Two Poems

The Free Fall of Days There is in intervals of expectancy no pit so shallow that the soul fails to tumble in: the phlox that are no roses, cloudlessly raining, bronze that crumbles like stale cakes, empty portraiture before a breathed-on mirror, your pale eyes which, said Baudelaire, convey the tempest of a passion in…

An Extract from ‘Intercities’ 

Sydney: Parallel Worlds It is as if for centuries a substance has flowed from the human eye that affects and changes the world, a glue that binds places and things. That substance doesn’t really exist, things are not joined together into a meaningful whole by any glue. And yet it is our eyes that bind…

Writer in the Public Debate

On Stefan Hertmans Since he was first profiled in this yearbook (The Low Countries 1998-1999), the Flemish-Belgian writer Stefan Hertmans (born 1951) has developed significantly as an artist. Hertmans started out as a poet but came to the attention of the general public primarily as a novelist, with books such as Terug naar Merelbeke (Back…

First Steps 

He ran into the street without a glance and I, becoming like him more and more, thought he could make it to the door. But he turns round and away, cars racing along the prom. Now he’s almost there I’ll never get to him in time. Just as my father, all his life, could dream…

Poems

Stevens on Sunday 6 It was difficult to sing in face of the object… The singer and the architect they never fully agreed: should they inhabit a lyre or a house of tones much higher? All that’s true becomes, in its other half, all that’s heavy and decays. We know that the singer dies, tired…

A Bigger Head

1 You must keep your eyes open, said Bodo. Now watch for a moment. He jumped over the low wall, a metre and a half high, which hid the public lavatories from the passers-by, and thereby re-entered the world. The church was emptying. While bells were ringing and the wind blew straight into Bodo’s face,…

The Courage of the Critical Intellect

The Work of Stefan Hertmans As a poet, prose writer, critic, essayist and playwright, Stefan Hertmans (1951-) is probably one of the most multifaceted Flemish writers of his generation. And although his writing originally came up against a certain amount of resistance from literary critics, it now proves to be among the most highly prized. Hertmans made…

Extract from ‘To Merelbeke’

How God amputated my right leg At last – it was the longest day in the year, I lay dozing at the grassy edge of a forgotten old canal covered in duckweed – God alighted on my shirt. He first made his way laboriously as far as the fourth button and stopped to look around.…