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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

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

Tydskr. geesteswet. vol.49 n.4 Pretoria  2009


Die deurskynende kelk: Oor vorm en inhoud in die poësie. The transparent chalice: The relation between form and content in poetry

(T T Cloete-erelesing, gelewer op 5 November 2009 te Potchefstroom / Paper read in honour of T T Cloete, Potchefstroom on 5 November 2009)



Heilna du Plooy

Skool vir Tale: Afrikaans en Nederlands, Noordwes-Universiteit, Potchefstroom e-pos:




In hierdie artikel word die verhouding tussen vorm en inhoud in die poësie ondersoek en beredeneer as een van die kernvraagstukke van die poësieteorie. Daar word in besonder gelet op ikonisiteit as 'n eienskap van taal en van die poësie en aan enkele taalteorieë wat aan hierdie vraagstuk aandag gee. Aan die hand van die analise van gedigte hoofsaaklik uit die oeuvre van T T Cloete word verskeie ander sake ondersoek soos die medebepalende werking van vorm en inhoud in die poësie, die verband tussen die wetenskap en die kuns asook die versmelting van aanvoeling en kennis in gedigte wat as intellektuele poësie beskryf kan word. In die gevolgtrekking word gestel dat die poësie van T T Cloete tegnies kompleks, vindingryk en boeiend is, maar ook dat hierdie digter in sy werk in gesprek tree met die kulturele en estetiese tradisies waarbinne hy lewe en werk.

Trefwoorde: Ikonisiteit in taal en poësie, poëtiese tegniek, intertekstualiteit, lyn, skoonheid, vorm en funksie, kulturele inhoud in die poësie, intellektuele poësie, kreatiwiteit in die wetenskap en die kuns, T T Cloete, Marilyn Monroe, Dante


In this article the relation between form and content, one of the classic issues of the theory of poetry, is examined. The point is made that concrete poetry can be regarded as an extreme form of iconic poetry, but iconicity in poetry can assume many other and more subtle forms. The issue of iconicity in language and literature is introduced by referring to the theories of Charles Sanders Peirce and Ferdinand de Saussure which form the basis of the arbitrary view of language. The opposing Platonic paradigm, however, still seems to elicit much interest as is proved by research on iconicity by linguists and literary theorists alike. Reference is made to the peripheral fields of phonosemantics or sound symbolism and the results presented by lexicographers on the almost uncanny regularities in the sound systems of words and their meanings. Antoly Liberman's view that language is motivated and/or iconic in its inception and origin but arbitrary in its history and development is then taken as a point of departure to examine iconic features of various poems by the Afrikaans poet, T T Cloete. A number of poems by T T Cloete are analysed to indicate how form and content are blended and merged to generate meaning and to prove the statement that Cloete is a poet who, par excellence, succeeds in superimposing various codes and modelling systems to create complex meaning in poems. He also succeeds in enhancing the density of meaning in seemingly simple poems by his versatility as a technician. After emphasising the importance of form in poetry the article then focusses on the importance of content. Some poets have both the ability and inclination of concerning themselves with noteworthy and profound content, taking up and extending the classic cultural and aesthetic issues of the tradition in which they work. In some of his poems T T Cloete manages to create a discourse between some of the classic texts of Western thought and his personal view of matters such as female beauty and beauty in general. The emphasis on form is always present in his poems, even when he interprets one of the red photographs of Marilyn Monroe and compares and contrasts her beauty to the role played by Beatrice in Dante's Vita Nuova. In the course of the argument issues such as the connection between the creative aspects of scientific and aesthetic thinking and the relation between intuition and intellectual activity in writing poetry are also addressed. Poetry is described as a form of philosophy on account of the fact that it entails the creative exploration of reality in an attempt to find something new, or even "non-existent", or a new perspective on well-known aspects of ordinary life. The "love of wisdom" which is etymologically implied in the word philosophy, inspires the writing of poetry for some poets but on account of the aesthetic and quicksilver qualities of poetry, poetry could, in my opinion, be identified as "liquified philosophy". The article concludes with the view that in its quest for insight in the human condition, poetry helps to keep alive the sense of wonder which is essential in enabling human beings to overcome the brutalizing conformity of the mass societies in which they live. Poetry can therefore be seen as a constructive force, which helps to connect societies to their past, their present and their future.

Key concepts: Iconicity in language and poetry, poetic technique, intertextuality, line, beauty, form and function, cultural content of poetry, intellectual poetry, creativity in science and art, T T Cloete, Marilyn Monroe, Dante


Full text available only in PDF format.


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1 Vergelyk Du Plooy 2008 vir 'n uitvoeriger uiteensetting van hierdie problematiek.
2 Vergelyk ook Du Plooy (2008a).
3 Vergelyk Nänny (2001:213); Bronzwaer (1993:25, 27); Wijbenga & Cloete (1992:178-182) vir nadere uiteensettings van die term ikonisiteit.
4 Vergelyk Alighieri, Dante soos vertaal deur Du Toit (2002:9) en verder.
4 Vergelyk Alighieri, Dante soos vertaal deur Du Toit (2002:9) en verder.
5 Vergelyk OED vir die etimologie van die woord.
6 Vergelyk OED vir die etimologie uit die Grieks.



Heilna du Plooy het studeer aan die PU vir CHO en die Universiteit van Pretoria. In 1985 voltooi sy 'n D.Litt. in Literatuurwetenskap aan die PU vir CHO met 'n proefskrif wat in 1986 gepubliseer is as Verhaalteorie in die twintigste eeu (Butterworth). Sy het doseer aan die Universiteit van Pretoria en Unisa maar is sedert 1987 verbonde aan die PU vir CHO, sedert 2004 die Noordwes-Universiteit se Potchefstroomkampus, aanvanklik in die departement Algemene Taal- en Literatuur-wetenskap en sedert 1992 in die Vakgroep Afrikaans en Nederlands waar sy tans professor is. Sy het 'n 40-tal artikels in geakkrediteerde tydskrifte asook verskeie hoofstukke in boeke gepubliseer, in Suid-Afrika en ook in die buiteland. Sy tree gereeld op by vakkongresse plaaslik en internasionaal. Sy is betrokke by verskeie navorsingsprojekte maar is tans leier van 'n projek oor die vorm en funksionering van narratiewe strukture en tegnieke in liriese poësie. As digter het sy twee digbundels gepubliseer, Die donker is nooit leeg nie (1997) en In die landskap ingelyf (2003).

Heilna du Plooy studied at the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education and the University of Pretoria. In 1985 she completed the D.Litt. in General Literary Theory (PU for CHE) with a thesis on narrative theories of the twentieth century which was published in 1986. She taught Afrikaans literature at the University of Pretoria and Unisa, but since 1987 she has been lecturing at the Potchefstroom University for CHE, since 2004 the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University, where she is at present professor of Afrikaans and Dutch literature and literary theory. She is the author of some 40 articles in accredited journals as well as several chapters in books, in South Africa and abroad. She regularly reads papers at local and international conferences. She is involved in several research projects and is at present heading a project on the form and functioning of narrative structures and techniques in lyrical poetry. She is a poet who has published two volumes of poetry, Die donker is nooit leeg nie (Darkness is never empty) (1997) en In die landskap ingelyf (Incorporated into the landscape) (2003).

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