The New Fish

Already when the specimen was being served adjoining tables stopped the digging of further trenches in the chestnut purée, the spading of curled-up lettuce leaves stagnates, wines linger in lifted glasses: this fish is not the usual feast of the deep. A revelation, hauled it would seem from primordial waters. Though head and tail-fin gone,…

With a Poet’s Eye

A Few Dutch Poems on Dutch Paintings No painting is safe from Dutch Poets. In fact, the writing of poems based on paintings seems to have become a national sport. From a reader’s perspective, picture-poems distinguish themselves from all other poems in one very important way: the poem’s source of inspiration, whether it be sculpture,…

Fat People II

They can play such silly games with their flesh that preys on cotton candy or on gingerbread, up to their last kilo of ridicule searching for all the sweets of love. Their body is not their own. Each small surplus is a great lack. But if they strip the rind off of their soul, they…

Translator or Actor?

I find myself asking myself more and more: ‘Why do you sit translating?’ What are the deeper-lying, the ultimate reasons for it? After all, for years I have objected to being referred to as ‘James Brockway, the translator’, for translating is only one of the things I have done in the Netherlands since the war.…

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…

The Netherlands Gets on its Bike

If you had to take one photo that summed up the Netherlands as the average foreigner sees it, what would it show? Queen Beatrix in clogs, cycling past a row of windmills, with the glassy eyes of dozens of cows staring at her in astonishment – this would probably qualify. It is not very likely…