Skater

Ripples frozen solid right through to spring till lumps and bumps melt and skates go to sleep Ripples congealed in the middle of the deserted lake where you let a pin drop and stare after your labouring breath Puckered wavelets you feel in your very bones in the pounding pulses under the mittens on your…

Four poems

Close Prising a splinter from the beam laying on your fingertip a feather-light splinter from the old weathered beam (there’s not a breath of wind) What use the beam served — at the ends there are traces of threading — why it is here behind a shed, near to the water nobody knows nobody even…

Extract from ‘Boy’

Amy Faye had found Boy on the sands one Sunday three years ago, not far from the Brighton Beach Hotel. The boy with his dark hair had caught her attention because he seemed totally absorbed in the surging water in front of him, as if he were trying to take in exactly how much water…

Unstable Equilibrium

The Versatility of J. Bernlef Quite a few covers of the books of J. Bernlef (1937-) feature photographs, usually in black-and-white or broken colours. The effect is unspectacular and the same goes for the subjects depicted: a few erratic stones, a coastline full of inlets somewhere in America (as can be seen from a flag),…

Dutch and English Ears

What has a writer to do with a university? For six weeks, from November 1 to December 13, 1993, I was ‘writer in residence’ at University College London. I quite liked the sound of it. It seemed as if I had managed to learn a trade after all. I lived in an anonymous block of…

Keeping Up

J. Bernlef’s Driftwood House No successful poet, any more than a successful literary movement, can afford to stand still. This is certainly true of J. Bernlef’s role in the development of Dutch Modernism. When he began writing, it was in reaction to the preceding generation of modernist pioneers known as the Vijftigers. For them poetry…