Saturday, July 31, 2010

Life Writing

One would think that it really makes no sense this whole "life writing" at this point in time, the topic seems rather overrated for most modern men and women; we have all grown into that of kind of utterances and they seem to hold little power to entice us, year after year, in inexorable engagements and entanglements, the word "life" seems to gain just about enough deeps to stretch little beyond its biological and ultimately bodily channel of meaning. Since there are times less than optimistic, most of us surrender to the pressure exerted on us by the endless chains of demands made by modern life. Whoever were to strike a conversation about what it is that we mean by life, or by writing about life, of course we would think immediately of the personal journal, no longer a literary gender but a productive activity of language and self-understand instead. There are all different styles of journals, perhaps most closely associated with a copious industry of films and other entertainment for teenagers; as we know from the long history of literature there have existed since immemorial times travel logs, personal letters, accounting documents and the like, which fall under this rubric, but seldom have we found in them true literary expression. The high-brow end of the academic line of argument would also tell us about the German Romantic movement, in particular of Friedrich Schlegel and of "life as writing" which shaped those long by-gone, yet pregnant and exasperating times. Life was reduced to a solipsism of sort whose only purpose to be lived, was to be at last written down. This process, far from the solitary cries of medieval love poetry, first condemned and now praised, because of the frequent homosexual themes, might have its foremost modern root in the writing of Rousseau, under whose spell, many of the early Romantic writers fell. It was more than anything an attempt to tell the story of the "I", in a way such as no one had done it before.

Ever since then there's a great deal we've learnt from personal writing, as an expression of selfness and selfhood, we have made sure to scrutinize with care all the personal correspondence of as many writers, politicians and intellectuals, as it has been possible. Not only we have learnt the movitations behind their actions and their thoughts, their written thoughts as they have come down to us, but viciously enough, we have taken their personal motivations to trial and have judged their love affairs, their passions, their melancholy, their glee, everything, and to no avail. There's nothing more useless than a dead writer, so many would say today, and then there's also the anthropological turn in the humanities (referred as to the science of anthropology and not anthropological as concerned with man and man alone) that under the commercial name of "Structuralism" has been up and around in the market for nearly a hundred years (but gaining great power after the social revolutions that shook Europe in the 1960's and that it seems today were everything but social or revolutionary, at least according to some very opinionated elements of the bourgueoisie) preaching on the basis of examining documents of countless indigenous cultures of the world and in languages none of us know, that there's really no such a thing as literature but rather a dynamic of power, of knowledge as power nurtured by the theo-political history of the Western canon in which certain works have been elevated to the stature of this so-called metaphysical institution of "literature", whereas the reality (a term that our great social scientists have so oddly failed to define that we are not sure anymore whether the serfs of the good dead god did too bad a job) of things is that all human expressions are equally valuable as long as they are expressing the manifold possibilities of human language. So let us assume that there's no such a thing as literature and that it is all in all possible that there're no different aesthetic standards to judge the difference between the Diary of Anne Frank and all of modernist literature altogether. This would be pretty nice indeed, so many people would be saved from the precarious usefulness of learning the likes of literary criticism in college.

So literature is a political devise after all, in which case, this fallacy of the canon has existed since Classical Greece, and it is but the poor self, the victim of this colonial, imperialist and subtle magic spell, because of all the failed writers that this has produced after all; not that too many people could read and write in the golden age of either Greece or the Netherlands, but then there is the blogosphere today crowded with endless numbers of petit anglaises, truthseekers, hairsplitters and worldskeptics. If anyone had the time or the material resources to explore with care the writing of so many modern people, he would be likely to find a few good authors in an ocean of what we would not call failed writers, because they were not trying their hand at literature anyway. What there is, is a mass number of everyday men and women trying to speak their minds out in this new international, cross-cultural and somewhat lawless mediatic platform. The overbearing number of pages written everyday attest perhaps not to the fact that people are more willing to write than in previous generation or even to the fact that life is more interesting today; if anything we could play the devil's advocate in saying that most people actually have little time for "writing" in the proper sense of the word, even within their limited professional circles. What is becoming manifest here is that people communicate less and less, and that the big open wide world is in fact a place much, much smaller than the planet earth but more like a global village which is in fact very much a village like those portrayed either with yearning by Hamsun or with irony, by Kafka. A village of nameless unrelated dwellers, a very small place in a no man's land. People feel just too ought to write about their own lives, and the psychological aftereffect of this is not only that classical case of drawing attention, but of the rather poor quality of everyday language. The effect of this language is much less powerful than the language of the old faiths, for it seems unable to stand on its own but rather acts as a bridge in between the satisfaction of bodily pleasures, which boldly speaking, is the only satisfaction that modern men, with their disparaged experience of time (time as not being dead yet), can understand.

There's this undeniable craving for experience which men are seeking in the most varied activities that would hardly count as experience in the sense of unmediated interaction with the world in which knowledge doesn't interfere; entertainment in all of its forms and the debauchery of sexuality seem to stand rather as way to learn the world in all the emotional connonation this has, rather than as pure experience. The activity of writing and the attention it receives from other human viewpoints is one of the rawmost forms of experience available to people nowadays by means of which they construct themselves and they disclose their sense of being in the world. We might be as well fed up with the endless tide of self-help books that are immediately best sellers and that if they were to constitute real spiritual enterprises in building the world, should be offered freely and the speakers not paid huge amounts of money to speak to the leading partners of multinational companies but rather broadcasted on nationwide television. We should sheer away from this thinking of both life and writing as commodities and begin to consider them as facts of our worldly existence, of the intensity with which the world can be loved and experienced for what it is, in its sheer whatness of character. The technical possibilities afforded by the internet make us look less than dull primitives, for we speak often in smoke signs and scribbles of Altamira rather than in the highly organized language of fully developed human societies; we seem to take just as much pride in our unhappiness as we take offense on those who actively seek it outside the realm of purely material satisfaction. It is them, our capitalist friends, running the world from the international corporations, who might stand for the most religious people of this world down and below, for their trust in a material and reckless version of human existance has gone so far as to prove its own dogma, that even medieval metaphysicians would have been embarrassed about themselves in purview of the great might of this modern revolution of restaurants, shopping malls and sex parties. Less is more. No, you're wrong. All is not enough.

We are not getting any smarter from this point onwards, and the complacency afforded by this postmodern sleaze of liberty might only by overlap coincide with the liberal definition of freedom as "non-domination" upon which has haunted the fate of a great deal of political thought. The village grows smaller and smaller and the non-domination far more performative, so that soon there might be enough empty space around it to begin a new world, without the chains of the old one, but without the global or the village. That world might as well begin in Wall Street or at the Zuidas in Amsterdam, if they want to give it a little royal charm - for it seems there are some cozy restaurants around there, with English menus and dirt cheap prices. Before they accomplish that of course the internet will be a great venue to do away with our languages and our cultures and replace them with icons so that people can matchmake their own sex dates without typing so much, because the age of the greatest technological possibilities is also the age of the greatest ignorance that has ever prevailed in all possible fields of knowledge so that Einstein might have been writing in asserting that the next war after the next will be fought not with weapons of mass destruction but with sticks and rods. It is not ignorance what makes people unhappy indeed, but the complete lack of serendipity. Our manager friends might be so sure by now that they rule the world and that Europe is dead, that it is no more and that happily the world is run now by China and the USA. Of course it never occurred to them to think even for a moment that no Western civilization can exist without Europe as the theo-political sphere of unity that it has been for over a thousand years and of course it didn't occur to them that it was the struggle within Europe's own tradition what enabled this modern world to unfold as it has, for the good and for the bad. We can rest assured that they will be happy to invent another set of myths, much more radical than Christianity's, certainly a godless China would have no problem in a new political mythology, but then that would be hardly necessary, for the world will be nicely interconnected in bigger and larger global villages with the same restaurants, modern museums and flat complexes, so that it will be no longer necessary to move elsewhere to pursue happiness or intellect, for anyone. This is the only reason why people should write about their lives, and continue doing is... In this activity we hold perhaps the only possible expectation that people might really want this world and no other, that they love it with the truths and untruths implied in its order of reality. The multinational corporations are still too lazy and their godlessness is still too fresh in the history of mankind to overpower millions of men and women in their attempt to find a home in the world within the specificity of their own rootedness and in the love of some particular persons and no others; their religion of endless and reckless acquisiton of wealth at the expense of all the rest seems to be entirely resolute to outdo this world, it might be even the most radical version of Christianity seen until now, the most otherworldly enterprise ever begun, more than Augustine's Ecclesiology and Constantine's conversion of the Empire; not to mention the help provided by our very friendly buddies in the sand dunes to fuel it all. The great problem with it all is that they have no authority from anywhere other than their pockets and that people in the world, unfortunately, are still looking for love, in the most classical and political sense of the word, so that they might come and go, but people's faith in the love of the world might still exist, and there might be then, a much fruitful and varied assortment of testimony to this today than there was ever. It might be that we are are being called to a truer unreligion, which is not atheism or just sensuality, something much more radical than all this, something like a faith of neighbourly love. There's little doubt that capitalism, sensuality, atheism, Christianity, globalization, self-help books and a whole deal of modern sciences, are nothing but different brand names for the same old religion that has existed for as long as man has used not the power of violence, but the power of love, to subject another man, and this goes back, well, a long time.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

David V

"Then one morning about eleven o’clock, as she stood by the open window and looked out over the sea with sad, yearning eyes, she heard the notes of a piano sound softly through the house, as if it were in gentle accord with wind and waves. The music was so quick, so smooth, so wonderfully fluent and masterly, so sure and firm, like an army of splendid beings bringing her tidings of peace and love".

"To Hedwig, who was so anxious to get well that, like all melancholy people, she was always thinking about her own condition, this meeting seemed to be a blessing sent to do her good. For this man possessed the power of raising her mind out of the drifting sands of melancholy and sinful imaginings. If he would only play to her".

-Frederik van Eeden, "Van de koele mere des doods"

"How could I leave?"
He asked himself
Though, he had never been there
But he jotted down the maps
Of the parks and of the jolts
Remembered pathways back home
Down the alleys, rained upon
Charcoal passages
That divided the other writer
From the true object of his affections
He wondered where could home be
What it would be like
Had he been not so late in life
Drawing sketches of the space
In his mind, awake all night
Trying not to think of illness
Of the irreparable damage
In the eye, the ear and the hand
In the walls, at the prison
He drew fountain springs
Thus, while bleeding
Navigating in this last breath
Of his own bodily life
He dreamt, for a last time
Swimming in the tiny rivers
Extending from the bed to the lightbulb
He had never seen something this beautiful
There was this tiny mountain, a hill
And an island, uninhabited, heavenly
Frozen waters surrounded it
Bathing the northern earth
In foams of grayest fogs
There were other moments
More perverse
He would not dare jot them down
They were like flights
At the expense of the canvas
Untouched by the world, by the blood
The eyes of a wolf, of erratic legs
Constant and transparent blue
Neutral to the language of the limbs
Only the glass could reach the lip
Tombstones afar
Travelling southwards
The first movements of the mouth
A big haul of fish for the fall
Receding toward the sorrow of the pencil
As if the flood of a tide
Swallowing big islands, then the immensity too
The physical pain again, steamrolls
First from the left eye, through the throat, into the back
Contaminated from the hairchest of former lovers
Now forgotten, condemned, unmentioned
Yet the skin still this soft, like paper, like the sun
Unused by the time, free and so unkind
So absolutely mortal, faithless, self-contained
When will I arrive there?
He asked himself
Though, he had never left
The heart knew well the maps
He could no longer feel
The motions, the jerks, the options
The city was still there
An empty bed, bloodied and transparent
Crawling through fields of wheat and figs
Thousands of miles from afar
His body making love with the mud
And the stones, unconscious as he was
Drowning at last
With only one eye open
Through the viscous waters of silt
Watching abovewards
The airplanes flying abroad
So helpless this moment of love
He imagined the hours
And the minutes, the years after the hours
Even the first time, after the last
Until the stream engulfed by the bridge
Would cut off his last glimpse, of this world
Beautiful as it was, unpromising, unsettling
He sent his love in a boat
That by mistake
Was bound for Rotterdam
Then he awoke
He wasn't dead
But yet, he wasn't there


Nearly ten years ago
That morning, the hereafter
There was me, collecting sand
Hoping for earth to stand
On its own, without feet or hands
Stanzas you wrote
So far away from home
Losing the mouth in galore
Another love had failed
Postcards were sent
As the oak burnt and bent

"But what does it mean to regret, when you have no choice?"

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you, life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children might live"-Deuteronomy 30-19

Standing always, 3:08
In the patio
Never a chair
A bank not even
Next to intoxicated
Chilled to the bones
A shivering leg
Always the red tiles
The endless yellowing light
Trust of the night
A truce, with the time
Praying for daytime
Never to arise
Frozen slumber
Cigarette butts
Waters turning around
One by one
In bricks
Emptying out the ocean
Until heavens
Will fall to the sand

"It would be wonderful, to say you regret it
It would be easy, to regret
But what does it mean to regret, when you have no choice?
It's what you can bear
It was death
I chose life"

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


"Deutschland? Aber wo liegt es? Ich weiss das Land nicht
zu finden,
wo das gelehrte beginnt, hört das politische auf"-Friedrich von Schiller

Seven hours later
The land I can never find
Slumber of the density
The street I can't recognize

Elsewhere I went
It ain't but a grave
The asphalt of sunlight
It ain't a creek, or a volcano

The morning whites wash away
In the earliest hours of heyday
The lucid dreams of hesper
They are cast off as the stranger

I read from a postcard
Over snow of an older winter
"There is only one village in the island.
A second village, was lost to the sea in 1736."

At the Zuiderduintjes

Passing through the fingers
In throbs, watered down
Miraculous dangers
Feed from mouth
Of a sanderling
The banks of daytime
With waterfalls
Of strange urges
To land home
Island stranded
Moonshine opaque
Of humid lights
That keep the traffic
From the windows
Of my ears
Vaguely so
And at the expense
Of newspapers
And motets
Simpler words
Emerging out
Of solid bodies
Flesh and water
Both in him
In a crater of bonds
Extending from south to north
In the search
For happier news
Than those of knowledge
Of the world
Creaturely bonds
Depart from his body
Cut across the land
Pierce the phones
The ropes
The new beds
The unloves
Unwoven the thread
There are no footsteps
We walk up again
All the way!
But I was there
Waiting for him
At the Zuiderduintjes

De Schilder bezoekt het strand (Hans v. de Waarsenburg, "Waar het blauw eindigt")

De Schilder bezoekt het strand

De zijn de bewegingen:

Een strandloper, een steltloper
vlucht voor the vloed

Nauwkeuring sprokkelen de ogen
soms heft hij het hoofd

Spreekt tot de einders
een overzijde onder handbereik

Zijn tong aarzelt
waar het blauw eindigt

The Painter visits the seashore

These are the motions:

A sanderling, a stilt-walker
In a flight, over the flood of the tide

The eyes gather, so carefully
Sometimes, a head tilts up

He speaks, to the skyline
At hindsight, the further side

The tongue vacillates
then, where the blue ends.

Windjammer II (Hans v. de Waarsenburg, "Waar het blauw eindigt")


De zeilen
waren het hart
van het schip

De wapperende
van het volk

op te tijd

Zo ver
het oog reikte

En wind zich boog
in eenzame monoloog

Wind Jammer

The sails
were the heart
of the boat

The thoughts
of the nation

in time

Reaching far
the eye

The wind is arched to bow along
In a solitary monologue

Windjammer I (Hans v. de Waarsenburg, "Waar het blauw eindigt")


Door wind bewogen, altijd
het kreunende hout
dat smeekte
om tewaterlating

gebogen in diepte
van wier en plankton

De buik vol verhalen:

!Tot het land
van de bizon
voeren wij!

Wind Jammer

Set in motion by the wind, always
moaning timber
for a launch out

bent in deeps
from seaweed, from plankton

A belly, full of tales:

!We are sailing
toward the land
of the ox!

Visser (Hans v. de Waarsenburg, "Waar het blauw eindigt")


onder water gespannen
zonder mazen

Geen vis balanceert
op het nylon

Het oppervlak
verdeelt de vangst
Geen visser
die het plankton omarmt

De buit
is de prijs
voor het wachten

achter de horizon


In strings under water

Not one fish even
held in suspension over nylon

The surface
divides up the haul of fish
No fisherman
that embraces plankton

The loot
is the price
of a long watch

past the horizon

Transparant (Hans v. de Waarsenburg, "Waar het blauw eindigt")


Met vloeipapier
plak je
de horizon

Om tijd
te verliezen
of de schaamte
van het licht

Dat stille

in wit


With blotting paper
you are glueing
the horizon
tightly so

To waste away time
or the shame
of the light

That quiescent

in white

Doek (Hans v. de Waarsenburg, "Waar het blauw eindigt")


het beeld uit
lijn voor lijn

Krimpt het in

Lengt de eb
het beeld an
tot verte

Rekt de naam
het doek
tot dorst

Tikt de vis
de achterkant


If by chance
you thrust the image
little by little

It shrinks

Watered down, ebbing the flow
the image
in the distance

The names are exacting
Upon the canvas
Until exhaustion

The fish, in tickles
against the limbs,
of the back

Horizon (Hans v. de Waarsenburg, "Waar het blauw eindigt")


De horizon
naar boven

De spiegel
van de zee

Het wrakhout

Koppig jaagt
de tijd


The horizon
from abovewards

The mirror
of the sea
under veil

The wreckage

The time in a hunt
Of stubborn pursuits

Uitspansel (Hans v. de Waarsenburg, "Waar het blauw eindigt")


Zo ver het
oog reikt

De mastel


dat spreekt

Tot het water


Reaching far
the eye

The mast


The figurehead, on the prow
It speaks

Until the water
Withers, silently

Beweging (Hans v. de Waarsenburg, "Waar het blauw eindigt")


de zeilen

Tot de


Het mes
Wordt gewet

Om de wolken
Te slechten


the sails

Until the


The knife

So that the clouds
will raze

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Het Boothuis te Laugharne (Hans v. de Waarsenburg, "Waar het blauw eindigt")

Het Boothuis te Laugharne

We drinken thee en schrijven ansichtkaarten
Licht van vergetelheid hangt over de lerse Zee
Verderop het watertrappen van de oceaan
Stanza's in een postuum toeristisch bestaan

Negenendertig, negenendertig. Nog enkele maanden te gaan
Hoe kun je dubbelzinniger sterven of verjaren
Als eb de dorst opsparen, tot vloed het boothuis
Omspoelde, wind terug waaide met trage gebaren

Jij ging zitten, ik bleef staan. Hoe lang nog
Dit samen gaan naar plaatsen, buitentijds
Die nimmer rustende droom van vertrekkende schepen
Een emigrant ten onder in vlekkerig graan

Vanaf de vlonder keken we naar hetzelfde zicht
Laag water op die middag, het slik verkleurend
Jij op zijn stoel, de tijd (een kaart?) verscheurend:
Do not go gentle into that good night

Kruimels, cake en porselein, het melkwoud
In de thee. Ik waag het niet die licht te keren
Er zit een binnenzak in de tijd en slechte ruis
Van een keter. Wat zwart is weerkaatst, het wordt later.

The Boathouse in Laugharne

We drink tea, write postcards
Light of oblivion, suspended over the Irish sea
The traces of water in the ocean, hereafter
Stanzas in the late life of a tourist

Thirty-nine, thirty-nine. Only a few months to go
Ambiguously, you might die, or get older
Quenching the thirst, receding like the tie, until the flow
Bathes the boathouse, and the wind waves back, tardily

You sat down, I stood up. How much longer?
This coming and going, together, without time
The never ending dream, of boats set to sail
An emigrant, perishes in the stained grain

From the bridge(1), glancing at the selfsame sight
The nethertides of noon, and decolouring silt
You, upon the chair, cutting shreds with the time
Do not go gentle into that good night

Crumbs, cake and porcelain, the milkwood
In the tea. I dare not, to turn on the light
There is a breach in the time, and screeching noise
Of hangover. Reflected, is darkness, it is now late.

(1) From, as an adverb of time.

The Names

to R.

As they had been
Like names of god
They were once
As they wore vests
They shielded me
From quiet lies
I understood well
The pulsations
Bloodied, lifeless
They were stones
The grass they touched
Burning stacks of hay
Silent rivers
Of harmless waters
Carried along
Turbulent tides
With names engraved
Ailment of dreams
Fed by absence

So distant now
On a plain of places
They await me
Their eyes so real
And the love
No longer glass
Becomes impatient
Carves out its own hands
In the stone
In which I flow
They turn into flesh
With arms
Surrounding me
In felicitous phrases
Drowning in peaceful jerks
The journeys
I am to undertake
Searching their names
On a wall that contains
All forms of hope, of unlove

You, believer
Sound asleep
The body so unsafe
A place, for the miracle
To unfold from the rows
I wish to contemplate...
Nothing else there
The chest is deaf
It desires far more
Than could the eye hold
Fingertips without arms
Find their way through the bones
Dreaming of less Christian versions
Of ourselves, freer than this simple lust
Ready to take over
To recover, at gun point
A more sterile version of love
That we could both survive
The love of proper names
Other than god's...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Personal Note

It has been a long time since I last wrote with my own voice, not necessarily sheltering me from anything but taking certain discreet steps of distance into common places, into varieties of understanding and fleeing from the absolute voids of endless chains of thoughts. Life seems to be happening so far away from me, on the fringes of something that contains me and yet it does not; the diminishing of the risk comes always at the price of a certain loss; foreign countries begin to unfold in manifold ways, geographies of time that contain the history and story of love, endless reckless topic, cleaned from its religious safety belts and thrown into the world with as much as passion as we can derive from the simplest possibility to live in the world. There is absolutely no bout of madness in it all, everything seems to gain a sharper focus that makes language very difficult to control, surfacing from the bottom as a language much bigger than words and worlds, it is rich with quotidiane images ridding on lapses of time that contain the order of promises that we encounter in the simplest human exchanges.

We might be utterly changed by the world and we as well might not; the works of art just like the works of love and thought (which fall under the same rubric always) are not property, they are free to themselves once we have set their forces into the world, their after effect is unhampered by our willingness to hold the present in a vase and safekeep it for warmer, happier mornings. This inability is what best expresses our freedom, the ability to navigate through the empty spaces and land in ports as distant as twice the equator, letting ourselves carried away sinfully with the wind, filling the empty spaces with massive rocks decanted from memory and from the simplest motions of streets, glasses, cheeks, jackets and pen notes. I feel at the edge of this physical willingness to loose, the poet always had in mind something better than what he is actually writing, he fears the loss of his own expression at being subsumed in the reality of people whom we tend to love from near and far. I feel inside this storm, this beautiful storm of encoded messages that I have thrown unto the world without deciphering them myself, they come in in all these new names that have appeared from nowhere and taken real spaces in blocks of paper that lie ahead of me, half written or awaiting in are to be written, less bloodied, less curtailed, like when you write a novel, you shall want to kill somebody, your hero perhaps, but he outlives you in mad stubbornness, he outlives the waters as they passed above the level of the lips; he learns how to live with little oxygen and then you feel refreshed, a waterfall upon you, in the powerlessness of this destruction which you are trying to cause and that the reality has proven unlikely, and yet lovelier than you thought.

Weggaan v. Rutger Kopland

(my birthday poem)


Weggaan is iets anders
dan het huis uitsluipen
zacht de deur dichttrekken
achter je bestaan en niet
terugkeren. Je blijft
iemand op wie wordt gewacht.

Weggaan kun je beschrijven als
een soort van blijven. Niemand
wacht want je bent er nog.
Niemand neemt afscheid want je -
gaat niet weg.

Going Away

Going away is something different
Than stealing out of the house
Shutting gently the door
Behind your existence and not
coming back. You remain
Somebody awaited.

Going away might you describe as
a sort of staying. Nobody
is waiting for you, you're still there!
Nobody bids farewell -
You're not going away.

De Zee v. Judith Herzberg

De Zee

De zee kun je horen
met je handen voor je oren,
in een kokkel,
in een mosterdpotje,
Of aan zee.

The Sea

You can hear the sea
With your hands over your ears
Inside a shell,
In the mustard jar,
Or at the sea

Ook de liefde v. Remco Campert

Ook de liefde

-"Though lovers be lost love shall not"-
Dylan Thomas

Ja, zij die liefde maken
tot een brandend slagschip of een mooie roos
gaan verloren
in het water reddeloos
of in de aarden kuil van de seizoenen.

Maar de liefde gaat verloren
met de makers, de minnaars.

O ons lieve lichaam
en de woorden die wij aan elkaar spendeerden
en alle goede bedoelingen en ook de kwade
en de tranen,
de drift en de begeerte,
het vlammen vet het schip,
het geuren van de roos

het is niet en nooit genoeg.

And also love

-"Though lovers be lost love shall not"-
Dylan Thomas

Yes, those who make out of love
An ardent flagship or a beautiful rose
They are lost
Helpless in the waters
Or in the earthen pithole of the seasons.

But love has gone lost
With the makers, with the lovers.

O our beloved body
And the words we spared upon each other
And the good intentions, also the bad
The tears
The fits of anger and the lust,
The burning of the ship
The fragance of the rose

It is not and never enough.

Stadsgeluiden v. Judith Herzberg


Stadsgeluiden in de warme nacht
hebben, als op een schilderij, een achtergrond.
Een vliegtuig ronkt tegen een fond van auto's
een bromfiets schiet luidruchtig links omlaag.
Ik hoor het graag, het doet mij denken aan
22 juni 1964, dat is vanavond.

City sounds

Sounds of the city on the warm night
Have, as in a painting, a background.
An airplane is humming, against the backdrop of the cars
A motorbike shoots uproars downwards and left.
I like to hear it, it makes me think of
the 22nd of June 1964, which is tonight.

De Wandelaar v. Eddy van Vliet

De Wandelaar

De Wandelaar hijgt. Bij het achterlaten
van niets heeft ervaren hoe alles blijft.

Langs de jaren voordien ging zijn tocht.
Wat tot bedaren werd gebracht,
als met water besprenkeld stof, wordt herdacht.

In over elkaar gelegde landschappen
vindt hij één voor één iedereen terug.

Alleen: omkeren naar zichzelf kan hij niet.

The Wanderer

The wanderer is choking from last breath. By leaving nothing behind
He has experienced how everything is to remain.

With the years behind, his journey has passed.
The journey that has come and brought calm,
As a cloth sprinkled with water, it is remembered.

In layers of landscapes, one upon the other
Everyone is found again, one by one.

But this: Turning toward himself, that he can't.

Illusie v. Ed Hoornik


Niet om er afscheid te nemen,
of om mij op reis te begeven,
ben ik het station ingegaan,
maar om tussen de mensen te staan
die voor een bestemming leven,
om ergens heen te gaan.


To the train station I went,
Not to begin a journey myself,
Or even to bid you farewell,
But to stand between all people
Who are living for some goal
For somewhere to go.

De Liefde Moe v. Remco Campert

De Liefde Moe

De liefde kent de tijd te goed
uren sterven als tantes op zondag.

Is het voorjaar? is het winter?
De bomen ontvangen de wind en buigen

Mijn verlangen is moe, mijn adem tandenloos.
Ik ben het lichaamsdelen noemen moe,
zoals wij deden, tintelend van ontdekking.
Ik ben de liefde moe.

Alles gaat nu zwerven, door de wind verjaagd:
mijn handen, haar handen, mijn woorden,
seizoenen... wij nemen de pijn mee,
volgen de snelle liefde en sterven
Ik zal zeker sterven, zwervend,
de liefde zoekend waar hij al eerder was,
tandenloos en moe.

Tired of Love

Love knows well that time of the day
And the hours die like aunts on a Sunday.

It is spring? Is it winter?
The trees, touched by the wind, folding.

My desire is tired, my breath toothless
I can no longer name parts of the body
As we had done, twinkling from the discovery
From love, I am tired.

Everything begins to wander, driven out through the wind:
My hands, her hands, my words
The seasons, the pain we take along,
We string along the little loves and die
I shall certainly die, wandering,
Looking for love where it was found before,
Toothless and tired.

Chrysanten, roeiers (V) v. Hans Faverey

Van lieverlede: zo
komen zij nader: 8 roeiers,
steeds verder landinwaarts

groeiend in hum mythologie:
met elke slag steeds verder
van huis, uit allemacht roeiend;
groeiend tot alle water weg is,
en zij het hele landschap

vullen tot de rand. Acht-
steeds verder landinwaarts
roeiend; landschap daar al geen
water meer is: dichtgegroeid
landschap al. Landschap,
steeds verder land-

inwarts roeiend; land
zonder roeiers; dicht-
geroeid land al.

Without haste, that is how
They come closer: 8 rowers
Even further inland

Growing into their mythology:
With each stroke still further
From home, with might they row;
Growing until the water is gone,
And the lanscape intact

Ready to overflow -Eight
Ever further inland
Rowing, until there is no more water
Landscape already. Landscape
Ever further in...

Rowing inland, land
Without rowers; land by now

Chrysanten, roeiers (IV) v. Hans Faverey

Zo het iets teweeg brengt,
en zich heeft vergeten,
is het tevergeefs
en in godsnaam.

De volstrekte leegte
in elk ding, die werkelijk
is, en als zodaning werkzaam is,
en zich vermengt met de echo
van het laatste woord:

dat niet meer over de lippen
wil; die lippen eerst nog lief-

koost, en daarna zonder schroom
aantast: dit hopeloos ontbreken,
dat overal knopen legt in water
en een naald is in brood.

As long as this brings something about
And has forgotten itself
It is to no avail
And in god's name.

The void is absolute
In each thing, in each real thing
And as such, at work...
Mingles itself with the echo
Of the last word:

Which no longer want to trespass lips
The lips that at first still fondle...

Without hesitation then
Attack! There is hopeless lack,
That leaves everywhere knots in the water
And a needle is in bread.

Chrysanten, roeiers (III) v. Hans Faverey

Als ik iets wil gaan doen,
moet ik dan al opgestaan zijn
om het te willen gaan doen;
of moest ik het al gedaan

willen hebben: om zó op
te kunnen staan, dat ik

het had moeten doen;

en zodoende het spoor
bijster geraakt zijnde,
deed zoals het zich gedaan
wilde zijn, sans rancune:
ofschoon er niets was gebeurd,

en ik niet afwezig wilde zijn,
omdat ik mij zo niet kende,
toen het stond te gebeuren.

If I want to go and do something,
Then I am ought to stand up
In order to want to go and do;
Or I must have wanted it

Already done: To stand in
A way as such, that I

would have to do it;

and doing it thus,
The way quite losing,
Acting as if it wanted
itself done alone, taking offense not:
nothing had happened, though,

and I did not want to be absent,
because I did not know myself this way,
When the hour to happen would come.

Chrysanten, roeiers (II) v. Hans Faverey

Eerst als iemand op de foto
levensgroot zijn dood
staat op te watchen
wordt hij herkend.

Allen staan op de oever,
kijkend naar het eigen
vogeltje; lacherig; allen.

Niemand herkent zich op deze foto.
Wat heer plotseling in een spiegel?
Spiegels herkennen nooit niemand.
Wat heet plotseling op een foto?

Als ik straks een hand zie
voor ogen, help ik mij hopen
dat het een eigen hand is,
of dat het een hand is
die bij mij wil horen.

Only when someone in the photo
Stands to await his death
As large as life it looms
Only then, is he recognized.

Over the edge, they all stand,
Gazing into their own
All of them, like a bird, in laughter.

Himself in the photo, no one recognize
What is that sudden in the mirror?
Mirrors that never recognize a man
What is that sudden in the photo?

Before my eyes, when I see the hand
The hope I cannot help
That the hand is but mine
Or that it is a hand
That to belong in me, it would want.

Chrysanten, roeiers (I) v. Hans Faverey

Hans Faverey

"Chrysantems, rowers"


De chrysanten
die in de vaas op de tafel
bij het raam staan: dat

zijn niet de chrysanten
die bij het raam
op de tafel
in de vaas staan.

De wind die je zo hindert
en je haar door de waak maakt,

dat is de wind die je haar verwart;
het is de wind waardoor je niet
meet gehinderd wilt worden
als je haar in de war is.

In the vase on the table
Standing by the window: these...

...Are not the chrysantems
By the window
On the table
Standing in the vase.

The wind that hampers you
And through your hair in turns it runs,

That is the wind, your hair it sparks;
The wind no longer you want
To be hampered by
Once a ravel in your hair it pass'd

Friday, July 23, 2010

Yaan III

I imaged it not
The streets I crossed
Nor what I saw
Childish fever
Like rash
On paper of glass
The old hopes
I not understood

Many centuries of old
Crowded in this thin salon
Speaking verses of unlove
Protruding above foam
Entering as air into my mouth
The entrails warm from the absence
Of traveller's lust
And yet another moment, the abode!

I heard it, though I wanted not
It filled the space it all
Just fragilemost hours
Dumb and drained
The tragic pleasure of let go
In a last breath
Intoxicated from lust
Laughter, my insight

Yaan II

"You know how to make a sentence, and that for me, is important"

So, I was coming clean
Out of the dark
Onto something so simple
Impossible pleas
Deadening mattresses
Below the earth
Forming the curve
Into slumber

So as to forget
The watch of golden eye
This worldly suffering
Empty as oceans
With pages filled
Flesh in chunks
Bleeding waters
This body, this bond

Under thick grayness I lie
Thicker than grass and hay
Transparent, my motion
The emotion, toward
Engraved in marble
Lifeless, in the port
From my entrails, another language
Onto your neck, arose

Fragile the time
In celestial agendas
Decomposing me
Composer, sorcerer
Grammar in movements
Of pupils and palms
Finite as it was
The table, the notebook, the request


"...I am not in the absurd, but in the tragic..."

Just if I could...
Myself, I would offer
But truth!
So open and kind
So that I would
Be changed utterly
By this word

Reckless this boat
The journey
Even a little false
The depth of the cut
The moment, hollow
Your vessel in me

The morning before
Had I been thought
Inside time, thine
I would have loved
The thinness of skin
Recognized, as it were
This passion of glass

Unlike the pen and spade
The finger, the shapes
Surrender, I would
To the shallow pulsation
Of cheeks and lips
Solitary, unison

Had I known
To reveal wisdom
Upon skin so strange
Bruised from glee
I could have loved
The entire night alone!
Geography, time
You were gone!

At last foolishness
Of lip and tongue
Unveiled my cold
In awe from unlove
The reckless madman
Slept by my side
He rose eyeing me!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Religious Tolerance in the Dutch Republic

Regenten Oudemannenhuis, Frans Hals, 1664

"...there are Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Brownists, Independents, Arminians, Anabaptists, Socinians, Arians, Enthusiasts, Quakers, Muscovites, Libertines, and many more... I am not speaking even of the Jews, Turks, and Persians... I must also report on an enlightened and learned man, who has a great following... His name is Spinoza. He was born a Jew and had not swore off allegiance to the Jewish religion, nor has he accepted Christianity. He is a wicked and very bad Jew, and not a better Christian either..." (cited by Willem Frijhoff, "Hollands Gouden Eeuw", in "De gouden delta der Lage Landen. Twintig eeuwen beschaving tussen Seine en Rijn", Antwerpen, 1992)

Those are the words used by Colonel Jean-Baptiste Stouppe, a Reformed Swiss commander in the troops of Louis XIV during the occupation of Utrecht in 1672-3, responding to the criticism leveled to him, that he was making war with his fellow Reformed co-religionists in the Netherlands, and that explained well enough the state of affairs of religious strife in the country which perhaps didn’t come to an abrupt end until very recent times. Manifold are indeed the vicissitudes that are wrapped into the history of religious tolerance in the Netherlands, so that the impressions of Colonel Stouppe could not have been entirely mistaken to describe the status quo of tolerance even today, in the absence of religion.

There is a common assumption that the Dutch Republic in the Golden Age was the only society that tolerated religious dissenter of all persuasions in early modern Europe, despite being committed to a strictly Calvinist public church. This is often embedded in the most varied myths, of which there are two common versions that do not entirely shy away from the truth; one is that the Dutch have been always a tolerant people and the other is that they were tolerant because it was convenient for business and since they wanted to promote the free trade and were greedy capitalists, religious tolerance would be more than useful. Both versions are also not without their excess of imagination and as we know from Plato since immemorial times, there is no such a thing as a mythology that is not politically persuasive; he himself said that theology (and he was the first Greek to use the word) was not necessarily the rational explanation of the facts of the world but rather the education of the powerful elites on how to rule the ignorant mobs. This whole discussion about religious tolerance seems to be more appropriate for finely printed tourist guides than it is for describing the overtly complicated situation and status of religion in the country; without overlooking for a moment the fact that the Dutch were incredibly precocious even by the most worldly European standards.

The country was not reformed from the prevalent Catholicism of the Holy Roman Empire through the spell of Luther and the official reformation occurred in subsequent waves that did not entirely take hold until the 17th century and in fact as a totality, the population was never entirely reformed; however the seeds were planted there long before the Reformation, Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam was avidly critical of monasticism and once ordained a secular priest and put to good use by the authorities because of his status as man of letters, he advanced so many of the ideas that would be put forth by Luther in the following century, elsewhere in Europe and under circumstances much graver than those prevalent in the Netherlands, his Christian humanism stressed the importance of personal faith and shied away from the excesses of Rome and the ecclesiastical authorities; in the same century Gerard Groote founded the Roman Catholic order known as the "Brethren of the Common Life" that would emphasize personal devotion to Christ and denounced the decadent and evil life of the clery with their excesses. The Brethren entered into rather smart political allegiances with powerful protectors and in spite of their radically reformed position, they were able to establish schools all over the Netherlands and Germany and to have Luther himself and Nicholas of Cusa as their pupils. It could be that it was Erasmus himself and not the other way around, who fell under the influence of the Brethren.

At the same time Catholic absolutism remained much alive in the practices of the polity in the Netherlands and it is difficult to imagine how a supposedly open society would have fallen under the spell of Calvin's religious dictatorship in Geneva; what is true however is that by the beginning of the Dutch Republic, Calvinism enjoyed the political status of "official" religion in the Seven United Provinces and this happened not without its particularities: The strife between Catholicism and Protestantism would remain ablaze for at least three hundred years more and because the country had become a safe haven for many of the persecuted Christian and non-Christian communities the religious demographic map turned out to be rather odd and at any given time the Reformed Christians didn't exceed in number 40% of the total population, however their stronghold with the ruling powers granted them full civil and ecclesiastical powers which they knew how to use very well. The Reformed faith, to whomever is acquainted with its rather radical demands, would strike me as anything but tolerant, while at the same time the United Seven Provinces emerged out of the revolt against Spain and the rather short-lived republic was founded upon the principle that there should be freedom of conscience, a demand that in the Netherlands preceded the spread of the Enlightenment and in the Union of Utrecht, the first European constitution, would be materialized in the article 13 of this felicitous Union, "no one shall be persecuted for religious reasons". So radical was the nuance of this decree that it inspired the American articles of Confederation and would materialize in the Provinces a degree of religious freedom unparallaled in the Western world.

The eventfulness of this happy decree would not arise willy-nilly so that another provision was made to work out this tolerance within the principles of the nascent state: There would be no persecution for religious reasons, well, except in the case of Catholics. No matter whether there were Catholic minorites or majorities within the Republic, the status of Catholicism was rather diminished and in many places the Catholics would have to bribe Reformed sheriffs and plaintiffs with large amounts of money in order to be allowed to practice their faith unmolested; the citizenship status of many cities would be conferred only to Reformed Christians and to Catholics only under the condition that they should recant their faith or marry into a Reformed family. The deranged status of Catholics remained well into the Kingdom of the Netherlands and is practiced even today as a subtle form of cultural prejudice. The constant bribes allowed Catholics to live in relative peace as the state officers would turn a blind eye to them and would not enforce the strict regulations directed against the practice of Catholicism by the centralized Reformed authorities. There was this widespread feeling (not completely unsubstantiated) that the Catholics represented the evil within as they would be all too prone to enter in political associations with the King of Spain against the newborn republic, so that any attempts to revolt on their part had to be tampered with and curtailed.

Another breach in the supposed tolerance of the Republic was made by the Regenten, the leaders of the Dutch cities that hailed from the powerful merchant families and that more than anything were concerned with keeping the social order of the Republic, so that all forms of Christianity would be tolerated as long as they were not Catholics, the Jews had their distinctly separate society and were not allowed into the city guilds and when given citizenship anywhere, this could not be inherited by sons or daugthers (just like in Imperial Prussia); what could not be tolerated were heresies that would threaten the established order such as Unitarianism and philosophies without God, of which Spinozism and its followers was the most popular example. The true nature of Dutch tolerance was not founded upon any specific ideology but seemed very convenient to the Regenten to establish a tri-partite social order based on tolerance of religion, state absolutism and social control. The Regenten split up Dutch society into faith groups on which they kept a very severe and strict eye as not to allow any deviances harmful to the policies of the State and by requiring the different religious communities to provide for their own needy, they built the "Zuilen" or pillars of the Dutch society that were maintained until the rise of the Kingdom and that until the previous decades still were much in practical use in the structure of the educational system of the modern Netherlands. To split up the society into pillars, made it possible for them to exercise absolute control and to keep each one of the pillars in order. By doing this, they sharply marked boundaries between the larger civil sphere and separate religious spheres; this genius in mapping out the topography of society, enabled religious and civil identities to thrive in separate spaces which allowed for a perfectly defined articulation of individual, community and polity in different spheres of representation.

Rifts between the religious groups were not common, not even against the Jews (many of which not as a community, but individually and as citizens were protected by the Regented, stimulated by their commercial interests established through their trade connections in other countries) and when they arose, unless kept private, they were severely punished, just as much as atheism; they imposed taxing fines, imprisonment and exile from the cities for rather lengthy periods. The established social order helped to maintain the stability necessary for the trade routes and was maintained with an absolute rigor. This meant of course that Dutch religious toleration was one thing, but toleration of radical ideas quite another thing altogether, and in this, the spiritual milieu was not in any way different from the rest of Europe, since the Reformed Church didn't stray from its demands as the true religion, and therefore the principle of tolerance was grounded in something as fragile as the modern criticism of tolerance: To tolerate does not mean to love, but rather to define something as intolerable in principle but acommodated under certain circumstances; this was certainly the faith of Catholicism for the greatest part of Dutch history. That this had been as harmonious a society as possible by European standards did not rely on tolerance per se but on strict discipline enforced by an authoritarian regime and some occassional but very carefully planned, social engineering.

This tolerance however, it is not only that we know it was practically maintained by turning a blind eye to certain religious practices and radical ideas, from the part of some petty officials, but it was unheard of in private circles. The likes of Erasmus and Buchelius expressed in private their impatience toward Jews and their distaste for Catholics and for many of the reformed and ultra-reformed churches even within close friendships. The rather multi-denominational milieu of the country made people conscious of the fact that it would be unwise to split families and whole regions on the basis of faith alone, but as a social norm, the groups did not tolerate one another, certainly not from within the ruling class -this is evident from the hundreds of personal documents and letters of learned men of that time which we are able to examine today critically, showing only that these men were to a great extent, tolerant and intolerant at the same time. To make a case for the Dutch and their tolerance, arguing that they practice tolerance because they are tolerant people is a little bit less than tautological and difficult to sustain. That this particular form of tolerance was practiced among and with religious communities says little about the nature of this tolerance, it rather attests to the fact that in early modern Europe, religion enjoyed the privileged status accorded today to art (as predicted by Hegel) or to politics (as predicted by Kant) in the societies of the Enlightenment.

The history of religious tolerance in the Netherlands is doubtless shaped by the 19th century discussion over the Dutch national identity that resulted in pride over the famous Verzuiling or pillarization of society and it emerged as a consequence of the Romantic movement the today seen as childish, talk about the national traits of Volk as a consequence of Herder and the German Romantics. I doubt whether the Dutch saw themselves as tolerant in the course of the Republic and it has been pointed out by many that the popularization of Dutch tolerance was carried out by foreign spectators such as Descartes and Voltaire, even when it is clear that the manifold religious groups had little impact in shaping the peculiar characteristics of Dutch society. Nowadays people speak both with longing and spitefulness about this tolerance, grounded in a modern prejudice that understands this tolerance as principle basically derived from the Enlightenment and the secularization process that belong after the destruction of that Dutch confessional state in 1795 that gave birth to the Netherlands as a nation-state where all elements of religion were carefully re-organized and engineered into a rather homogeneous whole.

Even the Dutch themselves overlook the fact that the history of the Netherlands was certainly not one of stable political unity and that whatever principle of religious tolerance embedded within the law of the time had been subject to major changes. It is true that the Treaty of Utrecht in 1579 forbade religious persecution with the added nuances that we trated in the course of this essay but one has to be clear that the laws in fact did not include the slightest reference to social rights until very recently. With the demise of the Republic, a new constitution was drafted in 1795 for the Batavian Republic, the "Verklaring der Rechten van de Mensch en van den Burger" and later in 1798 the "Staatsregeling voor het Bataafsche Volk" became the first modern constitution in the modern sense, but the pillarized character of religious freedom remained untouched. In August 1806, the "Constitute voor het Koningkrijk Holland" set the foundation for the national-state constitution of 1814 when the Kingdom of the Netherlands, that is, the monarchical national state still prevalent today, rose under political upheaval similar to that of other European states and only then the current shape of the constitution, "Grondwet voor de Vereengide Nederland" was written not without the particular feature of not having any ideological preamble whatsoever, something very untypical for the 19th century.

This constitution still didn't made guarantees for anyone's social welfare outside the pillars of our society and was continuously reformed in 1830, 1840, 1848, 1884, 1887, 1917, 1922, 1938, 1946, 1948, 1953, 1956, 1963 and 1972 only in order to accomodate for the most varied provisions, in particular those related to the new status of the colonies, either because they were colonized or gained their independence or their status as a part of the Kingdom but not of the Netherlands. It was only until 1983 that so far all of the constitution was re-written and the first time when social rights made their felicitous appearance in it (with the exception of article 23, about the sensitive freedom of education which once again hearkens back to the pillars and the problem of education for the different religious groups that was in place until very, very recently) using a rather uniform legal terminology rather than the different layers of historical continuity and foreign influences that had pervaded until then. The bill of rights was expanded with a prohibition of discrimination, a prohibition of the death penalty, a general freedom of expression, the freedom of protest and a general right to privacy. Further reforms were effected in 1987, 1995, 2002 and 2005. So far the provisions for the so-called tolerance of which Dutch people are so proud, and others alike, do not go further back in the practice of law, than the happy year of 1983, which also coincided with an amendment made after the investiture of Queen Beatrix, so that female successors could also become sovereigns. Just as the likes of Hans Janmaat (a now forgotten political figure who had expressed his opinions of wanting all foreigners out of the country and who declared publicly that MP Ernst Hirsch Ballin should be removed from his post because his father was a Jew), the late Pim Fortyuin and the now current Geert Wilders, have clearly demonstrated, there remains even within the reformed constitution, an open struggle between Article 1 (Freedom of Speech) and Article 7 (Forbiddance of discrimination on the basis of religion, life principles, political inclinations, race or sexual preferences) that is so far unsettled.

Even the tolerance between the Reformed Church itself is only very recent, for it was until 2004 that all Reformed denominations united under the name of Reformed Churches of the Netherlands, but each one of the previous three denominations has kept its own theological school; 90% of the Dutch Jews were sent to their deaths in the course of the Nazi occupation and so far, Islam, remains the only growing religion in the Netherlands for the past 50 years while non-sectarianism or even atheism comprises a good 40% of Dutch society. Perhaps it could be well said that nothing has changed, yes, the pillars no longer exist and society is no longer defined by religion, but in the contemporary scene when the political sphere is not longer independent of private affairs but rather the opposite, there is a clear imbalance between the public tolerance and the private intolerance. Perhaps it is not the churches but the politicians who today turn a blind eye to the regulations for the sake of social harmony, regulations that in principle, even though no longer religious, could be hardly defined as friendly toward those tolerated. Tolerance in the Netherlands? For how much longer?