Sunday 28 February 2010

Translation of a Wim Hofman poem in Lyrisch van Rembrandt



The tree, the path, the house, the cloudy sky,
all of those things were here, then,
they are here still, there is no road ahead,
nor back. The light overwashes
the bridge and the tree in the middle and everything
is not the way we think and everything’s the same.

People are smears of paint, they stew
in their own stock and stir in the ooze
that is paint, raw umber, black bile,
they have no time, they have no
say, the wind gets up and
holds in its breath at once, the sky clouds over.
No end comes to the death-still
screaming of the tree.
The tree stands there perplexed.
The tree is an explosion
of amazement. The dark
that begs for light, light
that yearns for darkness,
it cannot otherwise. The deeper
the dark, the brighter the light
and time knows no mercy.

(click picture for larger version)

Saturday 27 February 2010

And another bridge poem, this time by the Dutch writer Willem Jan Otten


The oldest bridge
seems etching-sharp,
tight-ridged, and hangs
from there to here
and hangs on no
more than your fear
that something hangs
there, swaying still
from what has passed,
and just hangs on
in wait for you,
that first full step
makes here of there.

Friday 26 February 2010

A winter olympics poem - Eddie the Eagle by the Dutch ex-poet laureate Driek van Wissen


Down the steep slope they all swooshed swiftly down
And in the air they did their level best
To fly the greatest distance from the nest,
With matching talent sought to hold their own.

But one of them was different from the rest:
Unsure of life and limb he stood aloft,
He saw the piste below so white and soft
And, ruffled, hesitated in distress

Till this unsightly eaglet also curled,
With pebble glasses icing up his world,
His wooden frame into a crouching heap

And, taking off with blind ungainly leap,
With flailing arms flopped from his flapping flight
And conquered yet again his fear of heights.

Thursday 25 February 2010

A poem by the Dutch poet C.O. Jellema


Music: winter through windows open wide.
You hear the cold-held stars ring out so clear
as if they – thinking you – sped each light-year:
your ending, their beginning coincide.

Dispatched is what moved here, however small,
as cosmic image – but do eyes gaze there?
This hand has also, writing, moved through air,
in words devised a host of stars, starfall.

Wednesday 24 February 2010

A poem from 1001 POEMS by Klaus Høeck

      i glimpsed a hare that
shot across the frozen fields
        to disappear in
        to the murk of the
        plantation and i
felt a twinge of the heart - oh
this other freedom to be
        quite ignorant of
        the fact that freedom
        exists could it be
possible for anything
        else than for a hare?

Monday 22 February 2010

Poem by the Dutch writer Anna Enquist


The cello is alone. The message was:
it’s been called off. The string quartet
has been scratched off for god knows why,
all preparation been in vain. The scores still
stand important on the music stands; it’s time
for loss and ridicule and shame.

Strange emptiness refusing to relent
invades him as he slowly, richly bows

his bass-line score. Great care to no avail
that no one still expects, as if he,

credulously, satin-spun, for someone
who won’t come now smooths the sheets.

Thursday 18 February 2010

A poem by the Danish poet Benny Andersen

High time

It’s time
the water’s boiling
the earth’s burning
the world’s waiting
when Alexander was Caesar’s age
he was already The Great
when Caesar was my age
he was already done for
they didn’t waste time
time didn’t waste them
they used time like a shirt
slept with it on
were buried in it
and here am I
keep a newspaper
keep Christmas
keep holding back
let exploits pass in front of my nose
hopelessly behindhand with discoveries
the world won’t wait
when Mozart was five
when Jesus was twelve
when Columbus weighed anchor
when Homer
when Rembrandt
when Pasteur
when Darwin
when Dalgas
da Vinci
da Gama
it’s high time
it’s more than time
my hat
my coat
my cycle clips
it’s now or never.

Monday 15 February 2010

Another poem by Mortier

We’re known by time
(rudiments of a letter)

It is our lot to let ourselves be shaken
from word’s pockets like the change

once from the crumbling lining
of your coat – all that rebounds

with the steely sound of poverty houses
what we’re unable to accommodate.

The whole world in so doing speaks our signs
and would ascribe to us more than we ever lose.

I think of floors, of huge and hefty flagstones
in the houses where you were blond,

of the kitchen sink and the pumps in their noble
anger round the taps of stainless steel that had

parched their throats, how wheezingly they coughed
when you yanked their arms, breathed a

final breath over water deep down
in those shafts, and think too of the staircase

so decayed that I outtaxed its strength
and shot through heel and all.

I had gone there to see if in a chink or much
too loose a joint they still were lying there concealed.

I hear the dance of copper on the stairs,
all that babbling speech along your shins,

and still recall, father, that even then I found
it strange: the quarters fell the quickest,

the smallest one farthest, the lightest one lowest.

Saturday 13 February 2010

A poem by the Flemish writer Erwin Mortier

Augustine’s Confession
(book fourteen)

Long have I read man
thumbed the registers of the eye
read the dialect that governs arms
legs peritoneum –
and the binary code of sex
and the tectonic urge that on a counte-
nance makes continents quake
cleaves the masses there turns oceans
of silence red, to ice. Long have I plunged
myself into man among the canopy
which their confusion of tongues erects
eaten screwed like a hermit
read my way through the flesh of man
with the malleable dictionary
that shrouds me. My vertebrae
are still grinding through the alpha-
numerical thrashing. What then

is man am I that wandering Babel
this contrary concert? I trembled
when I read my hypotheses my lemmas
without lock I felt the dread. And found

Thee. Placed Thee behind my lines.
God plug in my bath my
close-fitting tub. Then secretly

peed in Thee.

Thursday 11 February 2010

A cycle of poems by the Dutch poet Frank Koenegracht



FIRST, old-man freshwater guide, first
you stood fairly straight
in your boat with pennies
in post-war light.

Your idiotic brother scratched at night
in vain at the varnish
for no one inside
was allowed to recall

how you could have been.
Well, he’s still alive for
I saw him recently.
Still alive.

Then, old-man freshwater guide, then
a hole was punched
in your stomach as
big as an afternoon’s fishing,

but you rode right through it
on your solex and went on living.
The rest is bread and milk, beef
on Sundays and their collected works.

Now, old-man freshwater guide,
now you’ve got me
but then again not. I’m
not much of an angler

and I snow or rise a bit
and I always see everything small.
As small as you saw things
through your sight-glass of jenever.

Come on, let’s go piking and anyone
seeing us standing there will think:
that son doesn’t fish
far from his father.


LITTLE by little my father’s forgotten
all that he knew just a moment ago.

His brains are birds that go flitting past.
No cows that leave an impression in the earth.

My father was fond of clouds,
but clouds are forgetful mountains

and leave no impression in the sky
and no one will blame them for that.

Blaming won’t help anyway for
clouds do not know what they do.


HE addressed all his colleagues
and all birds alike.
Such is the gentleness of a man.
Starlings, big chickens, sparrows
were all lads.
To a blackbird in the garden he said:
what’s up then me’lad
but it was really to me.


ACROSS the sky sailed sedate mountains.
My father seemed fond of those things
and their strange communications
hanging above the houses, the bridges and the hedges.
And above the stretches of water where the fish were. At times
you had to be on the lookout for it,
just as for managers.


SOMEBODY must have slandered him
otherwise he would not stand so strangely in the room,
so leaden.

The law said that fishing with live bait was prohibited.
My father said: I have always treated
whitefish decently, lad, never a hook
in their back, always in their mouth.

Somebody must have slandered him.


SO THIS is my father.
Slow enough and carelessly protected
wearing trousers of forty-eight guilders
hoisted all the way to his tits
unmessably high and unbearably light.


CLOSE BY two or three feet away hovers
a tiny 14 x 26 cm plane, blue-grey
with red edges round it,
controlled by a helpless little woman
that’s easily put together
out of what’s left from a ball of wool, stockings,
a small necklace.

Although everyone’s asleep and has laid down
their weapons the atmosphere can be cut with a knife.

Against the window trails the yellowed land snail.


I HAVE myself never
wanted to be a doomed poet, but
my father with the gentlest glee would
definitely have forbidden it
He was against any stumbling
into the wrong rented house
but above all against unrecognisedness.

He realised that unrecognisedness
is a way of being mistaken.


AND THE wind took its rest
and the evening fell and the rain
crept gently over the fields.

It’ll be a calm twilight, we said,
a porcelain evening and old-lady night

will soon be here with her big feet
and her small face.

Friday 5 February 2010

A poem by the Flemish poet Thierry Deleu


Her ear against my cheek
on a grass-blade of the water
looking in amazement how
a fan of pastel shades

colours from watery green
to deep-pink – sunrise
like a copper sphere spatters
the new day open dowses

nature with dazzling light
a crow astonishingly close
shatters the silence with laughter.
Cautiously I unbutton the

flowers of her cotton cardigan
that she has grown out of.
The scent of fresh cow dung
tingles our senses.

Monday 1 February 2010

A poem by the Dutch writer Peter Swanborn

B. and numbers uncountable,
initials unknown

A mountain stream in Norway,
late seventies, binoculars for
birds and neighbours, but suddenly
there was my father splashing around.

His nakedness new, so too his
pleasure. Unaware of being spied on
he enjoyed sun and water, not being
a chauffeur or breadwinner for a moment.

I was shocked at my shock, not being able
to avert my eyes, the glasses
from shame like a rifle at the ready.

Now he’s mouldering in his best suit, I
spy each day for prey splashing around.
Nobody sees me. They’re enjoying themselves.

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