Posts Tagged ‘Landart; Leon Retief;’

Leon Retief. Landart

Friday, April 18th, 2014


Dennebos naby Banff, Alberta


René Bohnen se baie mooi inskrywing oor landkuns, sowel as Susan Smith se kommentaar (‘n Klippie onder jou kaal voet…”) het twee dinge tot gevolg gehad: ten eerste, reg of verkeerd, het ek gedink aan my geliefkoosde Kanadese digter Don Domanski, nie omdat daar noodwendig ‘n direkte en noue verwantskap is tussen sy verse en landkuns nie maar omdat hy die omgewing, die plantegroei, diere, dinge en soms ook die verval in landskappe met sulke ryk metafore ineenvleg met ons menslike ondermaanse ondervindings dat dit werklik tot my spreek – miskien op ‘n ander wyse as wat landkuns dit doen – maar tog ook – en nie minder treffend nie.

Die tweede ding wat ek gedoen het was om ‘n soektog op tou te sit na Kanadese landkunstenaars. Ek dink sulke gediertes is maar dun gesaai maar een sodanige kunstenaar wat ek hier te lande kon vind is Diana Thompson, wat goedgunstiglik toestemming verleen het dat ek foto’s van haar werke vir hierdie inskrywing kon gebruik.


Picea glauca deur Diana Thompson.

In 2001 I went to a remote corner of northern BC with a plan.
I wanted to see if I could make a work of art with only my hands
and what I found around me – nothing else.
What I found were spruce cones, thousands of them.
I spent three weeks gathering and carefully placing cones
around five White Spruce trees.
On one of my days off I hiked to the Llewellyn Glacier.
The way the ice flowed through the valleys influenced the way
that I arranged the cones streaming around the trees.
When it was finished,
I gathered some people around to view it,
documented it, then left it for the squirrels.


René se heeltemal verkeerde beskrywing van haarself as “a bear of very little brain” het my herinner aan Domanski se gedig Ursa Immaculate, so hier is dit:




night swept back over the headlands

someone’s sign language alone in the forest

scratching words in the air    haunting

narrow spaces between the pines


hieroglyphical pheromones carried on the breeze

anagrammatical gestures almost apparitional

                                          almost perceptible


midnight and a redtail asleep in his negative theology

luciferin shine of fireflies    a coyote folding the pleats

of her wound     swaying her god with the pain

with the suffering that falls through belief’s chasm

that small caesura between the flesh and bone


I’ve been sitting alone beside the lake    subbing

for a rock or a blade of grass    watching

the phrase ex nihilo feather the water’s surface

and faces of the Julii shine out from drab houses

                                                  of the midge larvae


the moon puts on a clean white shirt and rises

I lean back into the blood of my shoulders

and neck    into the pure vowels of my spine

vocalic pins attaching vertebrae to my nerves

what was mutely sung by everything nameless

                                          everything forgotten.



solitude is our nourishment and redemption

in a world that is sensed rather than understood

quietude our reprieve from the skin trade

of language    so I come to seek refuge here

in the stillness spreading among evergreens

like the dissemination of algae     like nightjars flying

through first kisses and Chinese whispers


we should confine ourselves to the present

as Marcus Aurelius wrote    but it’s a hard sell

when memories like pollen set ablaze

                                  fall from the air

with their final wish for us in hand

reddening the meditative colours

of each moment     white and off-white

pearly counterpoint to words and meaning

moony phosphorescence in the marrow


moonlight makes the world seem more absent

the blood of things more secretive and present

phenomena hushed and all breathing space

lit by a saurian light    bioluminescent glow

in the brain stem    our reptilian brain

like a pre-existent prayer that sometimes

rises out of story and flesh


I stand up and walk along the water’s edge

beside me a heron’s footprints runs line after line

like typographical errors in the glistening mud

above me moths chaperone the musculature

of stars and the Delphic shudder of a cloud

                prophesying a bright green world


it’s difficult to know the sanctitude

of things      bloodsqualls metabolized

hatched and cross-hatched    blackened down

                                       to flesh and gesture

hard to imagine all the tongues tied in the weeds

all the heartbeats time-lapsed beneath each stone

life incessantly singing to itself in the night

funereal lips and luminous throats


it’s difficult to know the sanctitude

of ourselves    as we breathe the rapture of time’s

cadences deep into our lungs    along with the given

sum and cipher of human concerns

downshifting them through vein and bone

our entire lives magnetized to a shining point

each day    able to be carried away with a sigh


in the end being human is a long and wordless

journey     ask the dead caught and released

along the margins of a stag’s breath

ask them as they descend the wooden steps

of the birch trees     that go far underground

till they reach Ursa Major    Ursa Immaculate

                                    Bear of the Clear Heart.




walking along the shore    every footstep

a homecoming    every blade of bracken

                             with a finger to its lips

the earth imagining a physical world

my body shoulder-deep in a Dantean fluidity

In the middle of my life, I went astray

And I awoke in a dark woord


in the middle of my life I’m standing

next to the quillwort     listening

to nettles grinding their teeth     to saplings

asleep in their funereal branches

to my every thought like a breath

loosened from a windowpane


this is the hour when Ursa Major comes as

a supplication     stars like bees sworn to light

when all our religions feed the shadows

of uncertainty to its most silent angels

when all our philosophies sound like small

animals beating their children in the grass


this hour is called wearing dark clothes

beneath your skin    this is called walking

through the forest with zero gravity behind

your eyes     this is called sign language

without an owner     emptiness of this hour

this is called the pale jawline of infinity

and flesh     called opening your mouth

without a sound.


Raincatcher deur Diana Thompson

The enormous red cedar trees in the Great Bear Rainforset were a source of fiber for the indigenous people of the area.. They wove their clothes, hats and baskets from cedar bark
and roots. By draping the tree with pale green cotton yarn (the kind used for knitting sweaters)
in shapes that echoed  the curve of the branches, I was speaking about
the physical connection between our bodies and the body of the tree.
The cotton cord would fall off (rot off) within a few months in the saturated Great Bear Rainforest.
(Tests at  my home, where it rains less, have shown it only lasted three months )




sunlight on pine boughs      saints asleep in the Great Bear

the Great Bear asleep in the North Mountain     everything waiting

for the next words to be spoken     something to stir water and gravel

to braid soil and light     a few phrases left over

from the creation of the world and it sparrow’s heart.




Tuesday   blank hours of summer lazing in the heat

time presupposes time    endlessness of afternoons lost

in their own alchemical sense of surfaces and shadows

bees hyperkinetic across meadows    each takes at least

sixteen days to make    sixteen afternoons of heaven’s push

and heed     transubstantiation     afternoons into flesh

                                                          flesh into honey.



a new day in the Annapolis Valley    crows like prayer wheels

spinning above spruce spires    water bears rehydrated

antsqualls in flight    the calligraphy of a spider’s web torn

by the wind     topography of a feather     abandoned shoe

in the mud    its laces tied around the hour     ready to begin

again    to accompany us on our journey    our little junkets

along the edges of oblivion    treasures of the begotten

and half-begotten    such resplendence such intransitive

moments    such fortunes near at hand.





deadfall of light and its amenities    retinal light leaking into

the blindness of chickweed    white clover leaning

into the sun’s maculae    ferns lifting their fronds     rhizomes

sending up parts of speech to answer the call to ascension

chlorophyll our eternal contemporary    old friend with green

raiments and pockets full of maps to places we’ll never go

or even think of going     not faraway destinations     just here

in that spot     three feet away.




water’s shorthand in the gully    its signature carried downstream

countersigned by the river    authenticated by the sea    wave sway

and memory    pointing to the horizon’s keel    upturned

and freeze-framed    where the stars abound just beyond the blue

abound and take us in    where no one else will   we live

in meridian light forever    we live our life on a waterdrop

with its young-bearing rapture and weight

Queen of Breath    Madonna of the Diaphanous Life.




cliff swallow above the valley floor    her mind a bit of night sky

flying through daylight    galaxies and stars turning    in synch

with her every move    a celestial static around her body and wings

like a steady rain falling inside a cathedral    while on the ground

a bit of moss on a branch    about a cloud of mosquitoes

coming back from the other side    with angels on their breath.




a vole`s divinity beneath the ground cover    blush of isness

in every leaf    the ungod of things holding on to secrets

ministering to the dark and arabesque waters of the past

hue of the curlew`s cry    colour of inclement silver    midday

patdown of absence    our absence    our postbeliefs carried

off by the breeze    no one to stand in for us    to take our burdens

down to the river and ferry them along    to take our words away

only the redtail to watch over us    only that redtail and that cloud.




a cloud    marl-coloured    a cool rinse drifting along

the whole world listening to its silent approach and fade

little voice    like a pale acolyte from Thrace    lost in prayer

while we align ourselves with a grace that glosses up the sheen

of our disaffections    sitting with weeds and stones

like Skellig monks contemplating the sea     waiting for the future

coming through dry grass    through the split-ends.




our future waits well beyond our hubris and intent    its pulse

far off and oversewn with foliage    its incremental heartbeat

rising from the forest floor    twice removed from human ken

then twice again    the dead nibble at those roots to no avail

desire pillows its light but finds no resting place    no physic

or balm for our ten thousand vulnerabilities    only the nightly

asceticism of a stargaze into the firmament    into photospheres

and waterdrops    a swallow`s mind above the given world.




we spend our days wherever we find ourselves    always suited up

in our storylines    with very little to show outside

of language    not even enough to place on our eyelids as we sleep

our sinews and bones jotting down notes    our demise

written in our little catechism of anecdotes    in those sad chapters

dim and vacant as prescriptions of an afterlife    circumstances

wearing us down and away from the earth on every page.




there`s something about us that inhibits our ability to amend

the stillness to a deeper stillness    to inhabit quietude    to live in

the world    there are not enough reliquaries to hold our saintless

bones    not enough reasons to bring us back from perdition

meanwhile we long and belie that longing    as we write our

confessions    black ink on black paper    meanwhile the sun moves

through nostalgia`s ether    meanwhile something has sicced

the dog rose on the bracken and called the chlorella home.




clambering up the bluff    Hokusai`s wave behind me now

still moving around the circumference of the earth

still carrying sea glass and dead sailors ashore


the forest comes to meet me at the edge with open arms

and the psalm of a breeze    zephyr of feral sighs

bending being just a bit closer to the ground

closer to the centre of things    to the last light of day


I stand watching the Atlantic darken    watching

the great wilderness of the raindrop    at my feet

a rabbit`s skullcap and mouse tibia in the grass

cup white    empty cup and spoon

place setting for one    for the voice that has drifted

far from its body    utterance lost in the undergrowth


up here the lisp of the forgotten can be heard every night

every night the unclottable arteries of the afterlife empty

their black stories onto the rocks below    to be carried

out to sea    to be finned    gilled    deepened by whitecaps

and fathoms    caught in net a universe away.


Diana Thompson se webwerf is te sien by:

 (© Leon Retief)