Henning Pieterse 1

H.J.(Henning) Pieterse was born on 8 August 1960 in Wageningen, the Netherlands. He grew up in Stellenbosch and Pretoria and studied languages and music at the University of Pretoria (UP) and UNISA. He was co-editor (with P.H. Swanepoel) of Perspectives on Language Planning for South Africa(1993) and obtained a doctorate in linguistics in 1994. He was editor of John Boje’s ‘n Keur uit die Pelgrimsverhale van Geoffrey Chaucer (A Selection From the Pilgrim’s Stories of Geoffrey Chaucer, 1989), which was awarded the Academy Prize for Translation (1990). From 1993 to 2003 he was Editor in Chief of Tydskrif vir Letterkunde (Journal of Literature and Literary Studies).

His debut volume of poetry, Alruin (Mandrake), was published in 1989 and awarded the Eugène Marais Prize (1990) and the Ingrid Jonker Prize (1991). In 1998 he published a volume of short stories, Omdat ons alles is (Because We Are Everything), and in 2000 a second volume of poems, Die burg van hertog Bloubaard (The Castle of Duke Bluebeard), for which he received the Hertzog Prize in 2002.

In 2007 his translation of Rilke’s Duineser Elegien (Duino Elegies) into Afrikaans was published, and awarded the Nedbank Academy Prize for Translated Work. Some of his short stories were published in inter alia Liefde loop ver (ed. Jeanette Ferreira, 1999), Kruis en dwars37 nuwe verhale oor Suid-Afrika(ed Jeanette Ferreira, 2001), Pomp (2008) and Spoorvat (eds Riana Scheepers and Leti Kleyn, 2013). He also published poems in Versindaba (2005-2007).

As a member of the “Bekgeveg/Poetry Slam” troupe he participated in 70 poetry slams countrywide under the stage name of “Doctor Death” (1999-2005). Internationally he has participated in the 32nd Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam and other festivals in Antwerp, Zagreb and Ghent.

In 2009 he wrote a libretto for an opera, 1894 (a work in progress). Some of his poems and stories have been translated into English, Dutch, German, French, Turkish, Serbo-Croatian and Zulu. He has published numerous academic articles on aspects of linguistics, literature and creative writing and is book reviewer for various publications.

Pieterse is currently translating a selection from Michel Houellebecq’s four volumes of poetry from French into Afrikaans. He is an avid djembe and didgeridoo player. He is Professor and Director of the Unit for Creative Writing, Department of Afrikaans, University of Pretoria.

henning-handgeskrewe

Strijdomplein

Vir Robert Lowell

Die nuwe Strijdomplein
staan blink tussen bont geure,
vlaggies en snuisterye uit die hele Afrika.
Niks sou destyds sy marmer kon kraak nie.

As kind moes ek die inwyding
van ou Strijdom se kop bywoon.
Ons het in die wit hitte gestaan
met ons vlaggies, volksliedere gesing.

‘n Falanks histeriese bronsperde
het die blou lug ingerunnik;
Hans Strijdom se gemonteerde kop
het blind noord deur ‘n fontein gestaar.

Dié dag het ek gewens ek was
in die ou Transvaal-museum,
blokke verder van die bleek plein
in skaduryke Boomstraat,

my neus gedruk teen die koel glas
van die kas met die mummie daarin,
kompleet met ‘n gat in die groottoon,
uitgevreet deur ‘n muis van tyd.

(Deesdae staan die museum en vrot
langs die nuwe groen dieretuin,
sy luike en hortjies swaar ooglede
teen die leegheid binne-in.)

Van laer af in Kerkstraat
het speserye aangewaai gekom:
koljander, paprika, peper, knoffel,
gemmer, kerrie, kardamom.

Binnekort sou die winkels se base
hul hemelse geure moes skuif
na Lotus Gardens, Laudium, Christoburg,
ver weg van wit oë en neuse.

Ek het gehyg op die teëls,
na water gesmag.
dominees en staatsmanne
het hittig gepreek deur die hele dag.

Jare later sou Barend Strydom
sewe swartmense op die plein afmaai.
Hulle het suurstof gesteel,
het hy die regter onironies meegedeel.

En daar stort die kop deur die marmerteëls,
skouspelagtig tot in die parkeerterrein,
die tombe diep onder die plein
waar ek soms gedaantes in skemer sien dwaal het.

Net Strijdom se neus het gesteek uit die puin.
Die fontein het spontaan verdroog.
Die perde met hul wilde maanhare en oë
is na groener weivelde verskuif.

Vandag loop ek weer en snuif en ruik
Afrika op die nuutgeteëlde plein.