the others: the turks or myself?

by Maarten Goethals, Brussels Poetry Collective

Confronted with the Turkish community – and especially its sensitivity for poetry and music, and the music in its sensitive poetry – the first thing I learned in the context of our project Passages with the Turks was not something deep and profound about the other, but rather a more shocking insight into myself: shocking because banal. Being introduced to the subtle power of a foreign literature and a lively tradition, I realized: I’m made up of air. I grew up in a tradition of non-traditions, in a tradition without amplitude and solid ground. I don’t sing along with family members, I can’t recite poems by heart, I don’t know the little rhymes of my parents’ childhood. I feel like I’m made up of a vacuum and of generations of silence. The testimonials of the Turkish people I’ve heard didn’t echo in this soul of a typical Western boy, a soul that is deaf or even worse: dead. I can only see how singing, rhyming, remembering Turkey in one way or the other puts a smile on the face of the one who is reciting. I only see the external signs (the laughing, the sparkling eyes, the hassle) but I don’t feel the inner circle of need, of warmth, desire and rebellion.

I can only guess. But the more I guess, the more I feel myself empty and unable. There’s no resemblance between me and a community that is soaked in poetry. Not formally, not content-wise. How to overcome that boundary? How to touch the other in this soft unease? How to transcend the platitude? That’s the question I am trying to answer.

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