It’s a conundrum by people write poetry – or poems, or rhymes or lyrics or whatever you want to call them. Perhaps it is the result of the constant, unsuccessful search for the perfect image, expression or line of verse – always hoping the next poem might be the perfect one. Perhaps it is because of the beauty in poetry and the fact that certain poems reflect precisely what we feel or what we remember. In that way, poetry is like countless invisible, fragile cords that tie the poet to the reader – a different cord for every poem and every reader.
At university, we read timeless, famous poems of which lines, to this day, pop into my head at the oddest moments: “I placed a jar in Tennessee, And round it was, upon a hill…” (That’s Wallace Stevens). And I cannot seem to forget strange phrases like “Hebban olla uogala nestas” (“Do all birds have nests?), the first words of an 11th-century text fragment written in Old Dutch, which we learned about in Afrikaans-Dutch Literature. It seems that my habit of writing poetry has much to do with my love for language and literature.
I have no doubt that what I write will not make me rich, will not live after me, will remain unknown and unremembered, and will probably fail to inspire anything much in anyone else. My meter is labored, often the rhymes are iffy, I run out of adjectives and I can’t get beyond the clichés. And I sometimes resort to rhyming dictionaries.
A rather scathing reviewer once called this kind of thing “domestic poetry” – small-time stream of consciousness stuff, on unimportant personal issues and temporary themes.
At the same time, I can’t seem to stop doing it. Often it’s the best accompaniment for a memorable image. And sometimes I am so happy that I want to do is sing and spout poetry. And sometimes I’m just feeling silly and in a rhyming mood.
These are all the poems I’ve written and kept, the good, the bad and the mediocre. They give an impression of the moments in my life that mattered, so much so that I was moved to write poems about them.
I hope that, if someone should ever read this, one or two poems might resonate with them.
Marthe Bijman – a.k.a. the Bear of Little Brain
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