‘Let Us No Longer Express Ourselves in a Local Patois’

Gerard Reve and England Looking back, we cannot imagine Dutch literature of the second half of the twentieth century without great writers such as Willem Frederik Hermans and Gerard Reve. However, when these writers were at the beginning of their careers in around 1950, they found themselves confronted with a literary atmosphere in which they…

Four Poems

School of Poetry I’m not a winsome rhymer I am the expeditious swindler of love, see hatred beneath it and upon it a cackling gambit. lyricism is politics’ mother, I am merely rebellion’s bellman and my mystique the rotten fodder of lies, with which virtue fosters its ailment. I report that the velvet poets perish…

I Try in Poetic Fashion

I try in poetic fashion that is to say simplicities luminous waters to give expression to the expanse of life at its fullest If I had not been a man like masses of men but if I had been who I was the stone or fluid angel birth and decay would not have touched me…

Three Poems

Song 4 Gibber jabber Gibber jabber shiver shiv crying fist fight fists fight fists grip grit fists clenching woman of a long time ago comes by stamps I gave to the boy of the fourth floor fourth floor? a human being drops from the fourth floor tension trigger calf muscles leap jump drop dropping fists…

‘Awater’ in the UK

Martinus Nijhoff’s First English Volume Two gentlemen in a restaurant in Nijmegen. During dinner one of them says with a sigh what a shame it is to write poetry in a language that reaches so few people as Dutch does. This means that his readership remains somewhat limited, and that weighs on his heart. Eventually…

 The Light 

The light, God’s white light, breaks up into colours: Colours are actions of the light that breaks. Life breaks up in the variegated event, And my soul breaks up as it utters words. Only he who accepts death can bear life: Oh see my blood that leaks along the nails! My window’s open, open are…

Five Poems and One Fragment by Martinus Nijhoff

The Wanderer My lonely life wanders around the streets, Within house walls, through fields, along the shore. No blood flows through my dead hands any more, My heart has silently forsaken deeds. A cloistered monk from the time of Charlemagne, With solemn Flemish face I sit withdrawn; Watch people walking on a sunny lawn, Hear…

One Morning

Half past four one April morning I was walking and whistling the St Louis Blues But I whistled it my way And whistling I thought: may my whistling be like the song of the great thrush And what do you know, after a while my whistling of the St Louis Blues really was like the…

Two Poems

Charlady She knows the underneath of wardrobe and of bed, rough wooden floorboards and forgotten nooks, and crawling forward on all fours she looks less like a human than a quadruped. Her life to lower surfaces is wed; she toils away to beautify their looks for feet of grocers, preachers, men of books, since rank…