Sunday, May 27, 2007

So this is the poem I read today ...

And I love it because it so completely captures what you might see any day on Tram 11 here in the city of Antwerpen, city of 165 different nationalities.

I was one of 8 people to step onto the stage to read the poem in our mother tongue however the celebration was about so much more than that ... it was about remembering poet and author of Tram 11, Herman de Coninck and about celebrating diversiteit.

The organisers had pulled 2 beautifully restored old trams out and filled them with children and Pied Piper-type musicians.

Tram 11 is known as the tram of diversity here in Antwerpen because it travels through diverse neighbourhoods ... from the beautiful Cogels-Osy Lei where Herman lived through into the areas where the immigrants live ... the Turkish, the Africans, the Moroccans, the Jews and everyone else but you realise it when you read the poem. Herman captured it perfectly.

Although I have no memory of the actuality of my reading, I was assured that it went well, causing people in the crowd to comment favourably ... a relief, writes the woman who started to shake only after the whole thing was over.

Anyway, the poem ...


Tram comes. Tram goes. Going: a young Zairean
humming huskily with baby, plenty of time,
intimate with each other, in public
yet still alone. The tram looks on.

Tram comes: a Moroccan woman tries to quiet
her whining little tatty boy. The more she shakes him,
the more syllables fall from him.
Until an Antwerp woman's ta-ta-ta

brings him to himself. And to all of us.
Ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling through the town.
Public transport civilizes us, makes us festive,
maintains our confusion.

Herman de Coninck
Translated to English by Cedric Barfoot and Sonny Williams


Shashikiran Mullur said...

I'd have loved to be there!

womanwandering said...

It would have been fun to see you there Shashikiran ... it was a nice slice of Antwerpen's city life too ... lots of sandal and leather-shoe wearing people, waistcoats and bohemian music leading the children, then there was the stunning versatility of the band that played with every musician who sang, singing themselves sometimes ... it was Moroccan tea and pubs on each of the corner that took tickets from the event so we could drink there if need be ... and even more 'atmospheric' was the fact that the party was under a railway bridge near a busy station, so trains rumbled by overhead regularly without ruining a thing.

It was a good day out for this woman who loves literature and poetry and people and photography.