Friday, 24 August 2012

On Writing Poetry (in English)

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I usually write poems in Afrikaans. The reason is simply that I find Afrikaans to be innately more poetic in its compilation and collocations. Take the word "hartstog" for example, which means passion. Directly translated, "hartstog" is heart's journey. In other words, one's passion is the thing that takes your heart on a journey. That is a poem by itself. (I have in fact actually used it as the theme for an Afrikaans poem once.) Or the word "versoen" which means reconcile and directly translates as to kiss. The Afrikaans word for reconciling is this intimate image of kissing. (This had also been the inspiration for a poem before.) With such innate rich and colourful imagery it is no wonder that I prefer Afrikaans as my poetic medium. This doesn't mean that I don't write poetry in English or that I'm not inspired in English. Actually, as far as reading poetry goes, I read mostly English poems and quite often too. In fact, I often have some anthology of poetry in my bag with me, and it is usually an English anthology. For instance at this very moment I have Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" in my one backpack and a translation into English of a selection of Tomas Tranströmer's poetry in my other backpack, and I always leave home with one of these two backpacks.

True, I do write much less poetry in English, but sometimes an English poem wants to be written. Like last night. I was walking home listening to the soundtrack of Spring Awakening when the phrase "good riddance" lodged itself in my mind and just begged to be used in a poem. When I got home I sat down and wrote it in one sitting. (Which of course means that it could probably benefited from more time and editing before I posted it.) Often poems I write in English feel like they want to be translated into Afrikaans, or sometimes an Afrikaans poem calls for an English translation. The "Good Riddance"-poem, which you can read on my poetry blog, has no such ambitions. It is a happy, thoroughly English poem. Well, mostly. It is not a happy-themed poem, so it is not happy in that sense. I mean that the poem is happy to be an exclusively English poem. Also, one of the words I used is quite questionable. It is not a properly established word in the English language, well not in the sense that I use it. It is the word "palateless", meaning "lacking in delicacy of taste", which, upon searching online, I could only find it used in this sense in Merriam-Webster's dictionary, and noted as one of their "unabridged words"; i.e. a very uncommon word. Palateless has become a slightly more common word to describe dentures as palate-less; that is, dentures that do not have an artificial palate (roof of the mouth) part -- not the variation of the word I had in mind.

In July I translated two of my Afrikaans poems into English: a homo-erotic / bisexually themed poem "and I wonder why" and "Percieve", a poem of romantic longing. The latter I also translated into Korean and is currently being edited by a Korean friend. In July I also translated an English poem, A. E. Houseman's "I did not lose my heart on a summer's even" into Afrikaans, and in May I translated those beautiful English lines (189-202) from the final scene of Beaumont and Fletcher's play “Philaster” into Afrikaans.

But since it has been so long for me to write an exclusively English poem I thought it worth announcing here on my main blog. And so it starts, as an angry confession: "If I should lose you, / I say: 'good riddance!' / I've already lost my heart, / what more is there to lose?" But turns into a sad revelation of unrequited love, and how life loses all its wonder and pleasures when one finds oneself in such a state.


BoerinBallingskap said...

Ek verstaan goed hoekom jy so aanklank by Afrikaans vind. Ek wil net byvoeg: maak nie saak in watter taal jy skryf nie; skryf, moet jy skryf. Want jy het verseker die talent!

Skryfblok said...

Ag dankie Boer! Ek waardeur die kompliment!