EILEEN TABIOS Engages
Wandering in word by Kees van Meel
(PIM Publishing House, "Bibliotheca Universalis" Collection, Iasi, ROMANIA / EU, 2016)
Kees van Meel’s Wandering in word is presented as an edition of English and Romanian translations of original poems in Dutch. Not versed in Romanian, my response will be to the English translations provided by John Irons, Karen Mansfield, Charmaine Cardon and Toos Bruggeling (with general coordination by Daniel Dragomirescu).
Immediately discernible in the collection is its lovely conceptual underpinning thoughtfully explored through the poems. The beginning is pleasingly transparent, from the title “Wandering in word” to the first poem being “The City” with its “cobblestones turned by so many walking feet.” Further down in this first poem, we read
there is no life in this hour but sluggishly
one man stands up and chafes his hand
against a sharp stone and mumbles
as if his brains do not understand that stones in cities
are always the sharpest from gossip and venom
which is to say, there is life teeming behind even the most obdurate façade: stone. Thus, in the second poem “Each day” can be the opening lines
Each new day each new year
I carry my same self
up and down the stairs
only to end with
my first toddler’s step
adjust to the rhythm
of each new step
in each new day
—the same self is the same self that changes as life unfolds. This is all to say, there’s much philosophizing almost in contrast to the straight-forward language. It’s a welcome layer as it helps the poems stick in the reader’s mind, facilitating a thoughtful resonance.
The poet’s approach creates a landscape throughout the book’s pages that are welcoming to the reader, easy to inhabit. There are the city’s people through poems that are also effective character sketches—a dancer, choreographer, a “benefactor” who is a cook, actors, families, and so on. The collection is also influenced by the poet’s familiarity with the arts—van Meel has a radio program featuring, and writes articles on, artists—and his love for such is obvious in “On Making Poetry”:
(click on image to enlarge)
Kees van Meel could have sketched out the outlines of a city (for is not poetry also an art of minimalism?). Instead, his poems breathe out three-dimensional lives and the collection presents an authentic world in which the receptive reader can live. Wandering in Word is poetry that is alive!
Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor (the exception would be books that focus on other poets as well). She is pleased, though, to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her work: THE CONNOISSEUR OF ALLEYS was reviewed by Joey Madia for New Mystics Reviews, Book Masons and Literary Aficionado; and EXCAVATING THE FILIPINO IN ME was reviewed by Aileen Ibardaloza for "Filipina American Literature: Reading Recommendations" (Barbara Jane Reyes Blog). She released three books and two chaps in 2016, and is scheduled to release at least three publications in 2017. More info at http://eileenrtabios.com