A Poet in Love with Words

Lucebert Translated into English No other twentieth-century Dutch poet made an entrance quite like Lubertus Swaanswijk, alias Lucebert (1924-1994). He seemed to come out of nowhere. Although the picture turns out in retrospect to be slightly romanticised, Lucebert led a wandering existence in the years after World War II. He began to gain a reputation…

Peace is Eating to Music

peaceful eating is good eating because tasty food is eaten only in quiet and peace good digestion requires a person to chew each mouthful at least fifteen times thus it’s best to eat to music since happy notes make the jaws move by themselves harmoniously and with the jaws the oesophagus and thereafter the further…

Fisherman from Ma Yuan

under clouds birds sail under waves fly fish but in between rests the fisherman waves become high clouds clouds become high waves but in the meantime rests the fisherman   Visser van Ma Yuan onder wolken vogels varen onder golven vliegen vissen maar daartussen rust de visser golven worden hoge wolken wolken worden hoge golven…

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…

Lucebert: As a Poet a Visionary, as a Painter an Eye-Witness

The poet and painter Lucebert (ps. of Lubertus Jacobus Swaanswijk, 1924-1994) has an uncontested place in Dutch literature as the ‘Emperor’ of the new post-war poets. Since the day in 1953 when he actually dressed up in Emperor’s robes to receive the poetry prize from the city of his birth, Amsterdam, his poems have not…

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…

An Explosive Spirit

The Romantic Poetry of a Neo-Dadaist: Hans Verhagen ‘To err is human. In time you learn to appreciate the quality. And if you can’t see it you’re a dickhead’. This pronouncement by the poet Lucebert (1924-1994) gives the briefest possible summary of the history of the critical appreciation of Hans Verhagen (1939) – from disparagement…

Riposte to Death

Esther Jansma’s Poetry Mourning. Cherishing the dead. Examining, delaying, outwitting, toying with, and renaming death, in order finally to let go of it again. This is the essence of Esther Jansma’s work. Esther Jansma, born in 1958 in Amsterdam, made her debut in 1988 with Voice under my Bed (Stem onder mijn bed), an impressive…

The Poet in the Mixer

The Work of Breyten Breytenbach The South African poet and artist Breyten Breytenbach (1939-) once said that he wrote in a ‘bastard language’, ‘Afrikaans.’ Nowadays he publishes mostly in English, having turned his back on the Afrikaans literary establishment which once showered him with prizes and accolades. In his uneasiness with his own cultural heritage…

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…