(The Netherlands, 1909 - 1998)
BiographyM. Vasalis is the pen name of Margaretha Droogleever Fortuyn-Leenmans, a poet who studied medicine, married a neurologist and had four children, one of whom died very young during the Second World War. She worked as a child psychiatrist until her seventieth birthday. Between 1940 and 1954, three collections of poetry were published that gained her the highest literary awards and that were immensely popular with a large reading public. She is dubbed the Dutch Anna Akhmatova by some, because right up to the present day, many Dutch people know Vasalis poems by heart. After her death in 1998, a fourth, posthumous collection was published. A volume of her collected poems was first published in 2006, and has been reprinted several times since.
Already early on, Vasalis was compared with the medieval mystic Hadewijch. And a part of her work certainly fits into the mystical tradition. Space, time and gravity can disappear in the course of a poem, as can the awareness of the ego and the difference between subject and object. These experiences are blissful or terrifying, enlightening or full of mere emptiness. The ego is thereby passively affected, and the oxymoron is the most frequently used stylistic means, since the experience is virtually incommunicable. Vasalis explores that other dimension which lies outside every religious framework. Her concern is pure immanence. Her fellow-poet Clara Eggink has called this the "transcendence of the earthly". That makes Vasalis a very modern poet.
© Nederlands Letterenfonds, Dutch Classics 2012For more information see: Dutch Classics 2012 (PDF)
and: The Enchanted Verses.
Poems of M. Vasalis
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère