Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Groyne by Willem van Toorn


The slanting grey stones. Grass in between. 
Halfway a hollow pollard with a deformed heart 
in the bark and initials of dead lovers long ago. 
At the end the wooden beacon. If you swim 
there, the eddies pull you down without mercy. 
The drawing in my uncle's scout book, arrows 
show precisely how you must let yourself be 
dragged down into the depths and then escape 
along the bottom 'with a few firm strokes'. The 
priest or curate who went rowing with three 
boys near the point and capsized. Days later, the 
bodies were washed ashore, near groynes by 
distant villages. Only catholics could be that 

Original title: Krib - From the collection: Dooltuin - 1995 - Em. Querido's Uitgeverij B.V. - Amsterdam

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Love at first sight by Hans van den Bos

Love at first sight

A house for herself and her
children she could forget
with only a widow's pension.
An education she'd never had,
except two years domestic science.
All she could do was find a man,
who would support her
and both her children.

Young woman, twenty-nine years old,
widow with two children, seeks
acquaintance with man of same age,
with a view to a serious relationship.

This advertisement she placed,
on the advice of her friend,
in a local newspaper, because
living in with her parents,
was a dead-end situation.
A letter, unexpected,
came from the east of the town,
he twenty-six years old,
still living with his mother,
a member of the Salvation Army.
Probably love at first sight,
because a short time later
they were married.

Original title: Liefde op het eerste gezicht

Friday, 14 December 2018

Lament by Remco Campert


Here now along the long deep water
that I thought that I thought that you would always
that you would always

here now along the long deep water
where behind reed beds behind reed beds the sun
that I thought that you always would always

that always your eyes your eyes and the air
always your eyes and the air
always rippling in the water rippling

that always in living silence
that I always should live in living silence
that you would always that waving reed always

along the long deep water that always your skin
that always at midday your skin
always in summer at midday your skin

that always your eyes would break
that always from joy your eyes would break
always in the calm midday

along the long deep water that I thought
that I thought that you would always
that I thought that joy would always

that always the light still at midday
that always the midday light your olive-skinned shoulder
your olive-skinned shoulder always in the midday light

that alway your cry hanging
always your bird cry hanging
at midday in the summer in the air

that always the living air that always
always the rippling water at midday your skin
I thought that everything would always I thought that never

here now along the long deep water that never
I thought that always that never that you never
that frost never that no ice ever the water

here now along the long deep water I thought never
that snow ever the cypress I thought never
that snow never the cypress that you never more

Original title: Lamento From the collection: Dichter - Uitgeverij De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam - 1995

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Dublin by Frank van Dijl

Frank van Dijl [1951]
photo Internet

Everyone in Dublin has the same popish
puppy-face that you still see in remote 
parishes in the south of the Low Countries,
which have only just been connected to 
the telegraph and telephone net.
The Irish: palefaces with water-colour freckles 
and lifeless eyes that at any
moment can drown in tears. Indeed,
drowning sorrow in drink is what they do best:
when you give them a pint they will wag 
their tails and growl in gratitude. 
Sometimes, it is said, they lick your hand.
After closing time, far too early of course,
they piss, one paw up, against the pub.

In almost everything they imitate the English,
but after all, how long haven't these been their 
bosses? So it's bacon and eggs in the morning,
tea with milk, sandwiches for lunch, tea
with milk, a bit later afternoon tea, with milk,
and in the evening steak and kidney pie with
far too big, far too green peas. Just like the
English they drive on the left, although it makes 
no difference on their narrow roads where you drive.
And they speak English: the bilingual
street signs are only there for show,
just like The Irish Times has a little corner
left for an article in Gaelic.
A stray dog is dead happy with the smallest bone.

It is a long way to Tipperary:
the dog, dead tired, drags his paw.
Oh, sure, Ireland is stunning, with mountains
and valleys, and the Irish whiskey is
good to drink: I know all about it.
But James Joyce wrote his best books somewhere else,
though of course, in the museum dedicated to him 
in Dublin, they don't tell you that,
and Kennedy became America's president.
Ireland is not a country, it is an island,
and it isn't even that. No one feels called to greatness, 
meekly they walk the streets, thanking God 
that at least there are potatoes again.
Then what the hell was I doing in Dublin?

I, who went swinging in London, Paris or 
Berlin, entered – madness - 
the kite of Aer Lingus and read sweating 
how I should act in case of emergency.
I sought oblivion in alcohol. The drink 
against fear of death, which I didn't seek here, 
consoled my body, and my limbs acted 
as if it was normal to be Icarus.
No city beneath me, Dublin is a hole 
between mountains of cardboard, a decor for 
cheap tragedies without a heldentenor.
I, Icarus, fell. It didn't help to call out.
Who would save me: I fell with them. But just as
the sea is good enough for the sailor, I was content.

Original title: Dublin From: De Tweede Ronde, tijdschrift voor literatuur, herfst 1981 - Uitgeverij Bert Bakker, Amsterdam

Monday, 5 March 2018

ars poetica by C. Buddingh'

ars poetica
C. Buddingh' [1918-1985]

I remember as if it were only yesterday
(I was maybe 22): I sat
brooding over a poem, and near the window
my mother was peeling the potatoes

the verse was not working: my back was
dripping with sweat and I thought with annoyance:
how in the name of god can one
write poetry in the same room
someone is peeling potatoes ?

That evening, when everyone was sleeping, I finished
the verse: it was an exceptionally bad verse

and I understood only very much later: the best
poetry is written while peeling potatoes

Original title: 'ars poetica' -from the collection 'Is dit genoeg: een stuk of wat gedichten -  honderd jaar Noord- en Zuidnederlandse poëzie (1880-1980) in dertig thema's - dl.II - samengesteld door C. Buddingh' en Eddy van Vliet - 1982 - Uitgeverij Elsevier Manteau, Amsterdam/Antwerpen

Friday, 2 March 2018

Something about music in March by Jaap Harten

Something about music in March
Jaap Harten

From my window
I see tomcat Ape sneaking over
the gutter of the neighbour's shed.

Grey skin against grey
roof tiles, a drizzly sky
above it and in the background

the RC graveyard with a lilac
prelate. Today an important person will be
committed to the earth there.

Starchy or dejected (who can say?)
the bereaved trudge, friends,
housekeepers, etc. behind the coffin.

It is 12th March, cutting bleakly in shrubs
and wreath ribbons: tears might also
be brought about by the lashing wind.

Always looking at tombstones
leads to too much organ music at home.
Why not play a LP with the
sonatina of Ravel for once?

Consolation is not for sale. Years
pass by and I'm off now to buy
luncheon meat; life goes on

they say. Even so, while shopping, I worry
about the right music at my cremation:
Satie too modish, Bach too outmoded.

I'd choose Greta Keller with Dis-mois je t'aime
a scratchy little record from the meagre
thirties, but the favourite

song of Dior. It would match my
French ties, boots and glasses.
I never really felt I belonged in

Holland, rather to German drag
or Indonesian boy. Honestly, I
am at an utter loss in this country.

Original title: 'Iets over muziek in maart' -from the collection 'Poëzie is en daad van bevestiging' - Noord- en Zuidnederlandse poëzie van 1945 tot heden - gebundeld en ingeleid door C. Buddingh' en Eddy van Vliet - 1984 - Uitgeverij Manteau Amsterdam