Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I don't remember when I first got to meet poetry in my life. It must have been when I was a couple of years old at last. We had to learn kids poems by heart in kindergarten and we also did "newyears' letters", a tradition whereby kids write a letter to read to their parents on new years day, generally written in rhyme to help with memorization and reading out loud.

I can not say that I have very vivid memories of this era but I do still know one of these songs/rhymes by heart, even after more than 27 years... The next poem that I really remember must have been from when I was 'much' older, around ten or so and is about looking at clouds .

Later in my life I studied poetry for several years in a poetry expression class but of those six years hardly anything really stuck, a poem here and there but nothing 'major'... Maybe I was not very susceptible at that time or maybe there was so much to see, learn and experience that other things won over poetry.

It was in my fourth year of university (which for me meant that I was still in my first year, as I did four years over passing the first year) that I got back in touch with poetry through various courses. From this period comes my new found love of word-music, largely inspired by M. Bartosik. I got to know British and American poets, studied Donne, Blake and others with Prof. Wellens and got to meet them and so many other ones, in different languages in the classes of Michel.

The most inspirational classes in Poetry I got from a professor who was a poet himself. I have written about him as well... He was as inspirational as the poems he made us read. He could talk about poetry as if it was, and I believe that to him it might have been, an essential part of life like water, food or the air we breathe. He was a good man this professor and I will always regret not having told him how much he really meant to me.

Not all poetry in life is purely written though. Some things are like poetry without being written down. Some songs are more poetry than song for me... Leonard Cohen is one of the singer/songwriters that I consider poet more than singer. His lyrics are deeper than normal lyrics go.

Now, in my life after university I have taken a couple of poetrybooks off the shelves to revisit them. Brodsky is a name that comes to mind ("the hawk's cry in autumn"), so are Blake, Shakespeare and Wallace Stevens.

People who teach you to savior poetry teach you something of immense value...

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, October 23, 2008

As with so many other things, my mind wanders and comes back to few people that have made a lasting impression on me. I was introduced to Wallace Stevens in several lectures of M. Bartosik, one of the few professors at the VUB that I did not merely like but that I really loved in a way only a pupil can love a professor... an admiration that was deeper than he ever knew or, sadly, could have known.
For weeks before his death I planned to tell him how I felt, how much he had meant to me during my career as a student and how often I thought of his classes or the conversations we had in the hallway, his office or on random occasions and encounters. Conversations that were far too few...
From Wallace Stevens, for Michel...

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book.
The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The words were spoken as if there was no book,
Except that the reader leaned above the page,
Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be
The scholar to whom the book is true, to whom
The summer night is like a perfection of thought.
The house was quiet because it had to be.
The quiet was part of the meaning, part of the mind:
The access of perfection to the page.
And the world was calm. The truth in a calm world,
In which there is no other meaning, itself
Is calm, itself is summer and night, itself
Is the reader leaning late and reading there.

Wallace Stevens

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, February 04, 2008

Sunt Lacrimae - Michel Bartosik (1948-2008)

Sunt Lacrimae, misschien wel de meest typerende bundel van Michel Bartosik. Zo pas vernam ik zijn overlijden, vorige vrijdag, een hersenbloeding. En zo voel ik me nu, vol van tranen, van een inwendige verscheurdheid die ik niet onder woorden kan brengen.

Recent werd bij Michel kanker vastgesteld, terwijl hij de dagen naar zijn pensioen minutieus aftelde kwam dit voor de, ex-roker, als een donderslag bij een hemel die wellicht nooit wolkenloos was maar toch altijd helder leek. Ik sprak 'm nog een paar weken geleden. Hij klaagde weinig maar de laatste tijd keek hij toch uit naar het einde van z'n VUB carrière; geplaagd door hervormingen en voortdurende evaluatie en her-evaluatie druk.

Ik had je nog zoveel willen zeggen Michel, liep al weken rond met het idee dat ik je dringend nog eens moest schrijven, je vertellen wat ik niet onder woorden kan brengen, waarom je zo belangrijk bent en was voor me. En eerlijk, ik ken nog steeds het antwoord op die vraag niet. Ik voelde me op een vreemde manier verbonden; misschien was het die eeuwige vorm van melancholie die rond je hing en je op een eigen manier kleur gaf en tekende.

Ik zal je missen Michel, ik zal je schim zien die door de VUB gangen wandelt, ik lees je en hef je het glas in m'n herinneringen.

Zie ook: DE PAPIEREN MAN: Dichter en VUB-literatuurprofessor Michel Bartosik overleden

Labels: , , ,

Monday, March 26, 2007

Piping Down the Valleys Wild

Piping down the valleys wild,
Piping songs of pleasant glee,
On a cloud I saw a child,
And he laughing said to me:

"Pipe a song about a lamb!"
So I piped with merry cheer.
"Piper, pipe that song again."
So I piped: he wept to hear.

"Drop thy pipe, thy happy pipe;
Sing thy songs of happy cheer."
So I sung the same again,
While he wept with joy to hear.

"Piper, sit thee down and write
In a book, that all may read."
So he vanished from my sight,
And I plucked a hollow reed,

And I made a rural pen,
And I stained the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs
Every child may joy to hear.

W. Blake

Labels: , ,