Remembering Sibyll Kalf, artist-musician-mensch-dreamer-gypsy-extraordinaire.
The death of a friend made me realize not how fleeting life is or how precious moments are, but how little time we actually shared enjoying ourselves.
She was aloof, eccentric, and at times utterly mysterious. A fellow outsider artist, we’d hear from her, correspond intensely over several weeks…and then not again until years later. Always in waves.
Through her I was introduced to the work of poet Robert Mitchell (rest in peace) and Lynda Crawford, who was one of the first (if not the first) American editor to publish my poetry in North America (Manhattan Linear poetry magazine/site). Nina and I met Sibyll online in 2005 while living in Berlin, slowly emerging from our own hell and getting involved in a whole new phase of living, feeling, and being. She read some of my poetry, admired Nina’s photography and began to send us recordings of her music and sound poetry – many of the songs, in fact, with texts by Robert Mitchell. We fell in love with Sibyll’s spirit. She, in her own idiosyncratic way (she would always share our art work with whomever she’d come in contact with in Cologne and in return we’d do the same) represented the Last of the Romantics. She was peripatetic as we were and always seeking, searching for the next landing on that great mountain we all climbed – or tried to: Transcendence. Her death sent chills up my spine because the last art-work she sent to us recently was a hand-made notebook she wanted me to use for some new poems I was intending to write and send back to her. I never did. Another collaboration that will never take place.
Sibyll, you were relentless in your optimism — or rather in your insistence on being hopeful in the face of all that life’s ugliness and daily unnecessary cruelty flings at us…But that’s also how we as artists burn out. The desperation for something better, for a life in flow, for some harmony in and out of all that we do…Sometimes it never comes. When good spirits fall to their knees – it is not they who lose out. It is the rest of the people in the universe who never got a chance to experience just a glimmer of what you share with some of those lucky enough to have been in your orbit – however briefly.
Thinking about the child-like rawness and the lovely crudity of your art-work, of course my mind goes back to the heart and soul of rock and roll which you loved so much…and in particular the punk of NYC’s old hey-day.
Sibyll, I know you yearned to return to the Big Apple. But trust me, NYC did not deserve your death. While a person’s death doesn’t matter as much as their living — there are constellations of energy in thie life that simply do not warrant our impassioned pleas or cries of resistance. New York has not been the city you first visited in the 1990’s in nearly 20 years and maybe it was good in a way that you never returned to see the mess and disappointment it became. It, and the world, has changed so much, too quickly — that the promissory notes you clutched tightly became worthless. And maybe you sensed that something around you too was just simply not worth it. And I don’t blame you. Your courage is inspiring. I hope your exit was joyful, wherever you bowed out…and I hope you keep them honest in the artistic pursuits beyond the stars or the molten lava. Wherever delicate and beautiful souls like you go.
This song is for you, darling.
The Jim Carroll Band: “People Who Died”