#2 Mail in a bottle
Based on a true story.
As if it was being announced, as at the start of a movie.
‘The Child Of Lov’ is the name of a record, and the artist’s name of Martijn Teerlinck. He was a young and multi-talented boy: a poet, a musician, a beat-maker, an artist. A man with a mission. He was surrounded by mystery because of his absence from the media. “It is not about me, it’s about the music” he once said in an interview. He even cancelled a special performance at Glastonbury. In the end, he never actually appeared on stage as a singer.
‘It is not about me,
it’s about the music.’
In England, Martin also used the pseudonym Cole Williams. He was nominated for many prizes, but never came to shows… he created the aura of a superstar around him.
He used his real name, Martijn Teerlinck, for his work as a poet – a performative poet. In 2010, he won the Dutch Championship Poetry Slam.
She watches a bad recording of his performance online.
She is looking at his hands, and his arms expressing his words. Like an inbreath, his words are grabbing her by the throat; she feels like they suck her in and hold her in their grip. He is a young guy with glasses, a clean white sweater, and nurdy hair.
Another photo of him, without glasses – a tough rapper with a golden necklace, a fine mustache, and his hair in a knot on top of his head. She is fascinated; can this be the same guy? He was able to create completely different identities for himself. In them, he can explore and express different parts of his personality.
He was able to create completely different identities for himself.
In them, he can explore and
express different parts of his personality.
Martijn became seriously ill and died at the age of twenty six following the impact of heart surgery. The illness influenced his life. It made him more aware of how everything is temporary. It inspired him, and made him work harder. She wonders to herself, what if they had found out earlier about this illness – even had the chance to change his DNA, to give him a healthy life? She feels like it’s almost wrong to ask, but would he have been able to make such interesting, intense work, music, lyrics, poetry?
It made him more aware
of how everything is temporary.
In her hands, she is holding his posthumously published booklet, a collection of poems: ADEMGEBED (breath prayer).
Dying has three stages: the flesh, the spirit, and the thought. Only when everyone has forgotten about you, are you really dead.
Dying has three stages: the flesh, the spirit, and the thought.
Only when everyone has forgotten about you,
are you really dead.
She dives into the poems. The words are making her dizzy. They make her breathing heavy. When she feels like she understands the rhythm of the words, she can hear the voice of Martijn, as if he is speaking to her. Because of his words, his poems, he feels so close to her.
Words don’t die.
Words don’t die. When you read them, whether out loud, in your head, whispering or screaming, they exist. In that moment, in this moment.
You would read the poems without
knowing where they came from.
The booklet starts with an introduction by the poet Erik Jan Harmsen: ‘Flessenpost’ (Mail in a bottle).
Martijn would certainly have preferred that his poems reached the readers as mail in a bottle. You would read the poems without knowing where they came from.
Erik Jan Harmsen didn’t fulfil his wish. He tells us the story of Martijn’s life. If people had known that Martijn was also the creator of the cult phenomenon ‘The Child of Lov’, and the fact that he was incurably ill, probably his booklet would have been published sooner, when he was still alive. “But Martijn insisted that his poems be judged by their own merits and not on his personal drama or his pr value.”
Martijn would have preferred his poems to have been published without an introduction, without his picture on the back, without the mention that he was a great performer and without being told he won the Poetry Slam in 2010. “By including background information and context, this booklet does not reach you by mail in a bottle. Martijn would have found this a pity, but we have to remember that his innermost desire was to be read. And this is what is happening now, and it fills me with happiness”, says Erik Jan Harmsen in the introduction
“Zien ze het dan niet?” “Why can’t they see it?” writes Martijn, over and over in his diaries. Because of the many rejections from publishers and literary magazines, he sometimes just couldn’t write anymore.
“Why can’t they see it?”
While she lets his words come to her, the rhythmic pieces, the sentences, the poems, his ‘beat-poetry’ as Erik Jan Harmsen puts it, nicely comparing it with the energy of John Cotrane’s ‘Afro Blue Impressions’ – yet still she doesn’t understand what she is reading. She can’t yet see or understand, what he is trying to show her with his poems.
She does understand the Dutch language, she does understand what the words mean, but it is like the blind man who, born blind, is, technically, able to see after surgery, but doesn’t know the concept of seeing. How do you explain the concept of seeing?
The unknown is not yet visible to us.
The unknown is not yet visible to us.
It is like the anecdote of the Spanish explorers in the 15th century, who set sail to discover new lands. The moment they arrived at a new shore, they would first send out a couple of men on a small boat, to explore. Every time they overpowered the indigenous people of the newly discovered land. It was never the other way around, with the indigenous people overpowering the explorers despite their being heavily outnumbered. Why? Because they couldn’t ‘see’ the ship. The concept of a seagoing ship was as yet unknown to them. They couldn’t understand what they were seeing and therefore couldn’t perceive it.
“Zien ze het dan niet?”
“Why can’t they see it?”
No Martijn, we are still searching in the darkness. Slowly the light will become more intense and if we read your poetry again and again, we will begin to understand. Slowly we will wake up, and the things you are trying to show us will become visible.
She enjoys this gaining of his knowledge.
She is grateful for the online recordings of him performing his poetry. And while she is listening, her eyes read his words at the same time. She enjoys this gaining of his knowledge. The message of his poems is universal, just like mail in a bottle, which could come from any direction. But she is happy that she can follow them back to their source: to you, Martijn.