2 April 2020

Connected in times of lockdown: Vogels, vissen

Jessop West is empty. The lights are off. The whiteboards are bored. But staff and students of Dutch Studies manage to stay connected through poetry.

Collaborate

At Sheffield we may be dispersed but that does not mean that we are disconnected. On the contrary. Over the past week, staff and students in Dutch studies – each from their own place of isolation – put together a shared reading of Vogels, vissen (Birds, Fish) by the Dutch poet Ingmar Heytze. Within 48 hours, it received more than 2000 views.

In the poem Heytze expresses frustration and fear, but also hope and beauty. One of our participating students caught the mood of poem when they said: "I am so happy that I've had the chance to take part in this project. It is a really hard period for all of us, but I still believe we can be better together."

Tom is in Cambridge. John is in Leeds. Elinor in Wales and Alice in Belgium. Marta and Zhanxin stayed in Sheffield. Gemma went back to London. Giorgia is in Italy. These are strange times for both students and staff. With a temporary suspension of face-to-face teaching we gather in digital classrooms. We’re raising our hand by clicking a button. We’re sipping the coffee that no one else can smell. But we managed to give people 'goosebumps' with our rendition of 'Vogels, vissen'.

Vogels, vissen

Zet de radio uit. Je hoort niets nieuws. De stilte wacht geduldig af.
Vouw de krant dicht. Hij was oud voordat hij werd gedrukt.
Zoek niet, deel niet, duim niet tot je vierkant ziet.
Zet eindelijk het scherm op zwart.

Ik ben net zo bang als jij, net zo bezorgd voor iedereen
die ik niet missen kan. Ik had ook gespaard voor andere dingen:
verre reizen, eerste hulp bij een gebroken hart,
een auto die wat vaker start.

Maar: in Wuhan hoor je vogels zingen.
Boven China was de lucht nog nooit zo blauw.
In Venetië zien ze vissen in het helderste water sinds tijden.

De kunst van leven was altijd dezelfde: ongevraagd komen,
ongewild gaan, intussen doen wat je het liefste doet,
vrede sluiten met je lot.

Sluit de voordeur. Zet de tuindeur open, voel de zon op je gezicht.
Denk voor je uit wat niemand hardop durft te zeggen:
wij zijn een virus dat een virus heeft gekregen.

Ingmar Heytze

Birds, Fish

Turn the radio off. You’ve heard it all before. Silence is patient.
Fold away the paper. It was old before it came.
Don’t search, don’t share, don’t like until your eyes go square.
Finally switch your screen to black.

I am as scared as you, as worried about everyone
I can’t miss. I too had saved for other things:
Far away travels, first aid for a broken heart,
a car less difficult to start.

But: in Wuhan you can hear the birds sing.
China's sky was never so blue.
In Venice they see fish in the clearest water since forever.

The art of living has always remained the same: entering uninvited,
Leaving unwillingly, meanwhile, doing what you most like to do,
Making peace with your fate.

Close the front door. Step into the garden, feel the sunlight on your face.
Think into the distance what no one dares to say out loud:
We are a virus that has gotten a virus.

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