notes on dutch literature

Poetry from the Netherlands

In More poetry please on November 7, 2012 at 7:48 AM

Landscape with Rowers

But what about the poetry? I can hear you say…The rich poetry of the Netherlands stays more or less a secret for the rest of the world, mostly due to the status of Dutch as a “minor” language spoken by only twenty-two million people. Though the Netherlands has been the site of vigorous literary activity since at least the “Beweging van Vijftig” (Movement of the Fifties) poets.

Nobel prize winner J.M. Coetzee translated six for he most important modern and contemporary Dutch poets (side-by-side with the original text) in Landscape with Rowers in 2004.

His selection ranges in style from the rhetorical to the intensely lyrical, including examples of myth-influenced modernist verse, nature poetry, experimental poetry, poems conscious of themselves within a pan-European avant-garde. The poets represented are Gerrit Achterberg, Hugo Claus, Cees Nootenboom, Sybren Polet, Hans Faverey, and my personal favorite Rutger Kopland.

Eric Ormsby in the New York Sun

“The book has been lovingly and beautifully produced… I was struck by how much more starkly and conspicuously the effort to grapple with the horrific century just past comes through in the writings of smaller nations…Mr. Coetzee’s translations of these cool and astringent poems read well…By relying on slant or partial rhymes, he often succeeds in conveying the music of the originals–no mean feat.”


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