Amateur Poet

I have no doubts./The I is dead./Dissolved./No reason to return any more?/Good bye!/I live another hundred lives./So why/cry?  – – – – –  And for the empty sheath/I stealed a searching ray./But when it’s gone/to fight/for light./What pain?  – – – – –  The void- – -Fill it again/with longing and despair/Until the white translucent mildness/of the Great/transfuses it to quivering creation.

So after a break of several months, really about a year, I returned to my studies of Claire Holt’s research papers and documents.

It’s been a treat to look over her documents, notes, photographs, and letters; Holt, author of the great text Art in Indonesia:  Continuities and Change, is a scholar I greatly admire.  Looking through all these materials gives great insight into the intelligence and discipline behind Holt’s work and accomplishments.

This time around, in box number 13, I found a folder of documents labeled “Poetry – by and for Stutterheim.”  I transcribed a couple of her poems, mostly about her own scholarship.

One of these I copied down, the second quoted here, was a delightful object.  Scribbled down on the back of another paper (written in Dutch), her verse was illustrated with little pencil drawings and doodles.


Oh sadness when the work is done!/The “philobsession” – the fight with words/that, conquered, lay themselves/between the points and comma’s/as if from immemorial times/your undisputable possession,/is ended.  The hour has struck -/it’s finished with the chatter;/the ribbon bids good bye to the keys/who clattered it to tatters/without remorse.  Its tortured soul/will rise, without the aid of priests/or ringing bells and burnt incense,/in flight to heavens Balinese,/where, at the feet of lords divine,/it will be blessed and made a saint/for martyrdom – the noble aims/pleasing the Gods, whose old domains/it helped describe in words so fine/conceived by own Stutterheim.

On the top right of the page is a small drawing of a crazed woman, surrounded by books and papers in a state of chaos – she almost seems Rangda-like.  There is a small bell drawn above her head.

And then at the top of left of the page are three keys side by side, and below these burning incense, with a woman emerging from the smoke (in a much more pure state than the haggard scholar).

At the bottom of the page is man ringing the bell at the top attached by a rope, a thin pencil line stretching across the paper.  To his right is a small drawing of a Javanese shadow puppet.  Certainly not great poetry, but loved this scrap of paper.


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