Posts Tagged ‘Valzhyna Mort’

Louis Esterhuizen. Fokus op Valzhyna Mort

Thursday, June 30th, 2011
Valzhyna Mort

Valzhyna Mort

Uiteraard word daar jaloers gewaak oor ontluikende digters wat op die wêreldverhoog opgang begin maak. Twee sulke “jonges” waaroor daar tans baie berig word, en dikwels by die program van internasionale poësiefeeste ingesluit word, is Valzhyna Mort en Ann Cotten. Albei dié digters woon tans in New York en skryf nou in Engels, ten spyte daarvan dat hulle nie Amerikaans van geboorte is nie. Valzhyna Mort is naamlik van Belo-Rusland, terwyl Ann Cotton weer van Duitse afkoms is. Nog ‘n ooreenkoms is dat albei in hul onderskeie moedertale gedebuteer het alvorens hulle in Engels begin skryf en publiseer het.

Onlangs het S.J. Fowler van 3:AM Magazine ‘n interessante onderhoud met Valzhyna Mort gevoer. In sy aanloop tot die onderhoud kontekstualiseer hy Mort soos volg: “The emigration of European poets to the United States appears a tradition in its own right, and a luminous one at that. The effect of Miłosz, Brodsky et al on American poetry resonates even today, perhaps even to the extent that a restrictive romanticism has emerged in the poetic consciousness of global poetics toward Eastern European poets in the US. Through the celebrated work of Valzhyna Mort that Eastern European influence continues, but abated in reconstituted voice utterly individual and unique. Winner of the Crystal of Vilenica poetry award, lauded on both sides of the continent, Mort is a resolute and dexterous presence in contemporary East coast American poetry circles. A native of Belarus, her poetry is remarkable for its elegance and fluidity, and its ability to maintain an idiom both utterly modern and somehow enduring.”

‘n Vraag en antwoord wat my dadelik opgeval het, is die volgende:

3:AM: What does it mean to be a young poet writing in a culture that perhaps does not have a strong singular poetic tradition?

Valzhyna Mort 2

Valzhyna Mort 2

VM: I think that your poetic tradition is your reading list. When your own culture doesn’t have a strong poetic tradition, one hopes for a strong tradition of translating foreign poetry. When it doesn’t have the latter one either, one goes to learn foreign languages. Before my first book came out in Minsk I had already started translating from Polish and Ukrainian. Then I received the Gaude Polonia scholarship for translation in Warsaw, Poland, and my Polish mentor Adam Pomorski handed me books by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney. They were the first poets I read in English […]In my mind many poems of Hughes and Heaney belong to the same tradition as Belarusian classic Yanka Kupala’s long poems. They are talking to the same landscape with the same density of sound and image. It is a tradition of good poetry.”

Gaan lees gerus die volledige onderhoud 3:AM Magazine. En, indien jy dit gemis het, kan jy ook die onderhoud wat Versindaba met Valzhyna Mort gevoer het, hier lees.

Vir jou leesplesier volg haar gedig “Sylt” hieronder. Hier kan nog van haar gedigte gevind word. En maak seker dat jy haar bundel Factory of Tears (2007: Copper Canyon Press) in die hande kry. As toegif, ook die titelgedig uit dié versameling heelonder.



lie still, he says,

like a dog on the beach
he starts digging
until the hole fills up with water.
he has already dug out two thighs of sand
when she finally asks, what’s there,
convinced there’s nothing.

there’s nowhere he can kiss her where she hasn’t already been kissed by the sun.

every evening she goes to the ocean with her old father and three sisters.
they strip in a row,
                    their bodies identical as in a paper garland.
bodies that make you think of women constantly chopping vegetables
            – it is like living by the train station,
                                                        their father swears –
and always putting the last slice into their mouths.
for her, there is not even a knife left in the whole house.
the sound of a cuckoo limps across the dunes.
she takes a beam of sunlight sharpened side by side with stones
and cuts with it
and you can tell her vegetables from the others’
by how they burn.
long after dinner they talk in the garden.
from above, ripened in their warm breath, plums fall over the table.
they draw the plums, one by one, like dominoes from the stock,
sweet bones and crushed june bugs stick to the table.

by now they already stand wrapped in cocoons of white towels,
her teeth, crossed out by a blue line of lips, chatter,
scratching the grains of salt. her bitten tongue
bleeds out into the mouth a red oyster,
which she gulps, breathless.
their father turns away to dry his cock,
but the girls rub their breasts and crotch openly,
their hands skilled at wiping tables,
their heads as big as the shadow of the early moon,
their nipples as big as the shadows of their heads,
and black so that their milk might look even whiter.

she too, is rough and indifferent towards her full breasts,
as if she were brushing a cat off the chair
for her old father to sit down.
they drink beer in the northern light that illuminates nothing but itself.
sail boats slip off their white sarafans
baring their scrawny necks and shoulders,
and line up holding on to the pier as if it were a ballet bar.

it bothers her, what did he find there after all.
so she touches herself under the towel.
it is easy to find where he has been digging –
the dug up spot is still soft.

the water is flat as the fur licked down by a clean animal.
a bird, big even from afar,
believes the ocean is its egg.
so the bird sits on the ocean patiently
and feels it kick slightly now and then.


Factory of Tears


And once again according to the annual report
the highest productivity results were achieved
by the Factory of Tears.

While the Department of Transportation was breaking heels
while the Department of Heart Affairs
was beating hysterically
the Factory of Tears was working night shifts
setting new records even on holidays.

While the Food Refinery Station
was trying to digest another catastrophe
the Factory of Tears adopted a new economically advantageous
technology of recycling the wastes of past –
memories mostly.

The pictures of the employees of the year
were placed on the Wall of Tears.

I’m a recipient of workers’ comp from the heroic Factory of Tears.
I have calluses on my eyes.
I have compound fractures on my cheeks.
I receive my wages with the product I manufacture.
And I’m happy with what I have.


© Vertaling: 2008, Valzhyna Mort, Franz Wright and Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright
Uit: Factory of Tears (Copper Canyon Press, 2008)




Wanneer “openbare vyande” hande vat

Thursday, September 10th, 2009
Openbare vyande

Openbare vyande

Verlede jaar is die Franse letterkunde geskud toe briewe tussen die liberaaldenkende Bernard-Henri Lévy en aartspessimis Michel Houellebecq verskyn het. Pas het hierdie korrespondensie, wat in uiterste geheimhouding via e-pos gevoer is van Januarie tot Julie 2008, in Nederlandse verskyn met die vertalings deur Rokus Hofstede (Lévy) en Martin de Haan (Houellebecq). Volgens De Papieren Man se berig is die één aspek wat die twee uiteenlopende skrywers in gemeen het, die volgende: “Tussen ons beiden ligt een wereld van verschil, behalve op één punt, en niet het minste: wij zijn allebei tamelijk verachtelijke individuen.” (Aldus Houellebecq se openingsbrief.)  Volgens Houellebecq sou “veel vooraanstaande journalisten […] een zweem van vreugde voelen wanneer ze zouden vernemen dat ik zelfmoord heb gepleegd.”

Nou kan ‘n mens natuurlik nie help om te wonder of so iets ooit in ons Afrikaanse lettere moontlik sou wees nie … Ek meen, wat is die kanse dat ons binnekort die geheime korrespondensie tussen ons openbare bekvegters sal kan aankondig? Ai, ai, ai. Die vreugde om onverwags te ontdek dat die swaargewigte van ons lettere inderdaad besig is (of was) om met mekaar te práát.

Dit laat my meteens dink aan die storie van die emmers water wat vriend Viljee bykans 35 jaar gelede al aan my vertel het: jy neem drie emmers water; die een vul jy met koue water, die volgende met lou water en die laaste een met warm water. Persoon “A” steek ‘n arm in die emmer met koue water en ‘n ander (Persoon “B”) steek sy (of haar) arm in die warm water. Op ‘n gegewe moment moet hulle hul ander arms in die emmer met lou water steek en sê of die water koud of warm is. Natuurlik gaan Persoon “A” sê die water is warm, terwyl “B” weer sal sê die water is koud. En tog, dit bly dieselfde emmer water …

Laat jou dink, nè?

Nietemin, Publieke vijanden is ‘n gesamentlike projek tussen De Arbeiderspers en De Geus. En dít op sigself is ‘n kragtoer van versoening. Die hoop beskaam dus nie.

As nagedagte, die volgende aanhaling uit die pen van W.H. Auden: “No poet or novelist wishes he (or she) was the only one who ever lived, but most of them wish they were the only one alive, and quite a number fondly believe their wish has been granted.” (Uit: Writers on writing, Jon Winoker, Headline Press, 1988.)

Dan wriemel die webblad omtrent vanoggend met nuwe leesstof … Welkom terug aan Bernard Odendaal na sy oorsese reis; die voorneme wat hy in sy nuwe blog uiteensit, klink beslis na ‘n opwindende onderneming. Ook besonder welkom aan Yves T’Tsjoen wat sý eerste blog geplaas het; ‘n insigwekkende stuk oor Ger Groot van De Groene Amsterdammer en bepaalde aspekte tov leesstrategieë. Dan is daar natuurlik die onderhoud met Valzhyna Mort, Richard Jürgens as Charl-Pierre Naudé se derde gas-blogger, De Contrabas se tweede Nuusbrief, plus ‘n hele emmer vol nuwe verse! Gelukkig lê die naweek darem net om die draai met (hopelik) genoeg tyd om alles rustig en stelselmatig deur te lees … Of wat praat ek alles?


‘n Lekker Donderdag vir jou; en kyk tog jou opponent in die oog. Hy (of sy) is jou vernaamste reklame-agent.

Mooi bly.


Onderhoud: Valzhyna Mort

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

The transformation of experience

Valzhyna Mort in conversation

with Louis Esterhuizen & Charl-Pierre Naudé

Valzhyna Mort

Valzhyna Mort

Valzhyna Mort was born in 1981 in Minsk, Belarus. Her first book, I’m as Thin as Your Eyelashes, was published in 2005 and comprised of poetry, prose and selected translations from Polish and English. She received the Crystal of Vilenica award in Slovenia in 2004, and the Hubert Burda Poetry Prize for young writers in 2008. Since 2006 Mort has lived in the USA, where she is a writer-in-residence at the University of Baltimore. Her second book of poetry, Factory of Tears, came out in 2008. It was the first bilingual Belarusian-English poetry book ever published in the USA. Set in a land haunted by the spectre of a post-Soviet Eastern Europe, and marked by the violence of the recent past, intense moments of joy lighten the darkness. “Grandmother” – as a person and an idea – is a recurring presence in poems, and startlingly fresh images – desire described as the approaching bus that immediately pulls away or pain as the embrace of a very strong god “with an unshaven cheek that scratches when he kisses you” – occupy and haunt the mind. Engaged, voracious and memorable, Factory of Tears is the remarkable American debut of a rising international poetry star.






Part I >>> Louis Esterhuizen


Valzhyna, the Irish Times referred to you as “a rising star of the international poetry world” and you are generally regarded as one of the most promising younger poets today. Are these high levels of expectation not very intimidating for you as a poet who is trying to establish herself in a new language environment?


Every second mentioning of such references, even most flattering ones, turns them into clichés which then follow you everywhere, catchy as they are, most often they are unnecessary. Here in the States, I’m often referred to as a “Belarusian poet” which to me is a “pink elephant”, a “white crow” – nationality and poetry don’t go together. If anything, a poet runs away from the nationality – from home altogether, and ideally – from the “poetry world”.


You were born in Minsk, Belarus, and lived in a number of different cities before you moved to Washington in 2006. Yet, your poetry remains strongly Belarusian in its themes and imagery. Is this an advantage or a disadvantage for you at present? Surely your current (English) readership has limited understanding and knowledge of Belarusian culture and history?


This puzzles me because I don’t know what is so particularly Belarusian about my poetry. To me poetry is always about the transformation of experience, and once experience is transformed, it doesn’t belong to any particular place. This summer I was writing about Minsk while on a short trip to Venice. No need to say I ended up with a description of a non-existent hybrid between the two. I pick up its traces everywhere I go – I wrote about Minsk in Warsaw, in Berlin, at Sylt on the North Sea, in New York. My Minsk doesn’t exist, or if it does, it is like Adam Zagajewsky’s Lviv – “it is everywhere”. An image we create is never a mirror, but a compromise between reality and the secret life.

Belarus didn’t give me much when it comes to taste or color – it is quite a bland place in that regard. Salt and pepper, white in winter and green in summer – that’s all of it pretty much. The melancholy, the boredom of landscape and dull sensuality was substituted with very high social temperature, social absurdity, this sad aggression of people around, our nostalgias, our isolation, our post-World War II memory, our history that nobody can put a finger on – it is like mice living in the house, you hear its tiny paws running through the walls, you find your food eaten up in the morning, you are angry at it, disgusted, want to catch it but the mice traps are banned in your country because your president stepped into one as a child and hurt himself.


In 2008 your second collection of poems, Factory of Tears, was published by Copper Canyon Press. This was the first Belarusian-English poetry book ever published in the USA. For the English versions of your poems you collaborated with the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Franz Wright, and his wife, Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright. How did this process work and are you satisfied with the end result?


I’m very satisfied. When the question of translation of my poems into English came up, I had already had experience of translating, other poets, mainly from Polish into Belarusian. In fact, I had published a book of translations of a Polish poet Rafal Wojaczek into Belarusian by that time. However, approaching my own work seemed to be a different endeavor. The process of translation comes closest to the process of editing and the idea of going back to what I saw as finished poems and rewriting them, resuming editing them, seemed like a very ungrateful and ruthless job, so I was very happy to hand it over to Franz and Elizabeth. I worked with them on the initial stages of literal translation, provided all the necessary commentary, and later on the final stage I had the final word. I remember Franz told me then that for him the basis of translation was in translating the idiom. I agree with that.

Things that are lost in translation often prove to be invaluable in the first place. Images translate, music translates, a story translates. It is not easy (if it’s easy it’s just bad!!), and requires enormous effort of patience, dedication and mastery but what is found in translation in the end is worth the work.


Obviously translation must be a very important issue for you. Would you care to share with us some of your views concerning translation and its importance as literary process?


Most of the literature we read, we read it in translation. Many of us fall in love with literature while reading translations. When a teenager, I read Lorca, Auden, Henry Miller, all of them in translation. I read Dante and Homer in translation, Ovid in translation, the Bible in translation, leave alone my childhood books – Hans Christian Andersen, Astrid Lingren, Gianni Rodari, Alexander Dumas, Jules Vernes – everything in translation. Translation is essential in the literary process. Let the writers complain and be suspicious – the readers need translation. A great translator should be valued as much or even more than a great writer. As for young writers, there’s no better way of learning the craft than translating.


You have performed at many poetry festivals and favourable comment is often made about your ability to move your audiences. Is the oral aspect an important feature of your poetry? How do you go about preparing for such a reading? Do you, for example, select specific poems for a specific audience? Do you read in Belarusian or the English translation?


Oral poetic tradition is certainly very important to me. Poetry comes alive only when it’s read out loud. So does great prose. Writing a poem I speak it out, and consider the poem “written down” only after it has been read to an audience, even if it is just one person. That was how I read poetry before I started writing myself – Marina Tsvetaeva, Joseph Brodsky, Rafal Wojaczek, those poets who were most important in the very beginning always called for the voice. Otherwise it would have been like a dare game: put a frog into your mouth and read Tsvetaeva without opening it. It would have been a cruel challenge!

As for preparing for the reading, I used to hold off choosing the poem before I see and get a feel for the audience but now I find it more interesting to try and tune the audience into me rather than tune into them. Reading at many festivals can become a drag. Staying true to myself during such events is more challenging than choosing the poems to read.


You have a strong musical background. In fact, according to the forementioned Green Hill-interview, you even considered becoming a professional musician in your youth. In what way did music influence your poetry, if any at all?


Music taught me to go beyond language. Words employed in a poem function on the same level with sounds in a musical piece – a poet not only speaks with words, but also listens through words, and what she hears is poetry that exists there, outside the linguistic.


The “grandmother” – as person and idea – is a recurring presence in your poems. Does the concept (memory) of a “grandmother” have a special significance for you?


I believe we have certain people and landscapes that are primary for us. Usually those are the people and landscapes of our childhood that become ultimate signified against which all later people and landscapes are measured and evaluated. That’s the significance of childhood memory for me. It crosses out the possibility of tabula rasa. There’s no nothingness, no starting from scratch, no blank page. Every new person, every new landscape are laid out on those primaries and find their meaning only in contrast with them.


Then you also don’t hesitate to tackle “big”, nationalistic themes in your poetry. For example, the following comment from The New Yorker is quoted on the webpage of Blue Flower Arts: “Mort strives to be an envoy for her native country, writing with almost alarming vociferousness about the struggle to establish a clear identity for Belarus and its language.” Is this sentiment truly at the heart of your poetic endeavours or is it merely something which is being attributed to your poetry?


The words “struggle”, “native”, “clear identity” make me sweat. Everybody grows up and matures in a certain national narrative, but I feel no historicity of that, only my personal accident of getting into it. There is no difference between my neighbors and the government, the flag and the bed sheet, the constitution and an omelet recipe. The national is the most trivial, most limiting, a poet should run away from it, really far away, across the borders, across an ocean if one can until national is reduced into one detail of a big story of an individual. I think the native landscape, the landscape of childhood is more important than a country it exists in.

As for the language, my fascination with Belarusian is linguistic, musical, poetic. My parents never spoke it at home, as for my ancestors – I cannot even say. It’s neither a mother tongue, nor the language I speak daily today, nor the language I feel most comfortable speaking. If anything, it is the language of my guts – I don’t know how else to put it. There is no one particular language I think in. When I drop and break something, when at home by myself, I never know which language I’d say “oh fuck” in. My mouth opens and I still don’t know. I breathe out and still don’t know. I start speaking and still don’t know. The phrase comes out randomly like a lottery ball. I have no control of it. Vladimir Nabokov wrote that only fools think in a language, that writers think in images. And I hold on to that to keep sane.








Part II >>> Charl-Pierre Naudé


Valzhyna, I was asked to pose a couple of “guest questions” to you, because I spent some time with you on Sylt, compliments of the Sylt artists’ residency programme and in partcicular, compliments of the director, Indra Wussow, and her staff. Thank you Indra, if you are out there somewhere … which, no doubt, you are. Thank you for what you, and people like you, do to broker contact between artistic creatures from different parts of the world to meet and talk.


Sylt was great. It was the most productive and the strongest time for me when it comes to writing. Everything just came together – the sea, the solitude, the light, the herring, the wind, the nudes, our lunches and conversations at Sylt-Quelle in those orange chairs.


Anyway, Valzhyna, you wore my sweater for two months – and now is payback time. (Sylt is an island in the North Sea, off Germany, and Valzhyna – according to her own admission – does not spend money on “winter clothes”, only on summer dresses. Summer happens to be not always so warm on Sylt … Lovely, utterly lovely, cool summer. Cool, cold summer.)




If I ask “irrelevant” questions, it is because I am going to ask you about the type of things we spoke about. We did not that often speak about poetry. And, so I felt – and so I thought you might be feeling as well – if poetry is worth anything, what the heck, it can speak for itself. There are, however, many things that impinge on poetry. So I would like to think we spent some time speaking about these things.   


I think I like Louis more.


While I was on Sylt I found myself reading South African newspapers on the internet, even obscure ones, obsessively, and getting involved in some public spats in the South African press about things that are so particular to South Africa that you cannot speak to foreigners about it, and because, simply, it doesn’t matter anywhere else, or maybe they are over that type of thing. I mean, in SA I don’t read the SA papers every day like I did on Sylt. On Sylt, I did. For readers that don’t know, Sylt is very isolated, very, exquisitely so, beautifully, almost extra-naturally.

So: I told myself I am just a little homesick, in a kind of healthy way.

But when I came back to South Africa, being on the plane, while the realisation took hold of me that I am again going to be in my own environment with its so particular, so local dialectic, it’s points of reference that are so sickeningly, so unsalvageably specific, yes maybe even backward, definitely backward, mostly – I got sick. I got sick on the plane. Now look, it might have been aeroplane food. But let’s not unneccesarily blame friendly factors, not  without an inquest, just because they dive into the Pacific or the Amazon from time to time.    

Do you experience a similar kind of paradox sometimes? (I would admit freely that I would not be the kind of poet and writer that I turned out to be without the categories that my country gave me. Did I say categories? Without the cells of imprisonment that it imposes on me.) (“Odi et amo”. I love AND I hate. That poem by Ovid that those lines come from is redeeming.)  Any comment?


I read your soliloquy and laughed a lot and wept a little. When I return, it’s never the returning. When I come home, it’s never really home. So mine is a different situation. I basically never get off that airplane and it’s a choice not to.


Are there historical factors possibly particular to Belarus, which might shape a Belarus writer in a way that a you as a reader would recognise in a work in translation, even if you did not know anything about the writer?


I think it’s not the writer who makes his original language recognized in translation, but a translator who is not good. I don’t think there’s anything particular Belarusian about Belarusian poetry – I hope there’s not, otherwise it would be its end. Something that most Belarusian writers share is lack of tradition and desire for this tradition, nostalgia for the golden age, enthusiasm to scrape the corners to put together Belarusian tradition. This is a big mistake, I believe. If we don’t have our own, we should just go take what we like from others. The only way of taking it is translating it. So here we are back with translation again. Translate Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and with that make them ours.


And, just to get away from the tyranny of the collective, which is what poetry in so many ways tries to do,  tell us why you like chocolate so much?


How is poetry the tyranny of the collective? Isn’t it poetry that teaches us to invent our own language, and our own language subsequently makes us think differently, uniquely, makes us aware of our autonimity, and … of all that chocolate of the world to be potentially eaten by us?


Thank you for the interview, Valzhyna. Also for the poem underneath which we place as teaser of your poetry in general. We wish you all the best and will follow your career with interest.


Louis Esterhuizen

Charl-Pierre Naudé





my grandmother
doesn’t know pain
she believes that
famine is nutrition
poverty is wealth
thirst is water
her body like a grapevine winding around a walking stick
her hair bees’ wings
she swallows the sun-speckles of pills
and calls the internet the telephone to america
her heart has turned into a rose the only thing you can do
is smell it
pressing yourself to her chest
there’s nothing else you can do with it
only a rose
her arms like stork’s legs
red sticks
and i am on my knees
howling like a wolf
at the white moon of your skull
i’m telling you it’s not pain
just the embrace of a very strong god
one with an unshaven cheek that prickles when he kisses you.



© Translation: 2008, Valzhyna Mort, Franz Wright and Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright
From: The Factory of Tears
Copper Canyon Press, 2008





Monday, August 3rd, 2009
Die koningrooibekkie

Die koningrooibekkie

Aangesien ons hierdie naweek die derde maand van die webblad gevier het, is ‘n meer persoonlike Nuuswekker seker in orde … En wat ‘n wonderlike 3 maande was dit nie! So is daar die daaglikse besoekerstal wat lag-lag meer is as die gemiddelde oplaag van ‘n digbundel; die entoesiastiese terugvoer vanuit soveel verskillende oorde; die verbysterende gehalte van die bydraes wat ingestuur en/of geplaas word; die bloggers wat ‘n mens telkens stom laat voor die gehalte van hul blogs, ensovoorts. Maar natuurlik, soos dit maar dikwels die geval is, was daar teleurstellings ook. Soos ons onvermoë – tot dusver – om ‘n borg vir die webblad te kan bekom; of ondernemings wat gegee word en dan nie nagekom word nie. Sug. Mens bly maar mens, is dit nie?

En dit bring my by die storie waarmee ek jou vanoggend wil vermaak. Dit handel naamlik oor ‘n allerlieflikste koningrooibekkie wat die afgelope weke die boom reg voor my studeerkamervenster sy tuiste gemaak het. Telkens wanneer ek voor my rekenaar kom sit, sal hy reg voor my kom fladder en saggies teen die ruit pik-pik asof hy na binne wil kom. Andersins sal hy op die tak reg voor my venster sit en my stip dophou, hoe en waar ek ook al beweeg. Pietjan het ek hom gedoop en klaviermusiek is sy ding. Veral Chopin en Schumann. Ons het goeie vriende geword, uiteraard. Aangesien ek egter bekommerd begin raak het oor Pietjan se onnatuurlike fiksasie op my, asook sy beperkte spieruithouvermoë, het ek ‘n spieël in die ruit geplaas met ‘n voetstuk aan die buitekant sodat hy ure daar kan verwyl in ‘n intieme gesprek met sy spieëlbeeld. Ai, mense. Wat ‘n plesier … Maar nou ja, soos in my inleidende paragraaf reeds gesê: té veel vreugde is ook nie goed vir ‘n mens nie. So gebeur dit toe mos dat die mossies óók die spieël ontdek en dit volledig vir hulself toeëien, terwyl Pietjan (wat maar nog ‘n babatjie is) hom ietwat verleë verder agtertoe in die bos skuilhou. O, die teleurstelling.

Nietemin, na drie maande moet ons afskeid neem van een van ons gewaardeerde bloggers. Daniel Hugo het naamlik versoek om vervang te word, aangesien hy dit weens omstandighede moeilik vind om daarmee vol te hou. Ek moet ook erken dat Daniel se onderneming reg van die begin af was om ons net te help om die webblad se blogs van stapel te stuur. Vir sy insette kan ons net dankbaar wees. Dankie daarvoor, Daniel. En wees verseker: ons sal jou wel weer op ánder maniere (probeer) betrek.

Nou ja, so is dit dat ons tans oor ons eerste vakature vir ‘n blogger beskik. Laat weet gerus indien jy sou belangstel.

Maar kom ons eindig dié Nuuswekker op ‘n meer positiewe noot. Een van ons uitgespelde doelwitte met dié webblad is om die Afrikaanssprekende poësieliefhebber ook groter blootstelling aan Internasionale Poësie te bied. Hierin lewer Charl-Pierre Naudé uiteraard ‘n enorme bydrae en sy voorstel onlangs om van “gas-bloggers” gebruik te maak, is ‘n skitterende idee. Breyten Breytenbach se stuk “Klinkdink“, wat al geplaas is, is byvoorbeeld pure leesplesier. En dan laat weet Charl-Pierre dat Valzhyna Mort, oor wie ek in Vrydag se Nuuswekker berig het, se stuk reeds ontvang is en binnekort deur hom geplaas sal word. Sjoe, ‘n mens kan nie wag nie …

Ten slotte, aan almal wat tot die vestiging van hierdie baba-blad meegewerk het: baie, baie dankie. Veral diegene wat tot onderhoude toegestem het en/of artikels gestuur het. En natuurlik: ons bloggers. Ons kan maar net handeklap en juig. Júlle is immers die murg in hierdie gedoente se kuberpype. Om nie van ons geliefde webmeester te vergeet nie: dit is jý wat hierdie hele pypgedoente aan mekaar hou, Marlise. Dankie vir die ure en ure se harde werk.

Vanoggend, by wyse van oordaad, twéé verse. Die eerste deur ‘n meester; die ander ‘n geleentheidsvers.

‘n Uiters aangename week word jou toegewens.

Mooi bly.





U het die wêreld oopgeskiet

tot grot en grammadoela;


toe die blaar en riet,

U arbeiders, gestuur; wortels

wat nederig werk, die mier wat stokkies dra

en beitelpunt van die rivier.


U droom met dinamiet

en laat aan arbeiders

die besonderhede en verdriet.


© DJ Opperman (1945: Heilige beeste)






Telkens die koningrooibekkie

se geflitter voor jou studeerkamerruit –

die elegante getjirp waarmee hy  

sy trae refleksie buitentoe roep. En jy


plaas ‘n spieël teen die glas vir hom,

met ‘n voetstuk van draad daarby

om knus-intiem in skerper fokus

by ‘n spieëlmaat die dae kop-in-mus


te verbly. Maar vanoggend is daar

net ‘n mossie se dom geboggel

by jou ruit: op en af, ure aaneen, op

en af, spring, spring, die waggelende


potsierlikheid. Om jou liefbekkie

waarskynlik elders heen

te verwilder.


© Louis Esterhuizen

Jong Belarusiese digter veroorsaak beroering

Friday, July 31st, 2009
Valzhyna Mort

Valzhyna Mort

Dit is seker gepas dat ’n letterkunde opgewonde sal raak oor haar jong(er) talent en dit sal koester ten einde volle wasdom oor ’n aantal jare te kan bereik. Maar wie is hierdie ontluikende stemme op die verhoog van die wêreldpoësie? Een so ’n kandidaat is beslis die 28-jarige Belarusiese digter Valzhyna Mort wat nog verlede maand met groot sukses aan die Rotterdamse Poetry International deelgeneem het. Mort het in 2005 gedebuteer met I’m as Thin as Your Eyelashes. Hiervoor het sy Slowenië se Crystal of Vilencia Award in 2005 ontvang en die Duitse Burda Poësie-prys in 2008. Van haar verse is ook opgeneem in die gesaghebbende bloemlesing New European Poets wat verlede jaar by Graywolf Press verskyn het.

Op die oomblik trek sy egter baie aandag met haar tweede digbundel, Factory of tears, wat einde verlede jaar in die VSA verskyn het waar sy sedert 2006 woon en as skrywer-in-residensie by die Universiteit van Baltimore betrokke is. (Vantevore was sy in soortgelyke poste by die Literarisches Colloquium en die Sylt-Quelle in Duitsland.) Die verse in Factory of tears is deur Mort in samewerking met die Pulitzer-wenners Elizabeth Oehlkers en Franz Wright na Engels vertaal.

Volgens Svetlana Tomić se resensie van die bundel in die nuutste uitgawe van World Literature Today word Mort se poësie gekenmerk deur “an obstinate resistance and rebellion against the devaluation of life, which forces her to multiply intelligent questions, impressive thoughts, and alluring metaphors, while her rhythm surprisingly arises as a powerful tool for the most dramatic moments of her verses.” (WLT, May-June, p.71) Of soos Poetry International dit hier op hul webblad stel: “The musical litanies of the poems’ phrases mesmerise the reader, but sudden moments of discord remind us that Mort’s world is not entirely harmonious.” Mort se verse, wat ek wel te lese kon kry, is inderdaad indrukwekkend. ’n Mens kan nie anders as om met Tomić saam te stem dat Valzhyna Mort beslis een van die mees belowende jonger digters vandag in die wêreldpoësie is nie.

Ter illustrasie, haar gedig Belarusian I hieronder. Maak seker dat jy ook haar gedig Grandmother lees wat op Poetry International se webblad geplaas is.

Lekker lees en geniet die naweek. Nuuswekker hervat weer Maandag.

Mooi bly.




even our mothers have no idea how we were born
how we parted their legs and crawled out into the world
the way you crawl from the ruins after a bombing
we couldn’t tell which of us was a girl or a boy
we gorged on dirt thinking it was bread
and our future
a gymnast on a thin thread of the horizon
was performing there
at the highest pitch

we grew up in a country where
first your door is stroked with chalk
then at dark a chariot arrives
and no one sees you anymore
but riding in those cars were neither
armed men nor
a wanderer with a scythe
this is how love loved to visit us
and snatch us veiled

completely free only in public toilets
where for a little change nobody cared what we were doing
we fought the summer heat the winter snow
when we discovered we ourselves were the language
and our tongues were removed we started talking with our eyes
when our eyes were poked out we talked with our hands
when our hands were cut off we conversed with our toes
when we were shot in the legs we nodded our head for yes
and shook our heads for no and when they ate our heads alive
we crawled back into the bellies of our sleeping mothers
as if into bomb shelters
to be born again
and there on the horizon the gymnast of our future
was leaping through the fiery hoop
of the sun