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Tuesday, 16 February 2010 02:00

Bodyhood

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Bodyhood is Leon de Kock's third poetry collection (preceded by Bloodsong and gone to the edges). The volume is divided in four "Journals", each in its own way consisting of poems chronicling the everyday, the physicality of the body, confrontations with the elements, relationships and, for want of a better word, all kinds of fluidity. In fact, images of water, flow, motion dominate the collection. This is indicative of a certain uncertainty which manifests itself in other ways throughout the book, especially through repetition - as if the stability of the individual meaning of words was tested, to be either re-ascertained or subverted.

De Kock's is a poetics of linguistic probing, but without the confusion that this might suggest. Not all of it works. Some poems seem too self-conscious, especially if compared to the ease and subtlety of a poem like The Boatman:

Loose and long-limbed
its belly still and flat

the river raises a misty hand

an early sigh, wind and steam


ozone stream, and its wake
in its deep, mud and dream.

And the ozone stream

slows the boatman

slows the boatman
into the sound, the days

the days and echoes of time
and time again, and then

the river parts before him
before him the river parts

and the boatman sighs for home
the boatman sighs for home


There is also a lot of charm in De Kock's take on subjects which might seem unusual for poetry, such as emails, rocket leaves or scrambled eggs. His poems also capture familiar feelings, like the anxiety which creeps up on one in the small hours of the night when you fight insomnia (Middle of the night), or the longing for a specific experience of love from the past (Blind in the garden of love).

De Kock contemplates the body, its needs and desires. In a poem like Love in the bush, a couple discovers a new side to their sexuality while making love in nature. The opening poem, This scent of corruption upon my flesh, exposes the risks of desire. He's come undone questions the adequacy of language to express sex. Other poems explore the emotional dimensions of our relationships with others: the insecurity accompanying misunderstandings between partners, the pain of loss, the inability to let go, or the nature of great love.

Some pieces make fine and poignant observations, like the final lines of Embrace which refer to an insight brought about by the delicacy of jacaranda flowers blossoming in "tough Tshwane":

All that is held is lost
And all that is lost is held
In the embrace of a lilac remembering.


Jacarandas blossom in other poems as reminders of one's longing or one's good fortune in life. 

Reading and rereading Bodyhood I was reminded of the calmingly satisfying rhythm of gentle waves washing over a beach, but missed the occasional big one which obliterates all else, leaving one sighing with deep contentment. One can hope that the probing will continue and push De Kock's talent even further in his next volume.

Bodyhood
by Leon de Kock
Umuzi, 2010

 

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