~ Filmmaker: Ellen Nauta ~

The Wild Iris by Louise Glück

This is Iris, a translation of Louise Glück‘s famous poem into sign language (I presume Dutch Sign Language) by the deaf Dutch poet Wim Emmerik. It was recorded in 2014, the year before Emmerik’s death, by Ellen Nauta, edited by Max Vonk, and uploaded to Vimeo by Onno Crasborn, a linguist specializing in sign language at Radbound Univeristy in the Netherlands.

I chose this video for today in honor of Glück being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, which I’m very happy about—her work has been a huge influence on me as a poet and a reader. Of all the films of her poems on Vimeo at the moment, this unpretentious, performer-focused video with a green screen struck me as by far the most compelling, even for someone like me with no knowledge of sign language whatsoever.

I can’t find an authoritative link for the text of the original, so let me just paste it in:

The Wild Iris

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.