For poet and author Ruth Lasters, writing is the most delightful version of brooding. In this regard, poetry is the place to do thinking exercises in complete freedom. She invents new words, omits words where you would expect them and manipulates the rules of language to her own will. By distorting reality, she makes you look at it with crystal-clear eyes. Her language is clear, her tone (self) relativizing. She counters cynicism and despair with tenderness, gentle irony and absurd humor. As Antwerp's City Poet, Lasters made headlines in late 2022 when she resigned her post after the City of Antwerp rejected her poem about the education system she wrote with her students. For her collection Lichtmeters (2016) Lasters was shortlisted for the VSB Poetry Prize and awarded the Herman de Coninck Prize. In 2015 and 2022, she won the (Turing) Gedichtenwedstrijd. She was previously a guest at the 2016 Poetry International Festival.
She connects a football game to the way our brain works, and flashing neon lights remind her of her own futility. Ruth Laster's (Antwerpen, 1979) poetry is characterized by playful leaps of the mind, yet they are never banal.
Lasters, who works as a teacher in secondary education, made her debut in 2007 with Vouwplannen (Folding Plans). Her second and most recent volume of poetry Lichtmeters (Light Meters) followed after an eight-year hiatus and was awarded the Herman de Coninckprijs 2016. Besides poetry, she writes novels, columns and opinion.
As a poet she is often inspired by objects from everyday life, such as black umbrella's or cherries lying on a plastic table cloth. Her language is clear, her tone shows an ability to put herself into perspective. She counters cynicism and desperation with tenderness, mild irony and absurdist humor. That way she tames disillusions ‘as sluggish, wet/ dogs. Preferably in a high// cornfield rustling so loud that my dissapointments seem to run ahead of me’.
For Lasters, poetry is the number one place where she can exercise her thought in complete freedom. For that, she invents new words, leaving them out where you would expect them and tweaking the rules of grammar to fit her own idiosyncratic use of them. With the sense of purpose and curiosity of a scientist, she lets her imagination loose on the human species: she examines why elderly people walk with their backs hunched and wonders why we as humans don't form v-formations when afraid. Or she fantasizes about a place where you could relive the discovery of sorbet ice and the electron. And the glass of old window-panes she wants to make into sand again: ‘in a bucket, opaque/ and so finally themselves truly/ observable’.
Lasters employs language as a magnifying glass: she twists reality to see with a crystal-clear vision, against the loss of wonder, and for the gusto of discovery.
VSB Prize jury about ‘Lichtmeters’ (Light Meters’)
In ‘Lichtmeters’, Ruth Lasters operates with a pair of silver scissors, filleting modern society affectionately, but uncompromisingly. She uses powerful images to show how our intimacy is under pressure, but also how precarious situations can bring out the spiritedness of individuals. At the same time, she has an eye for disquieting developments in society - such as globalisation, climate change and technology. ‘Lichtmeters’ is a contemporary collection, written with almost unerring precision and an immense feeling for style. These poems are evidence of both a panoramic view and a perfect eye for detail.
Vouwplannen (Folding Plans), Meulenhoff/Manteau, Antwerp, 2007
Lichtmeters (Light Measurers), Polis, Antwerp, 2015
Ruth Lasters' personal website