(The Netherlands, 1984)
© Irwan Droog
BiographyAn erupting volcano – that’s the image that comes to mind when you see Dean Bowen on stage. The poems in his 2018 debut Bokman (Goatman) are no less impassioned. Bowen was immediately recognised as a unique and necessary new voice in Dutch poetry. His work is both moving and politically charged.
In this furious, polyphonic collection, language follows its own logic and grammar. The disjointed structure of the lines of his poems is not accidental. Just as the abolition of slavery in Suriname is commemorated every year with the celebration of Keti Koti (‘broken chains’), Bowen frees the Dutch language from its constraints. Instead, he mixes different languages to create something new, similar to the way Sranantongo and Papiamentu came
about: ‘our guilt, an unknowing dat we koesterden in het langgeleden.’ (that we cherished in the long ago) Bowen’s debut was nominated for the C. Buddingh’ Prize for the best poetry debut. Bokman is a confronting collection that forces the reader to reflect on their role in history, their position in the debate about racism, the Dutch colonial past, heritage and identity. Straddling multiple continents, Bowen masterfully untangles his origins.
© Frances Welling, New Dutch Poets, Dutch Foundation for Literature
Poems of Dean Bowen
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère