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H.H. ter Balkt

H.H. ter Balkt

H.H. ter Balkt

(The Netherlands, 1938 - 2015)
“Go home, Poetry, and take me with you,” H.H. ter Balkt writes in his collection Vuur (Fire). He seems to be convinced that poetry is not where it ought to be. In his poems he urges all sorts of vehicles to make a good speed, and lets fly at dumb-clucks and other highwaymen who send poetry racing off in the wrong direction. Even if those people lived centuries ago, Ter Balkt still calls them to order. “I’ve always had song feedback around/ about where your abode is: behind the mountains.”
Ter Balkt made his debut in 1969 under the pseudonym “Habakuk II de Balker” with the collection Boerengedichten (Farmer Poems). From the outset, Ter Balkt’s work has had something overwhelming about it. His work is firmly rooted and far from woolly. Nature, with all its mutilations, is his point of departure. Ter Balkt is a fellow-sufferer of what he describes – there is no decline of which he himself is not a part. According to the essayist Piet Meuse, he writes poems “that, as his tame crow Corvus expresses, ‘stand in a reek of rawness’. Hefty, earthy poetry.” And: “it is disorderly but colourful and powerful poetry.”
The disorderliness would seem only to increase as H.H. ter Balkt develops. Captions, italics, quotations, data, photos, cuttings, staves, drawings, a chit printed between the lines: it is all part of the multiplicity that forms his work. Increasingly, he includes at the end of his collections rewritings of earlier poems. In de waterwingebieden (In the Water-Collection Areas, 2000) contains 700 pages of such revisions. The tendency to repeatedly re-adjust his work seems to fit his character. H.H. ter Balkt is a savage poet. He is the author of anti-odes, anti-cantos and of Laaglandse hymnen (Lowland Hymns), with an emphatic use of proper names and often illustrious historical references.

The poet K. Michel called Ter Balkt “the only poet who has successfully managed to write on through Lucebert.” He steers clear of all precepts and ignores all “prohibition signs”. It is amazing how in his rough poetry subtlety lies concealed. With unknown power, he is forging a masterly oeuvre.

In 2003, after already receiving numerous other literary awards in previous years, H.H. ter Balkt received the most prestigious national literature prize in the Netherlands, the P.C. Hooftprijs, for his poetry. His most recent collection of poems, Vliegtuigmagneet (Airplane Magnet, 2011), was shortlisted for the VSB Poetry Award 2013.
© Erik Lindner (en) / Jan Baeke (nl) (Translated by John Irons)
Selected Bibliography

Boerengedichten, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 1969
Uier van ‘t oosten, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 1970
Hemellichten, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 1983
Aardes deuren, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 1987
In de kalkbranderij van het absolute, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 1990
Ode aan de Grote Kiezelwal, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 1992
De Waterwingebieden: gedichten 1953 - 1999, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2000
Laaglandse hymnen, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2003
Anti-canto’s en De Astatica, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2004
Vuur, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2008
Vliegtuigmagneet, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2011
Hee hoor mij ho simultaan op de brandtorens, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2014
Stilstaand leeft alles hier, samengesteld door Alfred Schaffer, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2019.

Published translations (a selection)
How to start a wine cellar; selected poems 1969-1984 (English) translated by James S. Holmes et al. Bridges Books, 1984. 
In: Tärningskastet (Swedish), translated by Sonja Berg Pleijel and Lasse Söderberg, number 12, 1985.
In: Nueva antología de la poesía Neerlandesa (Spanish, anthology), translated by Francisco Carrasquer. Los Libros de la Frontera, 1988.
In: Kortárs holland és flamand költók (Hungarian, anthology), translated by Judit Gera et al. Ons Erfdeel, 1998.
In: Schönes Babylon (German, anthology), translated by Wolfgang Hilbig, Ursula Krechel et al. DuMont, 1999.
In: In a different light: fourteen contemporary dutch-language poets (English, anthology), translated by Lloyd Haft et al. Seren, 2002.
n: Csipke és tulipán (Hungarian, anthology), translated by László Tóth. Alterra, 2007.
In: V nizozemsku už nechci žít (Czech, anthology), translated by Veronika Havlíková, Olga Krijtová and Jana Pellarová-Irmannová. Mladá Fronta, 2007.
In: Poetes néerlandais de la modernité (French, anthology), translated by Daniel Cunin and Henri Deluy. Le Temps des Cerises, Paris 2011.
In: Poésie première: Poètes des Pays-Bas (French), translated by Jan H. Mysjkin and Pierre Gallissaires, number 53, 2012.

H.H. ter Balkt’s poetry has also been published in translation in China, Finland, France, Portugal, Serbia, Croatia and Sweden..


Koninklijke Bibliotheek
Ter Balkt at the Dutch Royal Library, The Hague 

De Bezige Bij 
Ter Balkt’s Publisher
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Prins Bernhard cultuurfonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Gefinancierd door de Europese Unie
Elise Mathilde Fonds
Stichting Verzameling van Wijngaarden-Boot
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère