‘An Utrecht lady’s charms’

Belle van Zuylen / Isabelle de Charriere ‘And yet just now a lady’s charms / Make my gay bosom beat with love’s alarms / (…) But she from whom my heart has caught the flame, / Has nothing Dutch about her but the name.’ Thus wrote James Boswell in 1763 about the eighteenth-century Dutch-woman who…

Back to the Netherlands

It’s not that I haven’t been back to the Netherlands, and it’s not even that I haven’t been back for a longer period of time; but my stay at the Translators’ House, in January and February of 1993, was somehow so concentrated a time, so much an opportunity to be Dutch, so much an occasion…

Two Poems

Adriana de Buuck A sixteenth-century lady, not yet twenty; the brow is narrow but young and smooth, and round it the hair is piously combed back and brown, with a fine gauze cap set on it lightly. The figure stands unmoving, all in black, and where, slipping out from the fur, the sleeves impress some…

Extract from ‘The First Stone’

On one of their trips relations between them had become very strained. Hagar had been reluctant to come in the first place and refused to go anywhere off the beaten track. May felt as if she had been put in quarantine and suspected that there was another, modern world out there behind the Biblical facade.…

Writing as an Act of Revolt and Emancipation

The Work of Monika van Paemel Monika van Paemel was born on 4 May 1945, and because of the war she was delivered on her grandmother’s farm in the country village of Poesele in East Flanders, where she also spent her childhood years. It was only later that she was taken from there, against her…

Adriaen Coorte

Painter of asparagus and raspberries, he’s added lemons too and gooseberries in tangible magnificence. He sets them down, depicts their shape. A rigid order they communicate, stubbornness that helps the viewer share durable pretence. Things edible and perishable as men are, have for a brief space been wilfully set apart and raised above nature’s breathlessness.…

Vermeer seeing Delft as he will paint it

‘A town on yonder side, With towers and roofs and gateways, Embankment and long barges, Cloud-shadow, sunny light. From here we can descry The joint-marks in her buildings, The cool glaze of her colours, Things distant and near by. How far she does outshine Her image in the water! – Will so God’s City later…

Four Poems

Kiss With you away my time has overflowed. Gone are the banks which were my vantage point, Gone are the firm contours of our presence. You directed all waters, brought the Greek river Of passing time to our house and put it to sleep In our bed, we could see it through ourselves. Tomorrow when…

‘Read me in full or not at all’

The Poetry of Leonard Nolens It is not particularly difficult to write a purely informative introduction on a generally acclaimed poet from a smallish language area – in this case Dutch – for an international audience. However, it is a more interesting but also much trickier task to try to give some indication of the…

The Red of the Jewish Bride

I have loved the Red of the Jewish Bride from the first time I saw it, not realising yet what kind of courtship I began that day. I went there also when the sky was grey, or the sun’s light showed for a moment only and flowed away in an unsteady line, and then I…

Brueghel

a bird, sitting on a branch of a tree in a winter landscape like in a painting by Brueghel, has a meaning one need seek no further than in its sharp black presence against the white occurrence of a space; as though a bird defines what visibly surrounds us and illuminates it; but does a…

Lenze L. Bouwers (1940-)

you are my bridegroom and I am your bride, your man’s arm stronger than my meek esteem, your right hand touches words of heart and dream, my left the answer that on your skin abides, you are my bridegroom and I am your bride; like a golden sparkle quiet along seam and neck, richer than…

Five Times Two Picture-Poems

It’s inevitable – a language-area famous above all for its painters is bound also to produce a good many poets who allow themselves to be inspired by paintings. And it does. The Almanac of Contemporary Dutch and Flemish Literature (Almanach zur niederlandischen and flamischen Literatur der Gegenwart), published in August 1993 in connection with the…

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…