Poetry International Poetry International

Radna Fabias

Radna Fabias

Radna Fabias

(The Netherlands, 1983)

With her first collection, Habitus, Radna Fabias (1983) definitely made an impressive debut in Dutch-language poetry. Not only did the collection receive exclusively laudatory reviews, it also won the C. Buddingh’ Prize, the Awater Poetry Prize and De Grote Poëzieprijs.

Born in Curaçao, Fabias studied at HKU University of the Arts Utrecht. The Caribbean island where she was born and the country where she now lives both play central roles in her collection. Her poems may evoke a tropical island, but they masterfully use irony and cutting stereotypes and ready-mades to address the familiar clichés about the island’s idyllic life and landscape. “Using overwhelming force, she drags the reader into a sweltering in-between space,” as the C. Buddingh’ Prize jury phrased it.

The voice of Habitus is contemplative yet subversive, critically and boldly exploring issues like origin, identity, and the body. In the last part of the collection, the poet introduces a migrant character (Fabias calls her a ballotant, meaning a prospective member) and thus convincingly depicts the general Dutch approach to migrants in a way that is as critical as it is ironic.

Fabias’ voice makes use of all possible poetic space. Some of her poems are prose and part of a series, others are short. Within the poems there is great variety as well: an ultra-short line can be followed by one that almost spills over the margins. Some poems are clear and precise, others experimental and conceptual. This lyrical variety gives the collection extra layers of meaning, boosting Fabias’ wavering between worlds and her exploration of identity and destination.

The strong poem “gieser wildeman” addresses femininity and role of women. With its constant repetitions, insistent rhythm, and ironic humor, this sure-to-be classic poem will inevitably stick in your memory:

the gieser wildeman is a stewing pear
I am a woman
a man is no hobby
a man is no hobby
a man is no hobby

a man is no punishment
a man is no throne to sit on cross-legged like a lady
I am no lady
I am a woman

For Habitus Radna Fabias has been awarded The Grand Poetry Prize 2019.

© Feline Streekstra (Translated by Florian Duijsens )



Habitus, Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 2018

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