Monday, December 12, 2011

Walk in a winterharbor

Cities with harbors and water are special. The rivers give a city space, wide skies, bring tall ships with strangers and something to look at on the promenade, like the colorful ferries wheel.

I like to see the instruments of a harbor, the bollards, cranes, bridges and the multipurpose tugboats.

And then slowly the moon comes out in brings
coziness on a pre -X mas evening under the watchful still almost full moon, awaiting the return of light, love and peace.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hugo van Montfrans

I had a friend, Hugo van Montfrans, he passed away many years ago, about 20. He was Dutch and would correct me constantly when I made a mistake in speaking. that came in hndy  much later professionally. Thanks for that. Once he gave me a set of six cups, now the last one has been chipped and I have been thinking of him. When I met him he worked at Madame Arthur in Antwerp, performing as Olivette, making paper wigs and weird dresses for his shows. He also made some nice, strange dresses for myself and my daughter. he also was a puppeteer and an artist working in white wool and lace on cotton. Hugo also wrote and played in a film by Fellini: 8 1/2 I think it was. So the last cup is on its way out, but not the memories.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941

Today, 70 years later, the attack on Pearl Harbor is commemorated and the USA joined in WWII. Now I usually don't divulge personal information on the blog. But the way I tell my private history runs as follows: Without Pearl Harbor I wouldn't be there. My father was an American GI who had volunteered. He liberated my mother, loved and married her. She followed him to the USA on one of the ships with the war brides. I was born a good year later and for my mother American dream turned into American nightmare and she went back home with her bundle of grief under her arm...

I tell the story this way because many children my generation are just as I an aftermath of the war. So I try to be non-violent and words and deeds. Ahimsa, to all of you and blessed be the peacemakers.

The child has the father’s name
That is all he is
a name - a seldom-heard voice
a story lost
With the fading of his glory
he lives on in a dream
reconstructed the charming hero
that he was
or more muddled
the bis-tris-dis-
of a mother’s life
So the child has a name
any name
The name of the wind
sitting in the rocking chair
with empty screeching
of wood on wood

The first name
 that would last.

Friday, December 2, 2011

John Sinclair

John Sinclair performs on tour with a band. The band plays according to the lyrics spoken. A lot of the poetry is influenced by Jazz, so we were treated with Monk, a bit of Coltrane, good old blues... and the words which flowed. The band prepares and then plays a set of songs, lyrics by Ken Post. After the break, after a moment of stillness and concentration, poet-activist, icon of American sub-culture performs. A love poem with a twist, a poem about being on the road and in jail with the beau of his mother and making money because the prison guards loved their performance and brought them out every night to another club.

to the point
and struggle
and all that...
Here you see the band, Lenny on the sax had his work cut out for him.

A fun night, without any of the tediousness of officialdom.
Honest en open jazzy poetry.
If  you have a chance to see John Sinclair perform, do go and listen.
It will warm the cockles of your heart.
Read the history of his struggle for the freedom to get high.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The occupy movement

Why did I go to the occupy activity in Antwerp and why do I support it, I have been asking myself. I guess because it is a moral movement, it is not about practical demands. It is a joined dream of people who feel that in society we should care about each other, that the values reach far beyond money and assets and ratings, things that are so important to the 1% who hold so much power. I think the Occupy is about acting responsibly, towards each other, towards nature, thinking about ecology and non-violence, thinking and trying to live real democracy. Targeting nuclear power, resisting the transports of nuclear waste in Europe, it all stems from the same source. And yes money should be questioned, money and its use: for now in most countries the money factor is a huge element  in elections.Of course the police does not defend this basis democracy, but uses violence, brute physical force. But remember 1% is not 'We the people".

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Heart of Darkness - Dark Heart - Duister Hart

 I love the theater, I love monologues and Josse De Pauw is one of the real good ones. Guy Cassiers is a formidable director who with seemingly meager means visible on the stage manages to evoque an array of moods and situations. If you have a chance to go and listen and watch and feel, don't miss 'Duister Hart'.
 I also love this particular theater, the Bourla, with its ornate interior: the sciences and the continents are represented on the ceiling. This monologue is written by De Pauw based on the excellent Dutch translation by Bas Heijne of the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and deals with the Congo and a trading post where Kurtz gathers the most ivory of all the agents. The language is rich and at times chilling.
 A good crowd showed up to listen to this monologue dealing with colonialism and the effects of greed and loneliness, the loss of a moral compass when one has nobody to talk to and the horror, the horror when looking inward at the state of ones soul. One will recognize the final scene as used by Francis Ford Coppola in Apocalypse now. 

Kurtz has plundered the region, has been a violent and cruel representative of the firm, yet he is remarkable, intriguing, imposing, awe inspiring violent and even lovable man. The story is told by Marlow the Captain of a ship sailing up the Congo River in Africa for a Belgian Company. His goal is meeting Kurtz, who has been member of an international society to abolish rude manners and customs. Yet in Kurtz he meets a dark heart, without moral references or control. Josse De Pauw plays all roles thanks to a state of the arts technical approach, projecting the roles that have been  'taped' before and sometimes in the dialog, the actor on the stage is filmed and projected on the projected screen. Thus the meeting with Kurtz, becomes also explicitly a meeting with himself. One wonders why the company never intervened when they knew about about the plunder of the land and the violence against the indigenous inhabitants. The only reason would be greed, in other words capitalism and colonialism. Yet the play leaves one wondering whether one could lose one's own compass.  Great art is food for the soul and food for thought. When the thin gilded layer of civilization is scratched away all that remains is a dark heart.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Funerals and the celebration of life

In the span of a few weeks I attended three funerals and in this misty November it made me pensive. I learned from each of the services, which all three happened to be non-religious memorial services. In one case, I saw the person as a gruff, a bit rude, uncompromising, self-righteous man, yet I learned how he doted on his wife, how he was a kind father and kinder grandfather still, always preparing fun and grand holidays involving boats. In the second funeral, the character of the man shone through in the music his wife and sun had picked out. An ardent tango - they did dance together for years - spoke of the kind of love they felt for each other. And two rather irreverent songs about life and death and yes, it was in keeping with his mentality. I also learned how much he had been there for other people. And the third, a brother of a dear friend passed. The speakers were friends and the family, not professional speakers. Two different personalities emerged from the memories people held dear: from a cantankerous contrarian, who loved jazz and loved discussions. The heartfelt thank you was: thanks for the headwind you provided. And then out of the family's words there emerged the kind, attentive uncle or brother and brother in law, protective of those he loved. He used his stubbornness trying to beat the odds and his sister said: I couldn't have wished for a kinder, better brother...
Goodbyes are hard. Pain mixes in with cold of night and yet life has to be celebrated, their life and ours.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Soccer - Beerschot

 My interest in sports has been minimal, although I must admit that last year during the world championships I have seen most matches. And enjoyed it. So when a friend asked to come and join him and a bunch of his friends for a local premier league match Beerschot C A against Mons, to his and my surprise I said yes.
It will be clear that I'll never own a club flag signed by its players like the young boy who wore this flag around his shoulders.
 The stewards did a good job, but it was a quiet crowd.

 I must admit that I did really enjoy the match. Being in the middle of the event going on, hearing the comments of two tifosi on the bench behind me and from my friends was enlightening. I enjoyed the sounds: the chants from the supporters,, 10 % behind their team but with respect for the adversary of the day. I enjoyed  hearing the thud from a foot hitting the bal hard, something I never heard on TV. The game seemed slower than what I had seen on TV, yet when I saw the  highlights on TV the next day, it seemed not so slow after all.

The home team Beerschot won 2 to 0. I learned that different players have different qualities and that the best man was the goalkeeper from Beerschot. I also  realize now how easily a player can get really hurt. In other words: the evening was well worth going to het Kiel for, to the former Olympic stadium. And this not only for the after party in the hall of fame.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Emden, an East-Frisian harbor

Being on the road and in Zwolle for the presentation of  Verbrande schepen by Paul Gellings on the Cultuurboot, it seemed a good idea to swing by Emden. My maternal grand uncle hauled  from there. Every morning he used to drink  Ostfrisischer Thee. A special mix, black and strong, they would let a child drink. So finally, I had my first, extremely delicious cup of East Frisian tea.
He also used to sing 'Where the seagull scream'...
Now I realize he was probably homesick for his pretty, friendly town. Old firetrucks on show and ships moored right in the middle of town, good food: what more does a tourist want. Shops are open on Sunday afternoons so even then you can get some tea to take home.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Occupy in Antwerp

 It was a beautiful fall day. Those not part of the 1% showed up in all its variety: Old politico's, alternative lifestyles, blond dread locked Rastafarian, between 7 and 10 police man in civilian clothes, at least two undercover guys and a bunch of policemen in uniform, babies, old friends, musicians, people with a tamburin, a djembe

Also people showing and flying their colors, showing what is on their mind and of course a stand with badges and some vegan food. The mood was serene, warm, meeting again people one hadn't seen in thirty years when we already marched and demonstrated together.

Discussion and dance, a motley crew taking a stance and for justice, for a better democracy, brighter futures for the kids, non-violent explorations of alternate ideas and a deep distrust towards the machinations and power of the corporations: in short a duty, a call for a world in which 99% have a voice.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Small park, architects and artists

 A small park, a bunch of kids, architects and artists nice weather and a convivial atmosphere in a troubled neighborhood in Brussels. The park had been closed for a long while and was opended on Friday. Immediately a flurry activities took place. Kids made excellent mint thé, two cups for 1€, sold their mom's delicious cookies 4 for 1€, artist devised activities...
The kids were asked to write down what their wish was and the in a photomaton their picture was taken while holding the message. They played, enjoyed themselves, no screaming, no fights.
A meeting was held. The about twenty year olds, many out of a job, implore the people to keep the small park open so that their younger brothers don't have to grow up on the streets. They would like a guardian of the peace to keep an eye on the park, they would like fun and stimulating activities, so that in playing their siblings would learn certain necessary skills/
Artists presented some of their projects like a robot-drummer. Fun. It would be nice to have a bunch of them playing together somewhere in a public  space.
The locals build this climbing tower for the kids to play on with scrapped pallets. I was impressed by the task the guardians of the peace fulfill. They are not part of the police, they are responsible to the federal minister of the interior. They are mediators, are a presence in the neighborhood and seem well trusted. They have quite a task in this neighborhood with an impressive mix of nationalities or ethnicities: all kinds of North Africans, black African, Pakistanis and Indians. Some of the kids were three lingual speaking French and Dutch and the language of heir parents. Belgium is a strange country an the countries of the Arab spring look it how it works. There is no government since over a year, there are three official languages and the distinction North/South going through the country. The people who come and visit want to know why there is no civil war, how the Belgians do this... I think it is because people and groups keep talking to each other. Communication and exchange, sometimes heated, but it is understood to be a way of learning to respect the other and to eventually work together. All this can be learned in a small park in Kuregem/Cureghem. The local people have the key to the park for  four months, there is hope for a gentler way of living together thanks to these small scale projects.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Festival

Last Saturday was the day filled with beauty and warmth, words whispered and shouted, poets of the page and great performers. We worked in 4 languages and the audience got it. We had a great crowd, appreciative and warm. We found help for letting people in, for the bar, for a bookstand of the authors. There was a table  of the writers in prison comittee and a Free Leonard Peltier flag. The poets who were featured alone read well and the groups that created a performance created a ballance that ballanced and lead to enjoyment and thoughtfulness. The anti war and pro peace section was an imposing statement in its beauty and strength.

The next day two of our invited  poets- devorah major and Olivier Cousin- were invited to another literature festival. They didn't think about the translation, so we had to pick up the slack of others, which we gladly did for our two poet friends. And then  on monday night there was a small Barbershop reading which probably will evolve into something bigger. Devorah enjoyed the old countryside hotel, near the Rhine and we filmed her speaking, performing some poems. Then  The next day we dropped her of  at the airport and she is now in Sarajevo at a Festival.
You'll find the slideshow and many more items at

Now the administative stuff has to be taken care of and the books with the great poetry in several languages have to be produced.

Susan Birkeland was honored end remembered... Her poem was read by Fred Schywek and myself in 
German and Dutch.