The 10th edition of Poëzieweek (Poetry Week) has just ended. Over 120 activities happened in The Netherlands and Vlaanderen (the Northern, Dutch-speaking part of Belgium). Some of these will continue during the year.
The theme this time was Nature. During any year there are a several ‘book’ weeks in The Netherlands and readers can claim a free book when they purchase up to a given amount. As poetry books are expensive here, the sum of Euro 12,50 was easily reached!
The Dutch-Palestinian author and actor Ramsey Nasr was commissioned to write the poetry gift this year. He is well-known, as he was the Dichter des Vaderlands (the unofficial title for poet laureate) during 2009 – 2012.
The pamphlet with 10 poems is well produced on quality paper. It’s based on the hundreds of letters Van Gogh wrote from his youth until his death in 1890. Under the motto Blossoming and Abundance, the poet has selected and re-arranged Van Gogh’s words. The two blue horizontal lines on the cover indicate caesuras. These return in the text as thin blue vertical lines, showing where Nasr has deleted a word or several phrases from the original text.
I love how Ramsey Nasr has distilled the essence of Van Gogh. It is a very interesting way of using found material. Here are my translations of a few parts of some of his poems.
let us | find a task
that forces us to quietly | sit
busy with work that is simpler
than | tasks that | are useful
i am no better than another |
am not like a street pump | from stone | or iron |
i send you | the night |
the moon | cypresses |
it cannot | remain like it is now |
burn rather than choke |
a door must be open or closed
something in-between i do not understand
the mediterranean has a colour like | mackerel |
you don’t know | if it is green or purple
you don’t know | if it is blue for a second later
the constantly changing reflection has
taken on a pink or grey tinge |