Category Archives: Dutch language

RIP Simon Vinkenoog (1928 – 2009)

RIP Simon Vinkenoog, 80, Dutch poet and writer.

Vinkenoog with Spinvis in a totally Fela Kuti-esque track

Simon Vinkenoog (1928 – 2009) was a Dutch poet and writer. He was instrumental in launching the Dutch “Fifties Movement“.

In the Anglosphere Vinkenoog’s name is associated with the Albert Hall poetry event (and the film Wholly Communion) and his connection with IT magazine.

He was one of the Néerlandophone beat writers. The same cultural climate that begot the beat writers in the United States engendered European counterparts.

These countercultures must be looked for in two spheres, the sphere of European counterculture and the sphere of European avant-garde.

In France this was the Letterist International, in Germany perhaps Gruppe 47; visually and on a European scale there was COBRA.

Vinkenoog was born in the same year as Andy Warhol, Serge Gainsbourg, Jeanne Moreau, Nicolas Roeg, Guy Bourdin, Luigi Colani, Stanley Kubrick, Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, William Klein, Roger Vadim, Yves Klein, Jacques Rivette, Alvin Toffler, Ennio Morricone and Oswalt Kolle.

Goddamned Days on a Goddamned Planet standing on Emotional Rescue

Goddamned Days on a Goddamned Planet standing on Emotional Rescue by you.

Goddamned Days on a Goddamned Planet standing on Emotional Rescue

Dimitri Verhulst is Flanders’ hottest (I hate that word) novelist and one of the few contemporary Flemish novelists translated into English (Problemski Hotel is in print by Marion Boyars)

His latest novel Godverdomse dagen op een godverdomse bol (Eng: Goddamned Days on a Goddamned Planet) was not released through conventional channels but given away free with Humo magazine which understandibly upset the bookselling business. The book’s release did not go unnoticed, far from it, I believe one out of every 20 Flemish people now have a copy in their homes. Imagine that on the scale of a large country. Incredible.

The book.

Goddamned Days on a Goddamned Planet offers a bleak view of humanity.

The story is that of human evolution, much like the epic poem The Legend of the Centuries by Victor Hugo was in the 19th century and The Cantos by Ezra Pound in the 20th century.

The novel should be seen as an epic poem rather than regular novel. It’s difficult to imagine that as novels go, this one is plotless, unless you concede that reality lacks plot for want of a plotter.

Most people seem to find the novel boring and hard to read, others have remarked to laugh out loud while reading.

Dimitri Verhulst will be best-known internationally for the future film version of his novel De Helaasheid der Dingen (expected in 2009).

Verhulst is a writer pur sang. He never repeats a formula. I agree that this novel is cold, but its reputation will go a long way. Still, I will be wanting some emotional relief from his future writing.

Digression #1: Steve + Sky (the link is Felix van Groeningen) is WCC #68.

Note to self: should be able to get hold of Verhulst’s poetry.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Poetry… But Were Afraid to Ask Timothy Leary

Goede Raad is Vuur

Goede Raad is Vuur (cover photograph: ‘De Toren van Babel‘ in Ruigoord by Marrit Dijkstra)

Goede Raad is Vuur is a Dutch language poetry anthology and at the same time a theory of poetry, first published by Simon Vinkenoog in 2004.

Simon Vinkenoog is the Dutch Timothy Leary, just as Jean-Jacques Lebel was the French Timothy Leary, see counterparts.

The book is the definitive guide to cult poetry and begs for a English translation.

These are the poets and theorists mentioned:

Gerrit Achterberg, Fadhil Al-Azzawi, Hans Andreus, Antonin Artaud, Charles Baudelaire, Hakim Bey, Breyten Breytenbach, C. Buddingh’, Remco Campert, Ernesto Cardenal, Hugo Claus, Jean Cocteau, Gregory Corso, e.e. cummings, Isidore Ducasse, Jan Elburg, Desiderius Erasmus, Clayton Eshleman, David Gascoyne, Guido Gezelle, Allen Ginsberg, Goethe, Jan Hanlo, Hermann Hesse, Johan Huizinga, Jos Joosten, Rutger Kopland, Gerrit Kouwenaar, D. H. Lawrence, Lucebert, Navaho, Ben Okri, Paul van Ostaijen, Brian Patten, Ilja Leopard Pfeijffer, Sybren Polet, Ezra Pound, Rainer Maria Rilke, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Rodenko, Jalal al-Din Roemi, A.Roland Holst, Nanao Sakaki, Bert Schierbeek, Hans Sleutelaar, Gary Snyder, Fritz Usinger, Hans Verhagen, Dominique de Villepin, Eddy van Vliet, Tito de Vries, Alan Watts, Lew Welch and Walt Whitman.

In this collection for example: “The Right Mask” by Brian Patten in a Dutch translation more powerful than its English original:

One night a poem came up to a poet.
From now on, it said, you must wear a mask.
What kind of mask? asked the poet.
A rose mask, said the poem.
I’ve used it already, said the poet,
I’ve exhausted it.
Then wear the mask that’s made out of
a nightingale’s song, use that mask.
Oh, it’s an old mask, said the poet,
it’s all used up.
Nonsense, said the poem, it’s the perfect mask,
still, try on the god mask,
now that mask illuminates heaven.
It’s a tight mask, said the poet,
and the stars crawl about in it like ants.
Then try on the troubador’s mask, or the singer’s mask,
try on all the popular masks.
I have, said the poet, but they fit so easily.

Read the rest of this sublime poem here.

Simon Vinkenoog at Demian yesterday

Simon Vinkenoog at Demian today

Simon

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Vinkenoog

Simon Vinkenoog at Demian yesterday where he read from Goede Raad is Vuur to me (and the rest of Demian).

The Right Mask” by Brian Patten was translated by C. Buddingh’ is included in Goede Raad is Vuur, a poetry book by Simon Vinkenoog.

The Right Mask” is the ultimate mask allegory and a piece of cult poetry.

I know own a signed and author-illuminated copy of Goede Raad is Vuur.

Goede Raad is Vuur is the first book on poetry I own.

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Goede Raad is Vuur

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The window display

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Simon in de verte

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Simon van dichtbij

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Simon

I’ve previously mentioned Vinkenoog

Introducing Wim T. Schippers

Wim T. Schippers by Marco Raaphorst

Wim T. Schippers

This post is mainly intended for people living in Antwerp or the environs.

Tonight, “Pollens, wat een heisa!,” an homage to Dutch artist Wim T. Schippers starts at the Monty in Antwerp.

There are many things to be said about Wim T. Schippers, but since I write this blog in English and most of my readers are from all over the globe, these things will be of interest to few. Suffice it to start by saying that Schippers belongs to the Dutch Dada tradition.

Digression #1

I say Dada because Surrealism is to weak a word; and it can be agreed upon that surrealism was not but an insipid decoction of Dada; Dada having the chronological benefit of course. On the other hand, I realize there is no use bemoaning the insipidness of Surrealism, since Surrealism was its best possible replacement. Nevertheless, Surrealism to my liking has always been too formalistic and dogmatic.

In discussing Schippers, a number of comparisons are called for. In the Dutch language geographical area, we have Doctorandus P. whom I celebrated here[1] and [2] and who is most certainly a precursor of Schippers. Internationally, one can compare Schippers to Monty Python.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_azDvJdRC2Y]
Famous banana clip (I can’t hear you, I have a banana in my ear!)

Now the force of Schippers resides in his mainstream influence, most Dutch-speakers know him without knowing him, he is voice actor of a number of voices of the local version of Sesame Street, most famously Ernie. In The Netherlands he is also known by face as the presenter of a popular science quiz show.

Outside of some dim recollections of his 1970s TV shows, he crossed my personal path each Wednesday afternoon when I listened to his radio show on VPRO (Schippers in the persona of Jacques Plafond (Eng: Jacques Ceiling) [3]. These shows were hilariously irreverent. It was love at first sight.

Garage, Haarleem by Andy Field (Hubmedia)

Shit, I forgot my car, from a Sjef Van Oekel comic

Later still, there were the comics of Sjef Van Oekel, the brain of which was again Schippers.

In Belgium, the Dutch-speaking part where I live, there are two soul brother of Schippers: Kamagurka and Herr Seele. And perhaps Hugo Matthysen.

To conclude: Schippers is the nobrow example and canonical to this blog, even if you’ve never heard of him, try to find his equivalent in your country.

Ernies Drol by Laurens Bontes

Ernie’s drol (Ernie’s Turd)

photo Laurens Bontes

Much better than the similar work of Paul McCarthy

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbBRVUjWKUg]
Going to the Dogs -Part 01 – This is the famous play for dogs by Dutch Wim T. Schippers.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAVOOn-Ill4]

The song “Pollens, wat een heisa!,” from which the homage’s title was taken. Notice the naked ladies towards the end

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cl0EFJWx-bg]

Phil Bloom, reading the news naked, in 1967 on national television.

J. M. H. Berckmans (1953– 2008)

J. M. H. Berckmans

Belgian writer J. M. H. Berckmans (19532008) died yesterday. Alternative Flanders mourns.

He was Flanders’ celebrated cult author and the darling bipolar genius of the alternative press (De Morgen and Humo); where he played his role of tortured artist sometimes reluctantly, sometimes willingly.

To me, J. M. H. Berckmans is the literary equivalent of photographer Stephan Vanfleteren[1]. Vanfleteren photographs real life outcasts and misfits of the kind featured in the novels of Berckmans.

Berckmans debuted with Walter Soethoudt in 1977.

Soethoudt was the first Flemish printer to translate and publish Sade, years before Bert Bakker did the same in The Netherlands. He was printer-for-hire with an interesting bibliography: partly risqué[2] and sensational[3][4], partly literary fiction by authors such as Georges Adé, Heere Heeresma, René Gysen, Gust Gils, Freddy de Vree, Claude Krijgelmans, Patrick Conrad, Louis Willems and Jef Geeraerts. These authors also often translated for Soethoudt and published more often than not under pseudonyms for his imprints.

Uitgevers komen in de hemel

Soethoudt was no Eric Losfeld, but Belgian’s nearest equivalent. Ah, the glorious days of literary mystifications! Read all about them in Soethoudt’s 2008 autobiography titled Uitgevers komen in de hemel [5], edited by Harold Polis, Berckmans’s last publisher.

Adieu Berckmans. I’m sort of sorry I missed your show with Kris Verdonck in March of 2006 at ScheldApen (see news article above), but I’m sure much fun was had by all.

Simon Vinkenoog @80, and, looking for equivalents

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqHsLlmUEeA]
Save the mushrooms (2007) Simon Vinkenoog

Dutch poet Simon Vinkenoog turns 80 today.

Simon can safely be regarded as the Dutch equivalent to Timothy Leary.

I wrote on equivalents here [1]. The concept is simple. Every country has its Woody Allen.

Does your country have an equivalent to Timothy Leary? Please let me known in my comment box.

Know this my son: when grief turns into life, life stops being grief

The Great Sphinx, photo by Maxime Du Camp, 1849,
taken when he traveled in Egypt with Gustave Flaubert.

This image to introduce you in the obliquest of ways to Simon Vinkenoog, a Dutch poet (Welk Masker Zal Ik Dragen) I have taken a liking to.

Yesterday, Vinkenoog introduced me to one of his favorite poems: De Stem van Vincent; which Vinkenoog called on his non-rss blog “one of the most impressive poems in the Dutch language”. It is a poem by Flemish poet Paul van Ostaijen dedicated to Vincent van Gogh. I will translate the first sentence:

Know this my son: when grief turns into life

life stops being grief

Some excerpts in Dutch:

“Weet dit, mijn zoon: wanneer leed leven wordt
houdt op het leven leed te zijn”

“Niet het te zijn of niet te zijn is de levensopgaaf,
maar het misterie van het zijn vult alles,
Het eigen zijn. Dat over alles te leggen.”

“En telkens woont
‘t woord onder ons
dat ons bewoont, –
nieuw.
De weg van de Verlosser,
de weg van het leed;
een hoogvlakte van geluk.”

(full text)

Synchronicity and Drs. P

Synchronicity and Drs. P

De veerpont (‘Heen en weer…’), one of the better-known songs of Drs. P.

We zijn hier aan de oever van een machtige rivier
De andere oever is daarginds, en deze hier is hier
De oever waar we niet zijn noemen wij de overkant
Die wordt dan deze kant zodra we daar zijn aangeland
En dit heet dan de overkant, onthoudt u dat dus goed
Want dit is van belang als u oversteken moet
Dat zou nog best eens kunnen, want er is hier veel verkeer
En daarom vaar ik steeds maar vice versa heen en weer

English rough translation, see untranslatability

We are here at the shore of a mighty river
The other shore is over there, and this one is over here
The shore where we are not is called the other side
Which will become this side as soon as we land there
And this then we call the other side, please remember well
This is important if you want to cross
And that is very possible, there’s lots of traffic here
And that is why I cross the river vice versa “to and fro”

When I was 23, I spent six months with my wife in Shanghai at Fudan University. Among the numerous great things that happened when I was there was meeting André.

André was one of a kind and we hit it off immediately. He had I believe only just finished high school and was 18 or 19 at the time. He was smart and creative, had theories on dancing (“when I dance, it’s all in the face”) and one on synchronicity which has stayed with me all this time. He was convinced that there was a Chinese equivalent to every American actor, and was thus constantly on the look-out for the Chinese Woody Allen.

Whether he found him or not, I don’t know, and – sadly – I also lost track of André. My wife and I were supposed to stay in Shanghai for a year but we left after six months, just before the Tank Man incident. I was young and when André and I parted ways I did not exchange addresses with him, thinking that if I was supposed to meet him again it would surely happen.

You probably ask yourself, what does this have to do with the Youtube clip above by Drs. P? Well, every country has a couple of artists, musicians or writers which are one-of-a-kind (sui generis). Drs. P is one of those people, he is a genius and cannot be compared to anyone within the Dutchophone area of Europe I live in.

However, I am convinced that every country in the world has its Drs. P. There must be one in Spain, New Zealand or the United States. Drs. P.’s sensibilities (word play, absurdism, playful narrativity, humor) must be synchronously present in every country in the world.

The question is for you dear reader, who is your country’s Drs. P. Or who is your country’s Woody Allen?