Saturday 28 July 2012

Nijhoff sonnet - 'Impasse' - in English translation


We stood there in the kitchen, she and I.
I’d had the thought for days: ask her today.
Ashamed to ask, I waited for the stray
unguarded moment, though, to make my try.

But seeing her now busy at her tasks
and realising that I had the chance
she’d answer without thinking in advance,
What would you have me write about? I asked.

Just then the whistling kettle starts to blow,
concealing her in rushing steam that soars
through slanting window up to purple rain.

And she replies, while drop by drop she pours
the boiling water on the coffee grains
and the aroma spreads out: I don’t know.

Friday 13 July 2012

Poem by Jan Glas, who writes in Gronings (Low Saxon) + his own Dutch translation + English

Blonde knecht

Wat ik ook schrief
ik blief n boer.
Boer mit ain knecht.
Blonde knecht ien
blaauw overaal.
Zun schient, knecht

en boer rusten op
t laand en zomor
streelt knecht
boer zien waang
en zegt:
‘wat n laive boer.’

En boer wordt rös om
kop, kikt over t laand
en schut ien t ìn
‘deur mor weer’, zegt
boer ‘wie monnen nog
ale gedichten melken.'

De blonde knecht

Wat ik ook schrijf
ik blijf een boer.
Een boer met één knecht.
Een blonde knecht
in een blauwe overall.
De zon schijnt,

knecht en boer
rusten op het land
en zomaar streelt de knecht
de wang van de boer
en zegt:
‘Wat een lieve boer’.

En de boer bloost,
kijkt over het land
en schiet overeind.
‘Verder maar weer, ‘
zegt de boer, ‘we moeten nog
alle gedichten melken’.

The fair-haired farm-hand

No matter what I write
I will stay a farmer.
A farmer with one farm-hand.
A fair-haired farm-hand
in blue overalls.
The sun shines,

farm-hand and farmer
are resting on the land
and just like that the farm-hand
strokes the farmer’s cheek
and says:
‘What a dear sweet farmer.’

And the farmer blushes,
looks over the land
and gets to his feet.
‘Back to work then,’
he says, ‘we’ve still
all the poems to milk.’

For more information on Gronings, go to here

Poem by the Dutch writer
Peter van Lier


Dear gossamer-winged ones,

The mayflies or dayflies (order Ephemeroptera) form a                 
most lamentable group within your ranks. Their brief

maturity in particular really touches me, assuming they have not
before their time become the prey of fish, songbird, spider or

dragonfly. Eating is not even in the picture, with mouth parts so
rudimentary and non-functioning that  I, by way of compensation,

would gladly place my small family car (Fiat, type Panda, nice and light), with
myself as chauffeur, possessing good straight shoulders,

at their disposal, so that the most magnificent views lie in the
offing for the well-developed male’s eyes and a

nuptial flight a hundred kilometres farther on, with females unthought-of.

    Yours faithfully.

Thursday 12 July 2012

Jacques Bloem, the Dutch poet, in typical mood


The window open, I grant autumn passage -
The inexpressible, that as of old
And still the same. My one desire, all told,
Is this: to always love its message.

This life held little to be won in store.
It does not matter now. Defence is vain
If one considers all the world-old pain
Of countless billions who have gone before.

Youth is all restlessness and a bemused

Great yearning to have loved ones time can't best –
And loneliness a source of loss, a curse.

All that is past, and life is almost used.
In solitude the heart can now find rest.
And then: one’s life could well have been much worse.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Poem from Komrij's 'Spaans benauwd' (2005)


Within my brain no shadow of
Some heavy guilt since birth –
I did not know the fado of
The last man here on earth –

When young I saw the world bright-eyed –
And there were children just like me –
I swam along on every tide
Contented as can be.

In dreams I grimly turned the screw,
Remorse, no, not a shred –
Now I am human, good and true
And live in mortal dread –

Famous poem by the Swedish poet Karin Boye

I would meet…

Upright, armed, encased in armour
I strode out -
though with chain-mail forged of shame and
fearful doubt.

I would cast aside my weapons,
sword and shield.
All the outer hostile husk that
kept me chilled.

I have seen the dry seeds at long
last unfurl.
I have seen the light-green leaves as
they uncurl.

Tender life has force with which no
iron contends,
surfacing from earth’s deep heart with
no defence.

Where I froze in winter wastes dawn
springs afresh.
I would meet life’s mighty forces

Sunday 8 July 2012

Another Komrij poem


Line one is simply there to get things going.
Line two is line eleven when up-ended.
Line three’s to gain a bit more ground for hoeing.
Line four rhymes with line two - that’s what’s intended.

Line five gives you a sudden spiteful zap.
Line six’s a dozen that’s been split in two.
Line seven’s such an awful load of crap,
Line eight’s dead serious - vice versa, too.

Line nine repeats a now familiar ditty.
Line ten could turn out quite a disillusion
Line eleven’s eleventh - more’s the pity.
Line twelve’s a nothing’s ultimate conclusion.

Friday 6 July 2012

Poem sequence by the Dutch poet Gerrit Komrij



Verse can be pulled on like a pair of pants:
Tight, loose, to size, to suit your mood the while.
There are for each imaginable stance
Yet other pants. (Priest’s garb is unistyle.)

When reckless - jazzy coloureds are your pick.
A thin stripe - when capricious - lends you flair.
Though white for whims or daring’s also slick.
A poet cuts a figure everywhere.

He can, if death his poet’s heart sore squeezes,
Compose a solemn hymn on Edam cheeses,
Though also wildly weep in his distress.

Or he forgets the pain. The cheese, no less.
Makes fun of it, as through the nets he eases.
He shrugs it off, is free once more from stress.


Let’s say you want to write a poem about an
Egg, you would let that egg, with quite astounding,
Sounding magic, float through woods to outer
Reaches, where you’d let it - like a confounding,

Egg-shaped pumping-engine - dip and soar!
You’d alternate egg-colour in confusion -
Now blue, now yellow. Or: on its shell-floor
You’d paint great marguerites in wild profusion.

The egg would wax and wane, the poet can
Do all - for him it’s just a piece of cake
To make uneggy what as egg began.

A sickly man, a fan-shaped host of spikes.
And then a cookie, or a lady’s bike.
No real verse, though - unless the egg should break.


It breaks. The yolk’s no joke - what does the poet?
He festoons frills and garlands round his person,
Like some decked maypole. Lovelier still - to show it
He sarabandes and does his samba version.

He plays for monarch and he plays for beggar.
The flowers sway with him, birds explode in flashes
Above his head, the reddish sun glows redder.
He finds a way to flaunt a feast of fashions.

At night he plays for bailiff and for debtor.
He plays for this and that - the ranting male.
His eyes turn red as cherry-stones - uncanny -

And he’s now warbling like a nightingale.
He thinks of everything, the yolk excepted,
And, tired from dancing, parks on it his fanny.


What do you do, with egg-stain on your bum?
You feel so sticky, look a little glum.
And mum’s the word. For if no stain had come
To grace your arse, it would have been such fun.

Why did the egg not vanish in a trice?
Why such a cinch to make a lady’s bike?
Wasn’t it too a fan-shaped host of spikes?
And now there’s this adornment on your bike.

You still feel, in your pants with yellow pickings,
Now only fancied by some rangy chickens,
Just what a silly idiot you have been.

You’d best give up your antics - what a curse!
You’d better take your pants off, Harlequin,
And in the buff in future write your verse.

Thursday 5 July 2012

Two poems from the very latest collection 'Live' by the Danish writer Klaus Høeck


                  up in the curve just
after hindevadgaard and
                  the property where
                  the producer of
the blue pesticide to kill
                  snails lives out on
                  rugaard landevej
a hells angels rocker killed
                  himself by driving
                  his motorcycle
straight into a combine har
                  vester at high speed

                  for several days
the place where it happened was
                  marked by a bouquet
                  of flowers which con
sisted of white carnations
                  of yellow lilies
                  and dark red roses
almost as in a sonnet
                  by petrarch and to
                  this very day there
are fragments of a lamp that
                  somebody lit there

                  if the motorcyc
list’s own wish were to have been
                  fulfilled there is now
                  one angel less here
on this earth and one angel
                  more in hell unless
                  it happens to be
so that these two names now and then
                  on religious hol
                  idays that aren’t fixed
actually refer to
                  one and the same place


                  independence day
we ought to find ourselves out
                  at rebild bakker
                  but make do with tom
merup stationsby which in
                  its own way is just
                  as beautiful and
compensates with a sending
                  mast and an arms dump
                  where it’s possible
to buy sporting rifles pump
                  guns and air pistols

yet another michael fall
                  en while fighting sat
                  an who this time is
dressed up in a soft hat and
                  white tennis socks this
                  time disguised with a
kind of face mask just like the
                  one worn by michael
                  jackson this time o
ver there somewhere or other
                  in america

                  independence day
in tommerup stationsby
                  where i procure am
                  munition for my
self what i mean is: rather
                  end up in a hell
                  of the brave than in
the paradise of the toad
                  ies and the redeemed
                  independence day
and the sunset flying with
                  all kinds of insects

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Higgs boson poem by the Norwegian writer Torild Wardenær

Inheritance CCCXXXIX

While the Higgs boson gnaws

Now as before we are in a jumble of light and gases

half-covered by our dark shells.
We look around us, presumptuous, as if we had
faceted eyes, or were on the brink of a new era.
But the world is coarse-grained and unpolished and considers us with a
cyclopean gaze.

Meanwhile earth plates and seasons shift, the Silurian grass

is followed by clubmoss and corn spurrey, the fields
are ploughed and ploughed so grains and mustard can grow, but the light
as usual devours everything in its path and enters us heavily and wildly
while the Higgs boson, not unlike an elf’s tooth, gnaws at most of what it comes across.

This though is difficult to prove.
The Cambrian mist still lies thick, and accuracy is low.
Practically only the sun rates among the sharpshooters, and it takes on no apprentice
but burns itself up along with all its medals.

Poem by the Norwegian writer
Georg Johannesen (1931-2005)

Ars poetica

The idiot may seem full of hope
but he only studies his bare hands
His eye’s gaze sees the bottom of Mimir’s well

A Japanese haiku is empty as the whole world
Greek epigrams are smoke signals behind low mountains
Recent poetry weather forecasts between two ice ages

The boy with a heart condition sang so beautifully
with his blue lips: The songs became visible
in golden drips from a leaky gutter

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Another Barcarole by the Danish writer J.L. Heiberg


Wave so light! though blue your furrow,
Bright, transparent, clear in tone,
’Tis the sky’s tints that you borrow,
Since no colour is your own.
Not the sky, but its poor image
Rests in your profound embrace;
Longing’s end can’t be envisaged,
Like your lack, it grows apace.

Wave! where you run clearest all the
Sky is mirrored in full state;
Ah! your longing but recalls the
Thought of what fate separates.
Heart! now cease your loud complaining!
Nature’s lack is just the same;
Be content, though nought’s remaining
But an image and a name.

Monday 2 July 2012

A poem by the Danish writer
Klaus Rifbjerg


I’m the one who’s painted
the pictures at the Skagen museum.

I said to myself
that is your life and then
I began to paint.

I think it all started with the lunch picture
I got so hungry
felt quite at home.

I painted Krøyer and Drachmann
Tuxen, Ancher – her and him
and all the others
right down to Tørsleff.

It was a colossal undertaking
but I was feeling fine
so that didn’t matter.

Drachmann helped me a bit
and Krøyer
we talked a lot
and drank just a little.

We looked at Skagen
painted lots of pictures
brought out the light
but most perhaps a way of life
our own
the one I fell for.

I remember the hours
with Krøyer’s wife
beneath the elders at Drachmann’s,
the burgundy in those heavy glasses
and everything seen
in summer images
as if it was all long over.

I remember the evenings at the Prong
the waters that met
and the trouble getting the colours
to toe the line
after all I was the one who was going
to paint everything
wanted to paint everything
before it was no longer there.

There was a scent of death
idyll and linen drawers with lavender
about my Skagen canvases,
but there was plenty of life
back then
there was that.
We got up from the table
after the long drawn-out lunch
and the voices had become more subdued.
We stood in the twilight
before going home our separate ways
but it was hard to take our leave.

Then Anna Ancher turned round
and said:
We’re going to sleep now.
She took her husband’s arm,
went with him through the gate
and slowly everyone followed suit.
The steps died away between
the houses
the host put out his lamp
it was too late to do any more painting.