Posts Tagged ‘Natasha Tretewey’

Louis Esterhuizen. Opstootjies in die Amerikaanse hoenderhok

Thursday, July 4th, 2013



In die Amerikaanse lettere woed daar tans ‘n hewige debat oor die stand van hul digkuns. Dit volg nadat Mark Edmundson in die nuutste uitgawe  van Harper’s ‘n artikel gepubliseer het onder die titel “Poetry Slam, or, the decline of American verse”.  Hierna het Ron Charles verlede week (24 Junie) reageer met “Why is modern poetry so bad” in die Washington Post, met die volgende dag reeds Seth Abramson se reaksie by Huffington Post.

Ongelukkig is Edmundson se artikel net vir die intekenare van Harper’s beskikbaar, maar sy aanloop, wat as lokteks op Harper’s se webblad gevolg kan word, is nogals treffend vanweë die Robert Lowell-reëls wat hy aanhaal:

“Leafing through a volume of Robert Lowell’s poetry not long ago, I came across some lines that I couldn’t help reading over and over. They were from ‘Waking Early Sunday Morning’ (1967), and they ran this way:

Pity the planet, all joy gone

from this sweet volcanic cone;

peace to our children when they fall

in small war on the heels of small

war — until the end of time

to police the earth, a ghost

orbiting forever lost

in our monotonous sublime.

I was taken by the artistry of the lines, by their subtlety and their melancholy grace. I was impressed by the rhymes: “ghost” and “lost,” for instance, create exactly the right haunted and haunting sound. But it was Lowell’s ambition that impressed me; he was looking at the world as though from outer space, like a graying weary seer, and pronouncing judgment. He was calling things as he believed them to be not only for himself but for all his readers. And he was looking into the future.”

In sy skrywe na die Washington Post loop Ron Charles hom omtrent onder die stof: “A 6,000-word jeremiad about the pathetic state of contemporary poetry appears in the July issue of Harper’s magazine, which hits bookstores Friday. In “Poetry Slam, or, The Decline of American Verse,” Mark Edmundson, an English professor at the University of Virginia, upbraids our bards for being “oblique, equivocal, painfully self-questioning . . . timid, small, in retreat . . . ever more private, idiosyncratic, and withdrawn.” That’s just for starters. ‘Their poetry is not heard but overheard,” he laments, “and sometimes is too hermetic even to overhear with anything like comprehension’.”

Volgens hom sluit Edmundson géén prominente digter uit in sy ‘tirade’ nie: Paul Muldoon (“Edmundson complains that he still has ‘barely a clue as to what Muldoon is going on about’”), Jorie Graham wat glo as ‘portentous’ deur Edmundson beskryf word, Anne Carson wie se gedigte beskryf word as “so obscure, mannered, and private that one (this one, at least) cannot follow its windings”, John Ashbery wat volgens Edmundson bloedweinig te sê het met sy “perpetual hedging.”

Sjoe, gepraat van veralgemenings … Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Charles Simic, Frank Bidart, Robert Hass en Robert Pinsky word almal sommer in een pot opgekook met “Their poems are good in their ways […] They simply aren’t good enough. They don’t slake a reader’s thirst for meanings that pass beyond the experience of the individual poet and light up the world we hold in common.”

Nietemin, Charles som Edmundson se hoofbeswaar soos volg op: “Unimpressed by or unaware of any poets who might contradict his blanket condemnations, (Edmundson) claims that in the face of war, environmental destruction and economic collapse, ‘they write as though the great public crises were over and the most pressing business we had were self-cultivation and the fending off of boredom.’ All that matters to these narcissistic singers is the creation of a ‘unique voice’.”

En na al dié een-vir-jou, een-vir-my, kom Seth Abramson met ‘n aantal redes waarom die Amerikaanse digkuns kerngesond is; myns insiens besonder interessante (dog soms vreemde) argumente wat verdien om gelees te word, veral omrede soveel daarvan ook op aweregse manier op ons eie situasie van toepassing is.

Vir jou leesplesier volg ‘n vers van die teenswoordige Amerikaanse poet laureate, Natasha Trethewey.



for my father

I think by now the river must be thick
          with salmon. Late August, I imagine it

as it was that morning: drizzle needling
          the surface, mist at the banks like a net

settling around us-everything damp
          and shining. That morning, awkward

and heavy in our hip waders, we stalked
          into the current and found our places-

you upstream a few yards, and out
          far deeper. You must remember how

the river seeped in over your boots,
          and you grew heavier with that defeat.

All day I kept turning to watch you, how
          first you mimed our guide’s casting,

then cast your invisible line, slicing the sky
          between us; and later, rod in hand, how

you tried-again and again-to find
          that perfect arc, flight of an insect

skimming the river’s surface. Perhaps
          you recall I cast my line and reeled in

two small trout we could not keep.
          Because I had to release them, I confess,

I thought about the past-working
          the hooks loose, the fish writhing

in my hands, each one slipping away
          before I could let go. I can tell you now

that I tried to take it all in, record it
          for an elegy I’d write-one day-

when the time came. Your daughter,
          I was that ruthless. What does it matter

if I tell you I learned to be? You kept casting
          your line, and when it did not come back

empty, it was tangled with mine. Some nights,
          dreaming, I step again into the small boat

that carried us out and watch the bank receding-
          my back to where I know we are headed.


© Natasha Trethewey