Marieke Lucas Rijneveld writes full verses about head, body and everyone who thinks they can think of him

Marieke Lucas RijneveldPicture Jouk Oosterhof

Take a potato peeler, take a cumin, try to split it and see what happens. Whatever you try, the narrow seed will happily spring out from under the iron with each attempt. It performs a dance where it refuses to be stuck. Marieke Lucas Rijneveld performs such a dance in her new, voluminous bundle Cumin Splitters

The ingenious title alone, you might think, is a nuisance to all those who think they can find something of his. Mosquito faces, a more banal alternative might say, or hair splitters. Biggs is another. Rijneveld gives a number of examples in the title poem. For example, there is the person who knows everything, has his heart on his sleeve, ‘but rarely knows the formula for a good life’. Or the one whose words are ‘made of scaffolding wood’ while not seeing the fish that have come up from lack of oxygen. About the pulpit preachers, in other words, who look too slightly inward and outward: ‘everyone can think of them’, Rijneveld writes about them, ‘but no one really knows them.’

A bundle filled with heat-seeking

Splitting cumin is like splitting atoms, in any case it gives off a lot of heat. Just place a cumin on your tongue, place it between your teeth and bite it in the middle. A warm, earthy taste fills the palate. As a cookbook author recently told me in terms of taste, cumin is the chubby sister of black pepper. With this in mind, we can Cumin Splitters can also be read as a bundle filled with heat seekers. And one can count on the longing in Rijneveld’s poetry. To borrow an image from Rijneveld himself, ‘longing galaxies’ flow through these verses. And to use another, they breathe “faint”.

So small and yet so full, the seed overflows with meaning. Poetry does not stop at a single interpretation. Cumin is also known by another name borrowed from Malaysian. In the jint, something sounds almost ghostly. Meaning through obedience: jinn is seen by some as supernatural, invisible beings who deprive humans of their will. They are below the angels, but above man. If a jinn takes possession of you, it leads to an almost demonic possession. In the sense that Cumin Splitters read as ‘Djintensplitters’, as a collection of figures that cut the demons in the head in two.

Head and body

The following also applies here: there are plenty of them in Rijneveld’s collection. Who pays attention, sees how the head in Cumin Splitters crowded, crowded. It is filled with ‘a dark field of clouds’,’ too many people ‘,’ terrorists’, ‘nightingales’,’ thunder sermons’, ‘poetry lines’,’ bombers’, ‘the sleeping dog’ with ‘mud feet’, ‘numerous ‘,’ evening black / guilt and candles ‘,’ a design, / an angelic appearance ‘,’ shells ‘,’ moisture ‘,’ apparent coolness ‘,’ storage space ‘,’ coincidences ‘,’ pick-posts ‘of’ do evil ‘,’ travel, you only do in your head ‘,’ stupidity ‘,’ presentability ‘,’ monsters’, ‘the sink’, ‘explanations’,’ crow’s, ‘all the voices’,’ the true rapaille, you just can not get rid of the ‘and’ riots’, riots of ‘ignorant’. There are those who would be angry at less. Fortunately, Rijneveld writes the whole verse with it.

Below that head is the body. Rijneveld has a lot to say about that body. Many, if not all, poems deal with the habitation of the body; or about the struggle for the body, about the struggle one sometimes has to fight for one’s own body and about the struggle within one’s own body.

And then there is also the space above the head, which in this collection is remarkably often filled with trees. Trees are fragile, stiff, tall and helpless with their arms. They go from season to season. Trees sparkle in budding and flowering. Messages are cut in trees, love is noted. Trees cast shadows, deprive us of light or ‘they protect you from / the sun, from looking in, they keep you out of danger, even now you know’, writes Rijneveld, ‘how you have grown, how you suffer from root rot, and how to caress the bark, / blow the wind from their tired peaks. “Trees, by the way, like the cumin plant, offer a screen to hide under with a full head and body. And according to Rijneveld, they reach to the sky, just as we humans do.

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld: Spitskommen. Atlas Contact; 104 pages; € 19.99.

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