Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rutger Kopland dead at age 77

I see that Rutger Kopland died this past week:

Here is a reprint of my earlier "appreciation" of a sonnet by the Dutch poet:

appreciation: Rutger Kopland's "Breughel's Winter"

I admire James Brockway's translations of Rutger Kopland's poems . . .
This Dutch poet is (was? I hope he's still alive, born in 1934) much
honored in his native country. Brockway before his own death did
2 or 3 books of selections in English.

Here's my favorite:

Breughel's Winter

Winter by Breughel, the hill with hunters
and dogs, at their feet the valley with the village.
Almost home, but their dead-tired attitudes, their steps
in the snow—a return, but almost as

slow as arrest. At their feet the depths
grow and grow, become wider and further,
until the landscape vanishes into a landscape
that must be there, is there, but only

as a longing is there.

Ahead of them a jet-black bird dives down. Is it mockery
of this labored attempt to return to the life
down there: the children skating on the pond,
the farms with women waiting and the cattle?

An arrow underway, and it laughs at its target.

A sonnet. With a truncate-jolt volte after an octave in which repetitions of words and phrases (at their feet, at their feet, grow and grow, landscape, landscape, there, there) act to lengthen or delay our progress, to pause us as the hunters have been halted for the static moment of Breughel's depiction,

caught upon his crest.

The jet-black bird, the crow, the raven, harbinger of mortality, or symbol of its post-predatory ease.—

It doesn't have to trudge down that slope with feet aching from the endless trek, lugging the heavy slay on sag shoulders, it can dive down zoom, as fast as the skating kids.

Does this swoop mock their laborious attempts to return to the down-there life of children farms women cattle?

These adult males stand there suspended, the wild at their backs and the domestic before them;

their duties as savage hunterkillers and their duties as tending-to fathers farmers husbands and stockbreeders hang in the balance,

poised at this schizophrenic midpoint. Here, there (four "theres" in the poem), it's split—

The bird is an arrow of course, but so is the artist's brush, the feather at its front instead of at the tail; the hairthin threadstrands of the brushpoint are feathery in their effect.

The target—the work of art—can rarely or perhaps never be reached by this arrow's flight.

The artist's paintbrush is always underway.

Underway, halfway between the willed desire of the artist to stalk down his/her feral-furred nature, to haul it baked into the cozy parlance of the anthology—

It hunts its target to feed our needs, but what are these hungers; and where do they achieve rest, cave-wall or salon?

Does it laugh to demean, to dehumanize its victims for the abattoir: worldhistory's pogrom patrons and patriarchs stationed, armed with grins, at their torture posts and burning stakes—

Does it laugh at what it aims to pierce, it laughs at its prey, risus sardonicus laughs at us.



1 comment:

  1. Excellent work.
    A pity no one commissions you to do more - we certainly could do with it!

    Michael Murray