligaments, muscles

have apparently forgotten.


Just wait, just wait,

The body cautions me,

give me a moment,

maybe two or three

and I’ll be ready…

you can’t expect

miracles you know…


I totter, one tentative

footstep following the other,

to the bathroom and deal with

another prescient symptom

of this depressing morning

mortality check: a bladder

that insists it’s twenty years older

than the rest of me.


Uit What We Miss


As daar twee dinge is waarin Kanadese uitblink dan is dit politieke korrektheid en self-flagellasie. Ek sal die flagellasie los vir anderdag, maar die PK hier laat soms my mond oophang. Die Junior Soccer League van Ontario het pas ʼn nuwe reël daargestel: wanneer een span tydens ʼn wedstryd met vyf doele voorloop, dan verbeur daardie span onmiddellik die wedstryd. Dis nie goeie sportmanskap om ʼn ander span so in die grond in te spele nie sien.

Tydens die Winter Olimpiese Spele wat Februariemaand in Vancouver plaasgevind het, het die Kanadese regering ʼn “Own the Podium” reklameveldtog geloods waarin die publiek aangemoedig is Kanadese atlete sterk en ondubbelsinnig te ondersteun om soveel goue medaljes te wen as moontlik. Heelwat stemme van protes het opgegaan – dis glo “un-Canadian” om so graag te wil wen, hoe moet die ander atlete dan nou voel?

Die seun van een van my kollegas is ʼn hardwerkende en intelligente kind wat uitstekend vaar op skool. Eendag roep sy onderwyseres die seun se ma in en vra dat hy tog asseblief nie so hard moet leer nie, sy punte is te hoog en dit laat die ander kinders afsteek en seker nog sleg voel ook. By skoolsportbyeenkomste kry elke iedere kind ʼn prys, selfs al kom hy of sy laaste – “for participation”.