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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

on the death of a great friend

It was with great sadness that I learnt of the death at the age of 92 of a great poet, Elisabeth Eybers. While it is true that we never met in person, I knew her intimately through her poetry and I considered her a true friend. It was she who first inspired me to write; I have always admired the way she could express so much in so few words. I even wrote a poem once about my desire to write poetry that was as moving as hers.

To me, her most astounding work was one of her most recent anthologies, Tydverdryf / Pastime, in which she wrote two versions of every poem - the first in Afrikaans and the second, which is exactly the same poem, in English. All of the poems even rhyme! I find it incredible that someone could have such a command of two languages simultaneously. And what is even more fascinating is the fact that the poems use no unusual or strange words; when read, they flow as easily as the spoken language.

I have been trying to push aside all thoughts of her death since learning about it. At first I thought it was because I am not yet very comfortable with the concept of death. But I have not been very successful in suppressing the thoughts and I find myself thinking about her often. I am coming to the realization that I miss her... not her physical presence, no; I am missing the person that I have been writing poetry for. And I feel profoundly sad that I have not written anything for her these two years.

Some people can and do appreciate my poetry. But I feel that she would have known exactly what I was trying to express, the way I can understand what she wrote. It makes me very sad to know that there may not be another person like that in my life ever again.

For as long as I can remember I have had a dream of one day simply showing up on her doorstep with a bunch of red roses. I think she may have liked the gesture.

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