“A Pear Tree” is complete, and I have moved to the next sketch, “A Late Winter Morning” (originally “A Partly Cloudy Morning”). Outlined in a rough stanza eleven days after the original “A Pear Tree” sketch, it describes the countryside at sunrise as it appeared to me upon an August morning in 2018.
Incidentally, I have reverted the titles of two finished poems to my original choices: “A Walk II” (wherein I remember my first Great Dane) is once again “You and I, My Hound!”, which necessitated the removal of the Roman numeral from “A Walk I” (wherein I remember my late friend, Jacques F. Visser).
Today was another winter idyll. It convinced me that late winter is the ideal time to launch this anthology: the days are crisp and clear, flocks bleat on the hills, and the pear tree blooms in the valley.
There are fourteen sketches left to develop. It takes me around four weeks to transform drafts into complete poems. Therefore, I project the compositions will be finished next year, about this time.
Protracted, but Appropriate
That would mean two more years before I publish them, if I were to commit to this late-winter launch date. This suits the project, since some time must be spent on producing the handmade books.
Moreover, I intend to devote a considerable amount of time to the creation of items supplementary to the anthology—a year to attend to these suits me well—wherefore I anticipate a launch only in 2022.
It is winter in my country, South Africa, and one of my favourite sights is the radiance of this road in the rain. When the clouds part, it shines silver in the sunlight—a simple occurrence that is an integral part of my sense of place1.
In the original 2012 version of the poem “Autumn” (my first Romantic work), this scene appeared; but, in the revised 2020 version, instead of the road, it became the river reflecting the sun (to preserve the concept of the stanza).
By “sense of place”, I mean one’s conception of “home”, as shaped by environmental components, such as topography, architectural style, rhythms, rituals, sights and sounds.
Today, I completed “A Pear Tree”, poem 31 in my prospective anthology of 42 lyric poems. A response to a pear tree in early bloom at the beginning of August (the last month of the South African winter), it has two short quatrains gushing over the unusual spectacle. Now that the poem is complete, I can recite it to the tree when it flowers (early again, I hope), this year! This, incidentally, is my first centre-aligned composition—a detail that seems to me wholly appropriate as a reflection of the tree’s symmetry.
Beside the dirt road that leads to the hamlet where I live, a pear tree stands alone at the edge of a field. Every year, it blooms at the beginning of August, a month before the arrival of the South African spring, delighting the passer-by modestly yet spectacularly. In August 2018, I wrote a few rough stanzas in response to that very tree under the working title “A Pear Tree”. Now, nearly two years later, I am ready to develop them into a finished poem.
Of course, the pear tree has inspired a poem. Another new draft—I shall never finish this project! Incidentally, the field where it grows was once an orchard, one of many. In days gone by, my village was known for its pear orchards, earning it the nickname "'Little Pears' Town". pic.twitter.com/YSDy67a7gu
I am stunned by how easily and quickly “O, How Free is the Wind!” has developed into a finished work—as if it composed itself! Regardless of length, it usually takes four to five weeks for my compositions to come together, but this poem has taken one!
Following an AAB C DDB C rhyming scheme in staggered lines, there are two stanzas, each describing a mood of the wind: in the first, it is placid; in the second, full of life. Each stanza concludes with a separated exclamation—the title, that of the second.
Sometimes, a poetic sketch contains within it the rudimentary structure upon which the final composition can be hung; sometimes, it is the beginning of an idea that evolves into a work bearing no resemblance to the first form. The latter is the case with “O, How Free is the Wind!”.
Reviewing my original lines from two years ago, I found they were nothing more than an enthusiastic translation of the Deutscher-Madison lyrics; therefore, I am engineering the poem anew by using as my starting point the three elements of the sketch that I consider salvageable:
the working title (“O, How Free is the Wind!”, which I shall use as a refrain),
the subject (the wind, which will be the focus of the poem) and
the theme (the characteristics of the wind, its effects about and above us).
Around these then I am constructing a new draft which already shows great promise!
It appears I am not yet done with Afrikaans after completing “Skaapwagtertjie”—the counterpart in that language of “Shepherd Girl”—as the next poem to be developed is “O, How Free is the Wind!” (working title), a sketch prompted by an Afrikaans song: “Ruiter van die Windjiie”1 (Rider of the Breeze).
It was composed by Drafi Deutscher in the mid-nineteen-seventies for Heintje Simons and covered in the mid-nineteen-eighties by Bles Bridges.2 For the lyrics, Deutscher—under the alias Renate Vaplus—collaborated with singer Ben E. Madison, describing in simple verses, life on the wings of the wind.
The wind is a prominent theme of my work. When I heard the Deutscher-Madison lyrics anew, almost exactly two years ago, I was moved to compose several rough English stanzas in response. These I shall now review to determine whether they will work as a lyric poem, joyful and bracing as the song.
Pronounced [RoyteR fun dee veyngkee] with the [R]s trilled, the [ee]s short like that in “it” and [oy] like that in “toy”, but uttering an “uh” rather than “aw”: [uhee].
Like Simons in The Netherlands, Bridges in South Africa was famous for schlager songs: vocal-centred compositions with memorable tunes, dutiful accompaniment and light, sentimental lyrics. Simons recorded many songs in Afrikaans, a language similar to his native Dutch, from which it derives.
“Shepherd Girl” and its Afrikaans counterpart, “Skaapwagtertjie”, are complete. Having set myself the task, two weeks ago, of creating greater alignment between the final English and Afrikaans compositions (especially where they were overly dissimilar), I have achieved success.
Now, when the poems are placed side by side, they reflect one another as closely in phrasing and feature as grammar and style allow. Though it took more than sixty additional versions and variations to bring about this symmetry, I consider it time, turmoil and trial well spent.