Unexpectedly Caught Up in Story

Okay, Maureen warned us that in undertaking this exercise we might be tumbled down unexpected pathways.  The exercise was to find a poem in a language we didn’t know, pair it with a photograph and write our own poem inspired by the photo and the sense of the alien words upon the page.  My poem, Rescue, is nothing at all like the prose poetry of Nicole Callihan and Samar Abdel Jaber , whose style I was eager to imitate.  (But at least I am caught up with the other NaPoWriMo-ers!)

My poem follows the photos, whose attribution I was sadly unable to find.  After it, I include the translation of Max Temmerman’s Das Boot 4.  I didn’t read the translation until after I finished Rescue, but I did deliberately choose a language using the same alphabet as English.  It’s fascinating how the mood of all these pieces translates to tie the two poems and three pictures together.  True, bos, under, water, varient and natuur are clues and prompts, but those four words could also have prompted many many poems quite different in feeling.


Ook in een landschap dat te ruim is of te open
kan je verzuipen, zoals de man weet die diep in een bos
ten onder gaat aan een overdosis bomen.

Net zo gaat het onder water: je kan in een luchtbel
zitten en toch voelen hoe de druppels
weifelend je longen betasten.

Trek je terug in je gedachten als in een instinct.
Haal er diep adem. Dompel je onder in flarden natuur.
Diep in je hoofd schuilt de ongerepte variant.



Look how a landscape of ruin opens one to light.

Deep in the wood, a man took me to wife, imprisoned me

among beasts and dank shadows.

I felt as if he held me underwater

drowning in green madness and monotony

I dreamt of waterless wastelands.

By trek and by trudge, instinct freed.

Nature sent her flocks to lift my dampened wings and fan them dry.

Now I drift, let the change I sought so avidly find me.



for Tom Liekens & Stefan Serneels
Also in a landscape that’s too wide or too open
you might drown, like the man knows who deep in the woods
succumbs to an overdose of trees.

The same applies to the underwater: you can be in an air pocket
and still sense the droplets
hesitantly feeling out your lungs.

Retreat into your thoughts as if into an instinct.
Take a deep breath there. Submerge yourself in scraps of nature.
Lying hidden deep inside your head the untouched variant.

© Translation: 2017, Willem Groenewegen

Translator’s Note: Tom Liekens & Stefan Serneels are Belgian visual artists

Tom Liekins

Tom Liekens

Pipi's mansion Stefan Smeels

Stefan Serneels

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