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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Abstract

WOLFAARDT-GRABE, Ina. "Die huid huil luid in stilhuil" [The epidermis cries loudly in still crying] - tracking (sound) repetition in T.T. Cloete's poetry. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2015, vol.55, n.2, pp.220-224. ISSN 2224-7912.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2224-7912/2015/V55N2A5.

T.T. Cloete is both a distinguished scholar and a revered poet. In addition to his significant contribution to research and teaching as a specialist of Afrikaans and Dutch literature, he initiated the study of literary theory at several South African universities. As a former student of Cloete I engage, in this paper, both with the academic and the poet. In acknowledging the academic I deliberately make use of reading strategies based on postgraduate research originally supervised by Cloete. I also refer to Cloete's recent selfreflective study on "life" in general, but also on poetry in particular, namely Die ander een is ek [I am the other] (2013). In addition, I refer to information on the "history" of the poem "stilhuil" and the importance of the phenomenon of crying (or laughing) in his poetic thought graciously provided to me by Cloete via e-mail. My interaction with the poet is carried out in two stages. After an analysis of the poem "stilhuil" [still crying] the continuation of a foregrounded very short sentence, namely "die huid huil luid in stilhuil" ["the epidermis cries loudly in still crying"] taken from this poem, is traced in anthologies of poetry (to date, there are ten altogether) by Cloete. In the reading of both the single poem and its continuation in all of the anthologies, I outline the precise specification achieved by the interaction of words and phrases within the poem "stilhuil"; thereafter, further specification of the abovementioned foregrounded sentence is traced with reference to selected examples taken from the entire collection of poems by Cloete. The first part of this paper, then, is devoted to an analysis ofpoetic strategies utilised by T.T. Cloete in portraying the anguish suffered by grieving relatives or friends after the death of beloved ones. Intratextual relations among words, phrases, verselines and sentences within the poem "stilhuil" are scrutinised by analysing aspects of poetic language such as metaphor, syntax, sound and rhythm/metre. The short sentence "die huid huil luid in stilhuil" is singled out because it is foregrounded within the poem in various ways. The metaphorical characterisation of "huid" [skin/epidermis] as capable of silent crying alerts the reader to the unusual specification of skin. Attention is also focused on the short sentence because it is wedged between two full stops within the same line of verse. In addition, sound repetition in successive words results in accents on four of the six words, "huid", "huil", "luid" and "stilhuil". As a result of this multiple foregrounding the short sentence is marked. The title of the poem, "stilhuil" [still crying] is often repeated in the poem in different syntactic phrases or typographic units (verselines or stanzas), whereby it gradually acquires a precise content within the context of the poem. Therefore, it is very difficult to capture its enriched meaning in translation. The compound "stilhuil", a word newly coined by Cloete, in itself contains a contradiction, in that "huil" [crying] is metaphorically characterised as "stil" [silent/still]. This contradiction is deepened when "stilhuil" is coupled to a supposedly loudly crying epidermis in the short sentence quoted above - "Die huid huil luid in sitlhuil". Not only is the epidermis personified in that it acquires the ability to cry, but it does so loudly, which contradicts the "silent/ still" quality presumably associated with anguished crying. In the various metaphorical constructions in which the gradual specification of the title may be traced by means of a comparison between violent actions and the result thereof in parallel syntactic constructions, the actual effect of the unusual means of crying is revealed. Instead of external lamentations, prolonged anguished griefexpresses itself by means ofan internal violation of the entire body whereby the latter is transfixed by "'n gloeiende gestolde weerlig" [a burning solidified lightning stroke] into not only an absolute silence, but also a deathlike immobility. The rhythmical retardation achieved by means of a succession of accents in the foregrounded "die huid huil luid in stilhuil" [the skin cries loudly in still crying], in its marked slowing down of movement, can be read as an anticipation of the immobility associated with anguished grief in the poem "stilhuil" [still crying]. However, a tracking of the continuation of individual words in the sentence in the entire collection of poems, reveals more nuanced meanings. Skin serves two main purposes - whereas a "thinning" skin is indicative of insufficient protection of the body made visible by the effects of aging or illness, by contrast, a rosy, sensitive skin signals health and sensuality. Although crying is repeated less frequently than skin, it is defined mainly in its interaction with its supposed opposite, namely laughing, since the latter is not self-evidently associated with joy or light-heartedness, but could sometimes reveal an underlying sadness. Grief is, however, defined especially in its association with lack of sound and immobility as revealed in the continuation of "stil" [still] throughout the collection of poems.

Keywords : metaphor; syntax; sound; rhythm; stillness; silence; immobility; crying; grief.

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