June 2020

Geart Tigchelaar was the RIXT poet of the  month June 2020. You can read his original Frisian poems of that month here. The translation of one of them – ‘the block r’ – is published below, including a YouTube video of the poem.

the block r

tlaintlaintlain
twaintwaintwain
traintraintrain

I sought long and hard
under couch and cupboard

just when I had enough
just to find that block r

now I’m able to make words 
and sense of everything

tlaintlaintlain
twaintwaintwain
traintraintrain

as dad takes his nightly seat
and watches how some elite
expand upon beached planes,
national, business waylaid
and hefty financial aid

you can hear it immediately
they’ve lost the block r

just like dad who shouts coffee!
quiet! I’m ruminating on a plan

they can have the block r
I’ve got loads to spare

tlaintlaintlain
twaintwaintwain
traintraintrain

they’re building international
railways with space and nature
that’s how they’re dismantling
the ghoul of air pollution

if by chance the block r would disappear
under bookcase, couch or in vacuum cleaner

there’ll still be enough blocks 
to play with sweetly

animal
woods
plant
bloom

possibility


© Geart Tigchelaar
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse

 

Voice: David Scarse

May 2020

Jan Kooistra was the RIXT poet of the  month May 2020. You can read his original Frisian poems of that month here. The translation of one of them – ‘the lay of the land’ – is published below.

Photo: Geart Tigchelaar

the lay of the land

that a girl sits in front of a shot window
softly crying in a room
that used to be a home
that a woman looks at that girl
through the holes in the wall
and feels her child’s hunger pains
that is the lay of the land

that a primal forest is transformed
into a wasteland in a day or ten
and fishes drown in plastics and pesticides
that a petty thief is thrown into jail
while a big-time crook lives in pomp and
circumstance and lays down the law
that is the lay of the land

that a virus prowls the streets
like a hungry wolf, laps up millions
and leaves us sheepishly paralysed
that air and sky become fresh and bright again
animals dare to roam grounds long seceded
leaving us dumbstruck and unenlightened
that is the lay of the land

that we’ll be flying again to luxurious
places for a few crappy cents across

dying oceans and crowded slums
that a wistful writer stares out of
his window at the faraway hills
turns around, forges that one sentence
that is the lay of the land

© Jan Kooistra
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse

April 2020

Tsjisse Hettema was the RIXT poet of the  month April 2020. You can read his original Frisian poems of that month here. The translation of one of them – ‘Spring Poem’ – is published below.

Photo: Geart Tigchelaar

Spring poem

today a butterfly
touched down
on my mood
he sprung open the locks
of my wintry repose

and when the first daylight
snuck inside
and I walked
outside amazed

my pounding heart
thumbed its nose
at my paper
scribblings
as light as a butterfly

that put me off
roundly
my misshapen belly
and my mop of hair so grey
so grey

© Tsjisse Hettema
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse


March 2020

Carla van der Zwaag was the RIXT poet of the  month March 2020. You can read her original Frisian poems of that month here. The translation of one of them – ‘Lonely’ – is published below.

Photo: Omrop Fryslân

 

Lonely

I swim in circles
Between asphyxiating algae
And stone houses

My heart beats out of sorts
Turning green from the moss

In misted up window glass
People shuffle through my view
I get my food and drink on time
Follow them with a silken look

Drenched with the faith;
Everything will be alright
I wait for the cat’s paw
To which I finally can give
My life and share it with

© Carla van der Zwaag
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse

 

February 2020

Yttje Cnossen was the RIXT poet of the  month February 2020. You can read her original Frisian poems of that month here. The translation of one of them – ‘Corona’ – is published below.

Photo: Geart Tigchelaar

 

Corona

from the land of the rising dragon
comes sneakily like a thief in the night
the invisible in the name of the crown
lays its hand on many a doorknob

like a monster with a thousand heads
it shoots its fiery arrows across the land
picks up like the wind across the sea
throws its drowning victims on the beach

flees with the rebels through the cities
sends wild warriors across the lands
drops its cluster bombs from a virus
in pets and people in fathers and mothers

whomever gives way he apprehends
paints their grey cheeks red
makes the blood in their veins boil
remains a mystery keeps him to himself

via Spain and Germany it snatches a Belgian
a man shivers a woman goes down
young people are a leaf for its mouth
everybody is rowing while tethered to the ground

where is the knight to slay this monster
with a serum as their double-bladed sword
that will release the people of their fear and fever
that will bite the fire breathing dragon in its tail

© Yttje Cnossen
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse

 

Elmar Kuiper – January

Elmar Kuiper was the RIXT poet of the month January. In November 2019 he wrote the poem cycle ‘Mother Ganges’ in Kolkata (Calcutta), where he performed at the Chair Poetry Evenings. On the last day of the poetry festival he and some fellow-poets made a long pleasure cruise on the Ganges river. Kuiper: ‘I stared into the water and had to think of my mum, who was terminally ill this summer. In the poem I make a link between the polluted, holy river and my mother whose illness was incurable. She always used to say: ‘when it’s my time it’ll be my time.’ The cycle will be included in Kuiper’s new poetry collection: Wite Mûle, Swarte Molke (‘White Mouth, Black Milk’), which will be published by Hispel in the spring.

For Kuiper’s other poems of the month, in Frisian, see here 

MOTHER GANGES

I

In the source bathes a word, from the river bank
a cow bell rings. Mother Ganges carries her pain

in her vest. A bird with pointed wings
hangs still in the air. Another bird circles

rings around grey apartment buildings. Yes, God
I flung overboard. Yes, the mind pounds away,

its mouth filled with dirt, shouts filthy
things, shouts with a mouth full of poison.

II

The sun above Arundhathi’s eyebrows
is Prussian blue, as our boat pushes off

a priest sings. Lovely, isn’t it, being here
in a country where English sounds so funny.

But you’re distracting me, with your rank body,
floating sweetgrass and the refuse of the city.

Are you my mother, who says humanity will be
wiped out? Do you dare to call yourself mother?

I listen and lean over the railing and look
into your mustard yellow visage, Ganges.

III

You are my mother on the floating help and I
stay with you, hold your hand. Your veins, so

strangely thick. Yet another scan and you don’t
believe the results. But the spot in your head is

not an island where we can just sail to and
go on holiday and sunbathe. It is death,

mum, death who plays hide and seek with his
black face in your frontal lobe, making you so

quiet and mild. You whisper hoarsely: Then it’s
my time, my son. Are you giving up? You are

and will stay my mother, who washes my sins, incredulous
though I am. A raptor cries out in the air particulates.

IV

When evil cleanses itself from evil, I will be
clean and pure, mum, and I shall stream

quietly, until death will shiv me violently with his
sickle. When there’s no end or beginning, I’ll lie

on your bank and drown in the source. Oh well, let me
leave it there. Someone says: ‘Hello sir, picture please’

and I make strange faces, can’t think of
any excuse and say abashedly: ‘Okay!’

V

We sail a long way upstream. Kolkata lies like
a white haze in front of our eyes. Katyayani wants

a picture with the friendly giant. Humanity still
lives in the dark; I can almost hear you say it.

I stretch my back and put on a routine smile. Good
will triumph even though I don’t believe in evil.

Ashutosh laughs and Anindina says my eyes
are as clear as the Himalaya.

VI

Tagore, I want to wash the clay off of me, strike
a light tone, throw a coin into your being.

You don’t have to check the lights, mate. The tongue
of your lantern burns. What could I curse you with?

After all, life is just a dew drip on a lotus leaf.
But what about death, Tagore, it’s so hard and hungry.

VII

God, I’ve read Krishnamurthi over and over again, but what good
does it to me, 7500 km from home, I stare over the railing

into the water and see my father under the cow’s udder,
squeezing and pulling on the teats. I catch a glimpse of you:

your tongue sticks out and you stitch and iron
the seams. I hear Brian, compatriot, war veteran

and great poet say you have to put the parts in
different bags. He writes verses like cat’s-tails, like

smoked eel. Now I fly back and wrap up this poem,
mum, as Keisang serves me, pours water into

a plastic cup, the steel bird quivers
above the ocean, only for a moment.

© Elmar Kuiper
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse

Sipke de Schiffart – December

Sipke de Schiffart was RIXT-poet of the  month December 2019. You can read his original Frisian poems of that month here. The translation of one of them – ‘generation gap’ – is published below.

generation gap

my dad was an old-fashioned farmer,
every morning he went to work
at half past three
and expected the same of me

but I was half a century younger
and went to bed late,
after having watched TV,
Veronica and the VPRO,
so, I would get up later in the morning

now I think: getting up between five and six,
that’s still quite early
for a boy of around twenty years old

in the mornings I struggled
to wake up, every morning
my father got angry with me,
because I didn’t hurry up

one morning (now I think: middle of the night)
in December of 1980 he came
to my bed at half past three
to announce that Mick Jagger
had been shot in New York

the message had its intended effect:
I was immediately wide awake,
satisfied my dad went back to the barn
to feed the cattle

but when I heard on the clock radio
that it was John Lennon who was shot,
and not Mick Jagger,
I rolled over
and went back to sleep

© Sipke de Schiffart
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse