The 10th edition of Poëzieweek (Poetry Week) has just ended. Over 120 activities happened in The Netherlands and Vlaanderen (the Northern, Dutch-speaking part of Belgium). Some of these will continue during the year.
The theme this time was Nature. During any year there are a several ‘book’ weeks in The Netherlands and readers can claim a free book when they purchase up to a given amount. As poetry books are expensive here, the sum of Euro 12,50 was easily reached!
The Dutch-Palestinian author and actor Ramsey Nasr was commissioned to write the poetry gift this year. He is well-known, as he was the Dichter des Vaderlands (the unofficial title for poet laureate) during 2009 – 2012.
The pamphlet with 10 poems is well produced on quality paper. It’s based on the hundreds of letters Van Gogh wrote from his youth until his death in 1890. Under the motto Blossoming and Abundance, the poet has selected and re-arranged Van Gogh’s words. The two blue horizontal lines on the cover indicate caesuras. These return in the text as thin blue vertical lines, showing where Nasr has deleted a word or several phrases from the original text.
I love how Ramsey Nasr has distilled the essence of Van Gogh. It is a very interesting way of using found material. Here are my translations of a few parts of some of his poems.
(3) let us | find a task that forces us to quietly | sit busy with work that is simpler than | tasks that | are useful
i am no better than another | am not like a street pump | from stone | or iron |
i send you | the night | the moon | cypresses |
it cannot | remain like it is now | burn rather than choke | a door must be open or closed something in-between i do not understand
the mediterranean has a colour like | mackerel | you don’t know | if it is green or purple you don’t know | if it is blue for a second later the constantly changing reflection has taken on a pink or grey tinge |
Tomorrow is the publication date of my second collection Nothing serious, nothingdangerous. The book is already on Amazon and has been available for pre-publication orders from Indigo Dreams Publishing.
The publishers have selected six accessible poems for the author page, and the author photo is by my nephew Ted Köhler who lives in the Netherlands and is beginning to build up a photography portfolio. The end of November is too close to the festive season for an official launch. That will be here in Manchester, at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation on Tuesday 3 March.
The title was inspired by a Raymond Carver poem called My Boat. Raymond Carver is one of my all-time favourite poets. Someone I return to when I feel stale and in a negative frame of mind.
The poem Why are we in Vietnam? was written on a workshop at the wonderful Almassera Vella, Spain. We were to find any book in the library, open it at random and use a few lines as a starting point for a poem. Then we were to imagine finding a postcard inside the book. Where was the postcard from? What was written on the back? Who had sent it? I picked the paperback because of its intriguing title. It’s by Norman Mailer. I was surprised to find the lines and I imagined there would be an art card inside, a card I’d bought and forgotten about. It’s a reminder how working with “found” materials can easily trigger our creativity. The poem was commended in the 2016 Havant Open Poetry Competition.
Why are we in Vietnam?
It has held up the broken leg
of a single bed in the attic.
Everything is dusty now.
Who brought this Panther
paperback into my life?
Then the trail of the blood
took a bend, beat through dwarf alder.
The postcard isn’t of Cezanne’s gardener
seated upright in his chair,
or Venetian gondoliers.
Didn’t want to die in those woods,
Green lines, black dots,
small yellow triangles,
Miro’s insects and birds.
Neat black lines for the address,
the black box for a stamp.
To the left white space,
the white space of that Alaska.
Recent Poetry School workshops have been held in the Manchester Art Gallery. So, we have been inspired by sample poems as well as the works on display. On the second floor there have been several interesting exhibitions of modern art. Dashing back downstairs I missed the display on the foyer wall – an enlarged copy of Home Office form OV51 Visit (NRA). On the first page the staff have given another reason for the refusal. They doubt that the artist has control over her bank account (the application was accompanied by bank statements, as required).
Some personal details have been blacked out prior to posting, but the applicant is born in Pakistan and the work in the gallery is by Adeela Suleman, a sculptor and artist and Associate Professor and Head of the Fine Art Department of the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture in Karachi.
My short “found” poem:
Refusal of a visit visa
Date of refusal decision: 13 September 2017
Furthermore, you have stated that you are single
with no dependents.
I am not satisfied that you have demonstrated ties
to Pakistan that would give you reason to return
a simple pattern that silently repeats itself silence haunts you silence is disturbing