JUNE 2013, by Diederik Oostdijk
One of the featured poets at the spectacular 44th edition of Poetry International that kicks off this week in Rotterdam is Ester Naomi Perquin. I had not heard of this up and coming Dutch poet until one of her poems wound up in my inbox some months ago. It was a so-called Out-of-Office Poem which cracked me up. Pretty soon when this academic year finally winds down, students & alumni will get those annoying, automatic responses when sending electronic mails to us, which leave little to the imagination: “I am away from my office from … yeada, yeada, yeada.”
A friend of mine and fellow academic got so irritated by my insipid writ that she immediately responded with some expletives, followed by this hortatory reproof: “we all know that the ‘office’ is an abstraction whose boundaries are meaningless in our digitized times. Get with the now, man!” I stood corrected (and am gradually getting ‘with the now’), although I didn’t dare repeat the cheeky message she suggested: “I am off the grid. I return when I return.” (This academic friend is not Dr. Raghunath in case you’re wondering).
Next month I’ll start using Ester Naomi Perquin’ Out of Office Poem. Like her, I occasionally wonder about how the heavens keep on floating up above, and yes, also what eggs feel like before they wind up all scrambled or with their sunny side up in my frying pan. Do check out Perquin’s reading at the Poetry International festival, which is seasoned with a distinct VU-flavor this year. Our MA-student Lenette Vlasman, who is an intern at the festival, organized a number of the events, which includes a ghazal extravaganza with our very own Amrita Das. Poetry doesn’t get much sunnier than this: it’s June!
I am away until [add date]
If I had been around I would have gladly answered
whatever you just sent me; about the way
in which the heavens above us keep balancing
like a tent without poles, since
I know a thing or two about that
I would have provided you with some recipes and not just
listed the ingrediënts but also informed you how an egg
can feel scared in your hand before it breaks
and how the impact on the rim of the bowl
sounds so much harder because of that
If I knew you were suffering from a buzzing life, from waves
of attention, then I would have written how everything
can be calmed down by just lying down
early in the morning, and to feel how blood
in you oscillates like water or wine.
I would in any case have been a pleasant individual, someone
who keep being surprised by life, and thinks about
our existence, and who has something profound to say about it
really someone to save in your address list with
a bright yellow smiley next to it.
[name colleague] is available