During the millennium gap year: that year when we didn’t really know if we were already in the twenty first century or mopping up the back end of the twentieth, I embarked on two separate but ultimately intertwined experiences.
The first resulted from a decision to write a piece of poetry daily for the entire year. That was the only requirement of my plan: length one word onwards, form: whatever I felt like; and no matter how many poems I wrote in any one day the next day I had to write another. From time to time I imposed rules, like: for the next few days I would only write haiku’s, for instance. I also never made a rule to write a sonnet, and so there are no sonnets in this collection.
The reasons for the poem-a-day thing are not germane. The result was 826 pieces of writing most of which was garbage [in retrospect], but then my rule did not extend to judgements… I simply wrote something about whatever took my fancy and it was a challenging exercise.
And then secondly, a month into the year I was invited by the organisers to read the part of the late poet philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, for a centrepiece production based on his life to be performed at the Centennial International Nietzsche Convention, that took place at Pretoria University in 2000, the centenary of his death.
What started as a workshop play-reading involving a small group of enthusiasts became a complex production embracing Nietzsche’s key philosophic developments: from his devastating critique of western philosophy as being “founded on a conjecture”, to his devastating denouncement of the concept of ‘god’ in arguably his most powerful and ultimately influential work “Thus spake Zarathustra”. We embraced too his more romantic poetry and his catastrophic personal life. In the way of a Method-trained actor by the time we finished I had become Nietzsche and I the poet drank at a hitherto unimagined alter. The exhilaration was electric.
I feel him still sneaking around after me in retrospective moments and I am discovering that he is all around us. That world he described for us in which we live shorn of its falsity and illusion is all there is. Everything else is hope, blind faith, and crass stupidity overlaid with marketing hype. Each moment is the one that matters: pursue the mission, capture the vision, by all means: but it is the moment-by-moment achievements that are the only reason for doing anything. Ultimately this is his position so reminiscent of the old Zen masters.
Yet for all that his position is ultimately that we cannot uplift ourselves, other than over millennia and that ultimately we begin again, and again, and again… times without number as we have done over millennia past. Each generation repeats the promises of the one preceding, playing the same tunes endlessly to a constantly moving backdrop… and should we be fortunate and particularly attentive we may grasp an insight, in an unguarded moment, that reveals all the secrets of the universe.[whoops: multiverse. ed.]
Playing Nietzsche was for me a continuous dejavu as, piece-by-piece, we slowly and with painstaking intensity ‘unpacked’ the scenes we had chosen. We’d started with hundreds of scenes from everything he’d ever written, and we read everything the Internet could deliver written about everything he wrote: taking scenes and playing them, reading the most erudite interpretations and some less erudite too. Interpretations: what did he mean here when he said that. Eventually it became all consuming, eating up fifteen to twenty hours a day and ultimately finding and confirming that chink in his super rationalist amour… the fantastical and terrifying idea of eternal recurrence. And through all this each day I had set myself the task to write at least one piece of completed work.
Part of the joy of being a performing poet is the process of becoming that which one plays.
I eventually had a sense of why Nietzsche [N] went mad. [If indeed he did go mad] such honesty was not made for our world. A particularly profound statement [for me] by N was his assertion to his friend and collaborator [and my co performer, Gäst , played by Sam Sleiman, philosopher and storyteller.] “I want to say in a paragraph what others say in a chapter.” That is a certain formula for insanity in my view.
And then of course the years raced on. 9/11 and all that: Afghanistan and Iraq, a world suddenly at war again denying Fukayama’s “end of history” theory and loading us down with liberation language of an unaccustomed kind, as the resurgent forces of conservatism outweighed the degenerating forces of progression.
It has also been a time of financial scandals and public trials. And then mention too, the generally cool and absorbing razz-ma-tazz, in the form of gladiatorial sports events and major movie releases all part of the super globalising endless marketing exercise cycles that constitute modern living. Suddenly it was five years after Nietzsche and a gap appeared and this collection said it was time for an airing.
Some of the pieces in here are what my family like to call “weird” and I don’t profess to understand some of what’s in them. I’m not even certain that I wrote them other than in the technical sense of being scribe to some remote intelligence or perhaps, experience… they were pieces that came from somewhere in the depths of whatever it is that we do when we sleep: go on adventures, travel in other dimensions of that multiverse predicted by quantum science: have nightmares. Sometimes they arrive from nowhere in the midst of wakefulness and demand to be recorded. Yet they are there in counterpoint to the Nihilistic world predicted and so accurately described by Friedrich N on the very threshold of the post-modern era.
Other pieces were of a routine “okay its poem writing time of day” because I had set myself something to do as one of that year’s “things” to do. These seem more prosaic and in some senses historical. In a similar way other selected pieces from outside of that millennium gap year were more compulsive: such as the surreal effect of watching the Second Gulf War on television, or the more realistically prosaic, trivial and often-random violent events of a stereotypical day around town n country.
And then of course there were those pieces that were written by the Nietzsche I became during rehearsals for Nietzsche during that same epochal year that has become buried in post 9/11 rhetoric.
Poetry is a strange literary form that appeals to fewer and fewer people which means that as a reader of this poetry you are amongst a tiny elite at the cutting edge of thought.
It is not essential that you like or love my work it is enough that I wrote it…the rest is outside of my control.
About the Poet.
Nicholas Jakari-Williamson [subsequently known as Nicholas Jakari]. has been writing and publishing poetry for the past three decades. His first published collection, Maze appeared in 1978 and his second collection “Random notes of a marginalised man” was published on his [now terminated] weblog www.Williamsonreport.co.za. He does also write other things but his business card describes him as a poet, which as he says makes his business card an oxymoron.
This third collection includes some seventy-five pieces, with the oldest dating to 1979 [Winter], and the most recent in 2005 [Never kick a man until he’s down] and [ a dualist issue]. As you will find each piece carries the designation [b] .!NiK [year written][/b]
A considerable part of the collection is dated  indicating that it was written during 2000 when the poet set out on an objective to record the millennium year day by day in poetic form. This was a prolific period and resulted in more than 800 pieces of work. As is well known however “good poetry” is seldom made ”to order”. And so maybe 40 of the pieces are worth a second read, of which 33 were chosen for this collection, including the title piece for “Rehearsing Nietzsche” [Rehearsing lines from N….] Because the work of Frederick Nietzsche [N…] comes to centre stage in the poets theatrical life during 2000 some extracts from N…’s work are included where they seemed appropriate, with due apologies to any copyright holder from who’s property the poet may have made his selection… He doesn’t remember where any of it came from, since, he said, he didn’t select the vast cornucopia of words for academic purposes: he simply ingested them; and then presented them to an audience of aficionados who roared approval and called for more.
Some of this work may well also be called trauma poetry, for some pieces: Song of Victory, Reading some earnest undergraduate poetry, twelve September, were written following a horrific and tragic incident during the second half of 1994, which changed the poet and sent him off in a completely different direction.
Jakari-Williamson says his philosophy as a writer is founded on Derrida’s premise that ‘all the words have been written’ and the best we can do is to rearrange them in different forms and guises according to the rhetoric of the time, and then ”they have to be aimed somewhere”. He has no philosophy as a poet, he says, “the things keep happening and then plague me, smashing at the door ‘till I write them down and dispose of them.”
This collection is what he says anyway and who am I to gainsay this.
This excerpt that follows are the opening set of some 70 pieces: of many varied themes and lengths.
A dualist issue
When you seek outside yourself
For exuberance and joy
You miss the moment
When it visits you
And you are not at home.
A Statement solicited from the Poet
on surviving a stereotypical
suburban street shoot-out
For an instant
I escaped our
of day to day uncertainty
for a dose of the real thing:
for that brief moment
Slipping on the road to Shangri la: making movies
There was a man
who ran a business
selling time from out of clocks:
sold it by
and the hour.
If you had an
for some time,
you could pawn it
by the minute
for an hour.
Never kick a man until he’s down
It’s amazing how a cliché can come to life
In front of your eyes and instantly
Have both validation
That a horror you
Had previously always
Or believed to be true, and forgotten,
Its meaning sandwiched between lunch and dinner:
Remains true and active: not
So the cliché…the forgotten noun
Always kick a man when he’s down.
The venue was an open air
With “more than 20,000 people”, who all could vote,
In a park in our city.
The party was held by
Of an offshore intellectual enhancement movement
Dedicated to advance the
Of local young humans: drilled without pity.
Once a year they party in a beer drenched ‘fest’
Joyous and hearty; a ritual mime
That few decline
And debauch and “do their best”
In monogrammed vests under
Glorious scorching vaults
Of azure May sky.
It’s a party “to die for”. Slavering hordes
part with a buck, run
eisbein and bursting on
Washed down with flagons of
A fond foaming brew.
The thrash runs all day
Sharp by the way
At eighteen hundred hours: when the uniformed
Glowers, and orders
The taps all be closed
The licence expires.
By then the party is rowdy with noise ebullient
Some of the crowd
Spoiling with effluent, searching for
Action as drunk tempers fraction:
Guess why the “day” ends at nightfall;
When the temperature plunges like a fast falling wall
And revellers dressed thoughtless for the heat
Of a high autumn day.
Feel the onset of winter as they suddenly
At that moment when the sun begins to slip behind
The distant edge and the hard chill
Rushes to replace the joy and the fun,
The blistering heat,
The blazing sun
The festive joy starts to run.
Blooding the urge to stay
Desperate now to regain the warm
It is losing.
It is then: that’s the way…
The fight exploded
Abruptly: a spontaneous expulsion of
Loud shouting: voices loaded
With rage: a beating of fists: an instant onstage.
A prime aggressor raised his hands
A toreador, to the rhythm of the bands
Facing off across the ‘floor’ on a shorter, squared off fellow,
Stripped to the waist no longer mellow
With a flourishing score
Not waiting for gore:
A bull pawing the ground, head muscle-bound.
Anticipating, glistening; flexing, his
Creatine steroid loaded,
Laced, muscle, definition, display.
In finale to the bold matinee.
The bull rushed in
And a blow was flung and the bull went to ground as the crowd
Surged around in an exhaled bound
Some in panic sensing doom leapt about seeking room across
Where the beer was served all unnerved. Picadors grabbed Matador
held him back from taking the floor: held him hard while
Defiance to the mob…lifting his head to the universe:
Fuck you all! … He was heard to curse.
In the gap where the crowd was thin…
Lay a figure and within
An instant as they all swept back toward
That struggle vortex
A hail of feet filled boots and running shoes
And high-heeled spikes held tight with screws
And hiking shoes hard laced with booze rained down on
That recumbent lump
Crash: fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck You!
They answered back and formed a ruck
For the rough hard taste of flesh:
The mesh of an upturned back;
Allowed the surge to rent and hack and hack….
When the crowd settled
The bull was gone; the toreador too
Lost his mettle:
Vanished before Security came
Trooping their colours threading through
To the place hunting for blame.
Waiters poured beer from portable barrels
All day on their banner shrouded backs
Rushed in to replenish the thirsty hacks
Filled the upturned glasses
Lest the grand thirst passes… by.
Of rubicons and rubrics
I pledge to
Like the hooligan
On the bus
Waiting for the sixes
I shall repeat the oath of
To the time of
For a chance to chant
Striving to live
Up to the values
Of a disrespectful crowd.
A break of light
Against the wall
Reveals the bar
‘tween me and you.
And here to keep me from you
A cross to bar the night
To share the quiet solemnity;
Our unimagined hope, held tight.
Beyond the squares
The bare fleshed veins
Etch out nature’s child
Stark with naked pain
And stroked with evening’s chill.
A howl across the darkness
Of a moment
Echoes off the
Marked out by season’s change.
Now is the time
When warmth has gone
Our peace is held restricted
To the square yard of our mind.