Treasure Island

Gert Strydom

(03 April 1964 / Johannesburg, South Africa)

On a Close-up of Louis Esterhuizen, on His Poem “Winnie”


So tell me Louis, you allege:
“I went to look at the remarks
found in his biographical sketch:
“I love the work of various poets
and my favourites are AG Visser, Eugene Marais,
Ingrid Jonker, D.J. Opperman, N.P. Van Wyk Louw,
William Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, John Keats,
Robert Frost, W.B. Yeats, Yahuda Amichai,
Hannah Szenes, Stevie Smith, Dorothy Parker
and even Homer.””

Further you say: “With the exception of a few names
under the English favourites, all the Afrikaans poets are experts
whom he probably encountered at school,
if a person looks at the verses on his page
you realise that Mr. X has never grown past the incidental
school-contact...In this he is alas not unique.”

Still you are the great master
where it comes to the works of Homer,
as you make a comparison
in your poem “Winnie” between Me. Winnie Mandela
and Homer’s character Penelope,
where there are in reality flagrant contrasts
and the masters canonise this poem
in the “Great Verse Book”
without even being aware of the contrasts?

Let me as just a unfolding poet
who “has never grown past
the incidental school-contact, ”
point out the contrasts clearly:

The story of Penelope comes
out of Homer’s Odyssey where the title
indicates a long historical journey or adventure
or some wanderings
that the main character Odysseus / Ulysses
undertakes before again arriving
at the island Ithaca
where he rules as the king.

For only a very short while
Odysseus / Ulysses is with the nymph Circe
on a island, but the greatest part of the book
is about his wanderings.

In flagrant contrast you write:
”And Penelope comes forward, impatient
and rude as Ulysses is only moving rocks
on his island.”

Where you use the Roman name of Odysseus
to describe Nelson Mandela.
Your Ulysses is not wandering at that stage
or travelling on a historical journey full of adventure
he is busy “moving rocks.”

At that stage your Ulysses
isn’t a king, far less
your Penelope ever becomes a queen,
not even the wife of a president.

The original Odysseus / Ulysses
is only true to one goddess namely Athena
who at various times helps him,
even in his battles,
where your Ulysses divorces your Penelope,
takes another wife
and marries her as a Christian, a Moslem, a Hindu
and also as a Jew.

Still less the ”UDF, AZAPO and also COSATU;
then there’s also the Young Comrades -”
are princes and kings who are trying to seduce her.

Nevertheless you write:
“But while the crown-princes are wooing her
and the almost-princes gather around her
and rollick, the woman plays
in the three storey-mansion
with her last matches.”

The real wife of the real Odysseus / Ulysses
was not involved with a “Stompie” character
who disappeared without a sign
and in the Odyssey the property of Odysseus / Ulysses
is wasted and devoured,
while the princes are fornicating with the maids
and Odysseus / Ulysses
along with his son Telemachus destroys
all of those princes and kings
along with the fornicating maids
that contrasts flagrantly
with the acts of your Ulysses.

Your Ulysses is moving stones, only walks
on his way to freedom a few steps,
divorces your Penelope
and marries another wife.

Nonetheless the original Penelope remains true
to Odysseus / Ulysses,
under the pretext of completing a shroud
that she is weaving for her father in law Laertes,
of which she continually again frays out the thread
and later the two are again together and happy
and it is the nearest
that you come to the original story:
“to again fray out the dream-cloak:
Oh, the endless undoing
of the endless doing, she lisps.”

To my opinion your comparison
between Me. Winnie and Penelope
is rather shallow and totally ungrounded,
as their are just too many contrasts
that you did not think through

and now I am wondering
who is the person
that has “never grown past the incidental
school-contact” as far as Homer’s Odyssey is concerned?


(After Anthony Delius/References: The poem “Winnie” by Louis Esterhuizen, “The Odyssey” by Homer. “On a Close-up of Dirk Opperman, on the Jacket of his Komas” by Anthony Delius.)

Submitted: Sunday, July 03, 2011
Edited: Wednesday, July 27, 2011

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