P/P | r2c | February: Teasel Symmetry and the Marriage of Inner and Outer Worlds
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Teasel Symmetry "You can hear the sea
with your hands over your ears,
in a cockleshell,
in a mustard jar,
or at the sea."

from The Sea,
by Judith Herzberg

This week, an image called
Teasel, an old world plant along
a new world roadside.
five new translations
of Lowland poems.

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Vijf Gedichten; Five Poems

The guest poems for this week are new English translations of a set of five Dutch pieces.
The featured poets are, Judith Herzberg, Gerrit Achterberg, Remco Campert, Hendrik
and Kees Buurman.

Teasel Symmetry and the Marriage
of Inner and Outer Worlds

When we put our ear to Judith Herzberg's charming little poem, The Sea, we are
instantly transported in a childlike way through a series of nested spaces, moving
from the idea of sea, which is vast and unknowable, to the much smaller intimate
spaces of one's own body, to something strange yet beautiful like a sea shell, back
to an ordinary object like a pot, and finally to the actual thing itself in all its mystery,
the sea. Sound is the common thread which makes this movement possible; similar
sounds from different sources which we might think of as a kind of primeval, implicit
metaphor. So the child in us says, "
Yes, how beautiful!— The sea is inside the shell."
How not unlike our experience of the poem itself, in that the sea, or the outer world,
lives in, or is brought home to, the inner world of our private selves.

This is the unique power of verse to bring together both inner and outer universes in
some kind of provisional, yet harmonious wedlock.

When we consider the image of the humble
roadside teasel pictured above, something
similar is taking place. Perhaps we could say:

You see the head in the form of the teasel,
in yourself wearing a fuzzy hat,
in circles drawn on wet sand,
in an octopus of deep seas,
or in the teasel.

We make naturally and effortlessly these leaps of comparison which weave together
both inner and outer space with threads of
similarity and difference. In Hulshorst,
by Gerrit Achterberg, we are transported on an old, slow-moving train from an actual
rural station—Hulshorst is the name of a village in sandy pine/heather country in the
middle of Holland known as De Veluwe—suddenly back in time to a vision of the
same space in prehistoric times. Many people have reported similar experiences, that is,
of unexpectedly entering a past time-space which somehow co-exists with the here and
now because of the unique character of a particular place. Again, it it striking that the
poet does this with images of sound and movement, both of the scene being sketched
and the language of the poem itself.

In Remco Campert's
Cold, we find ourselves back inside the inside of our own home
pondering the nature of the approaching Winter.
"I feel it in the air / And in the words
which I write. / Everything is getting clearer: the street / Can be seen to its end. The
words / Have no end."
There is a strong sense of time slowing down, as it naturally
does during the colder months, which allows much more (inner) space to flow in.

In Hendrik Marsman's much-loved poem,
Memories of Holland, we are again
seated with the poet inside somewhere, but now he brings to life for us a panorama
of a countryside he knows by heart but has for some reason left behind. How many
of us in the current era do not know this carrying around of a landscape inwardly
which has somehow rooted our spiritual life, but because it is now distant, lives on
only in the remembrances of inner space.

And lastly,
Kites (2), by Kees Buurman, enchants us with the simplicity with which
it ties our soul to a string. Once again out-of-doors, the poets sees his inner world
flutter its wings above him, with now, perhaps for the first time, both feet planted
firmly on solid ground. Let us join him then, and follow the strings of words offered
by the poets presented here from inner to outer and and perhaps back again:

De Zee

De zee kun je horen
met je handen voor je oren,
in een kokkel,
in een mosterdpotje,
of aan zee.

Judith Herzberg

Beemdgras 1980
The Sea

You can hear the sea
with your hands over your ears,
in a cockleshell,
in a mustard jar,
or at the sea.


Hulshorst, als vergeten ijzer
is uw naam, binnen de dennen
en de bittere coniferen,
roest uw station;
waar de spoortrein naar het noorden
met een godverlaten knars
stilhoudt, niemand uitlaat
niemand inlaat, o minuten,
dat ik hoor het weinig waaien
als een oeroude legende
uit uw bossen: barse bende
rovers, rans en ruw
uit het witte veluwhart.

   Gerrit Achterberg

Hulshorst, your name is like
forgotten iron, within the pines
and bitter conifers,
rusts your station;
where the north-bound train
with an ungodly grinding
comes to a halt, nobody gets out
nobody gets in, oh minutes,
that I hear the sparse blowing
as an ancient legend
out of your forests: harsh hordes,
thieves, rancid and rough
out of your white pineforest heart.


Winter nadert.
Ik voel het aan de lucht
En aan de woorden die ik schrijf.
Alles wordt klaarder: de straat
Is tot aan zijn eind te zien. De woorden
Hebben geen eind.

Ik ben dichter
Bij de waarheid in December
Dan in Juli. Ik ben dichter
Bij gratie van de kalender, lijkt het
Soms wel. Toch, de woorden niet, de steden
Nemen hun eind.

Als er ergens
Zomer en winter, maar een ster
Brandde die een fel wit licht gaf.
Ik zeg een ster, maar het
Mag alles zijn. Als het maar brandt en
Woorden warmte geeft.

Maar ik geloof
Niet, 's winters nog minder, aan
Zo'n ster. In woorden moet ik geloven.
Maar wie kan dat? Ik ben
Een stem, stervend en koud, vol
Winterse woorden.

    Remco Campert

Winter is approaching.
I feel it in the air
And in the words which I write.
Everything is getting clearer: the street
Can be seen to its end. The words
Have no end.

I am closer
To truth in December
Than in July. I am closer
By the grace of the calendar, or so
It seems. Yet, though words don't, the cities
Reach their end.

If there somewhere
Summer or winter, but one star
Burned with an intense white light.
I say star, but it could
Be anything. If it but burns and
Gives warmth to words.

But I don't
Believe, and in winter even less, in
Such a star. I must believe in words.
But who can do that? I am
A voice, dying and cold, full
Of wintery words.

Herinnering aan Holland

Denkend aan Holland
zie ik breede rivieren
traag door oneindig
laagland gaan,
rijen ondenkbaar
ijle populieren
als hooge pluimen
aan den einder staan;
en in de geweldige
ruimte verzonken
de boerderijen
verspreid door het land,
boomgroepen, dorpen,
geknotte torens,
kerken en olmen
in een grootsch verband.
de lucht hangt er laag
en de zon wordt er langzaam
in grijze veelkleurige
dampen gesmoord,
en in alle gewesten
wordt de stem van het water
met zijn eeuwige rampen
gevreesd en gehoord.

   Hendrik Marsman
Memories of Holland

Thinking about Holland,
I see broad rivers
moving slowly through
endless lowlands,
rows of unthinkably
thin poplars
standing as high plumes
on the horizon;
and sunken within
wonderful space,
farm houses
scattered throughout the land,
clusters of trees, villages,
cropped towers,
churches and elms
in one great association.
the air hangs low
and the sun is slowly
muffled in a gray
mottled fog,
and in all the many provinces
the voice of the water
with its eternal calamities
is feared and heard.

Vlieger (2)*

De vlieger die
de nachtlucht
zichtbaar maakt,
een snelle schaduw
en een dans is,
de blauwe spiegel
van mijn ziel,
zingt fluisterend
mijn woorden weg
in wind.

Twee draden
brengen kracht omlaag
en bevestigen mijn voeten
aan de grond.

Even speel ik
het universum,
terwijl in mijn buik
een vlieger

Kees Buurman

(1933 - 1997)
Kites (2)*

The kite
that makes the
nightwind visible,
is quick shadow
and dance,
blue mirror
of my soul,
sings my words
away in the wind.

Two strings
bring down energy
and fasten my feet
to the ground.

For a moment I play
while in my belly
a kite
flutters its wings.

(all tr. Cliff Crego)

Below is a little slideshow
featuring my English translations
of Rainer Maria Rilke, presented together
with a collection of images from the Alps,
very close to where much of his later poetry was composed

About "Kites (2)" by Kees Buurman

I recently found this wonderful little poem by Kees Buurman on a website
which documents on the Web a remarkable project called
The Wall-Poems
of Leiden
[The Netherlands].
The private foundation, AGAINST-IMAGE,
has over a period of eight years created more than 86 large-scale murals, each
of which handsomely features a single poem in a unique graphic design. The
selected poems reflect a highly international perspective—many are displayed
in the original script and language—which it should be said is characteristic
of much of Dutch literary tradition. If you would like to view the wall
devoted to
Vliegers (2)/ Kites (2) by Kees Buurman, follow the previous
link which takes you to the specific page in AGAINST-IMAGES' website.
What follows below is a short translation of the Dutch introduction found
there on their homepage
(see links below).

De Muurgedichten van Leiden

"Het Leidse stadsbeeld is opgesierd met vele verrassende muurgedichten. Ze
maken deel uit van het project "
Gedichten en muren", dat is gestart in 1992
met een gedicht van de Russische dichteres Marina Tsvetajeva. Dit gedicht
was het begin van een lange reeks, die nog steeds groeit. Het aanbrengen van
de muurgedichten is een particulier initiatief van de stichting
waarvan Ben Walenkamp, en Jan-Willem Bruins de belangrijkste uitvoerenden
zijn. Ook hebben diverse particulieren en ondernemers als sponsor of anderszins
een bijdrage geleverd. De stichting stelt vooral de relatie tussen taal en beeld centraal."

The Wall-Poems of Leiden [The Netherlands]

"The cityscape of Leiden is decorated by a number of many surprising wall-poems
(muurgedichten). They are part of a project called, "
Poems and Walls", that was
started in 1992 with a poem by the Russian poet, Marina Tsvetaeva. This poem
was the beginning of a long list of others, which is still growing. The realization
of the wall-poems has been and remains the private initiative of the foundation

(TEGEN-BEELD), of whom Ben Walenkamp and Jan-
Willem Bruins have been the most important executors. Also, a diverse group of
other individuals and contractors have lent assistance to the project with subsidies
or by other means. The central concern of the foundation AGAINST-IMAGE is
the relationship between language and image."


"Straight roads,
Slow rivers,
Deep clay."
A collection of contemporary Dutch poetry
in English translation, with commentary
and photographs
by Cliff Crego

| See also a selection of recent Picture/Poem "Rilke in translation" features at the Rilke Archive.

See also another website
by Cliff Crego:
The Poetry of
Rainer Maria Rilke
A presentation of 80 of the
best poems of Rilke in
both German and
new English translations
biography, links, posters

| # listen to other recordings in English and German of eight poems from
The Book of Images
at The Rilke Download Page (# Includes instructions)
| back to r2c | back to Picture/Poems: Central Display |
Photograph/Texts of Translations © 2000 Cliff Crego
XII.10..2000; revised XII.29..2000 and XII.9.2001, II.18.2011)