Poetry International Poetry International
Poet

Cees Nooteboom

Cees Nooteboom

Cees Nooteboom

(The Netherlands, 1933)
Biography
Cees Nooteboom has won international renown as an author of novels, novellas and travel books, but likes to think of himself as a poet first. As a poet, he made his début in 1956 with a collection entitled De doden zoeken een huis (The dead seek a home). He never joined any literary circle or group, but remained a loner who felt at home in many rooms of  'the house of poetry'. The poet also edited the literature section of the glossy style magazine Avenue, contributing his own translations of Wallace Stevens, César Vallejo, Cesare Pavese and Michaël Krüger. In the Netherlands, he found a kindred spirit in the poet Jan Jacob Slauerhoff, the restless, romantic poet-ship’s doctor (1898-1936), who wrote: "Only in my poems can I live / Nowhere else did I find shelter."
An 'I' with personal sentiments is hard to find in Nooteboom's poetry. For him, poetry is a form of concentration, meditation and reflection. In his poems he asks questions about the essence of time, the migrations of the soul in a lifetime, and in what ways he himself or his (classical) colleagues are affected by poetry. Poems about such existential or philosophical questions risk being dismissed as 'abstract' by the wider public. Despite epithets like 'hermetic' or 'mannerist', however, the early poems are far from impenetrable to those who really try. They are exercises in pain, the self-torture of a defenseless spectator who desperately tries to find out where he stands. These 'cold', 'black', or 'mannered' poems penetrate the mystery of time, of fragmentized life, of death, with mathematical, often moving precision. The poems are at once transparent and mysterious. Such a paradox is Nooteboom's favourite figure of speech in this early work, witness a title like Aanwezig, afwezig (Present, Absent). 

Nooteboom's later poetry is concerned with mental and sensory perception, with 'the eye' in a literal and figurative sense, with seeing and what is seen, and with the realms of thought they imply. 'He who does not break appearance, sees nothing', he says in his collection Het gezicht van het oog (The sight of the eye), which contains some fascinating sequences of poems dealing with a reality that is intractable and many-faceted and essentially unknowable: 'each thing fallen from its word / and crashed without a safety net.' Nooteboom's new collection, appearing at the time of the 2017 festival, is concerned with the idea that the once cohesive world of poets and thinkers has disintegrated over time. The poet watches this apparently inevitable process with quiet nostalgia: "To have existed there / with time like a shock of hair,/ (…) that, dear friend, is life."

The anthology Bitterzoet. Honderd gedichten van vroeger en zeventien nieuwe (Bittersweet. A hundred poems from the past and seventeen new ones), selected by Nooteboom himself, followed. Over en weer: gedichten als brieven (Back and forth: poems as letters) was his next publication, consisting of a correspondence in poetic form between Nooteboom and Dutch writer-poet Remco Campert. The letters report on a conversation about transience between the two elderly writers. For his volume of poetry Licht overal (Light everywhere), Nooteboom expanded the volume he had published earlier in collaboration with Flemish writer-poet-artist Hugo Claus, who contributed etchings to Nooteboom's poems. In 2016, his latest volume of poetry, Monniksoog (Monk’s eye), appeared. Written on the islands Schiermonnikoog and Menorca, the book addresses the writer's recurrent theme of transitoriness, and contains his reflections on language and poetry itself.
© Daan Cartens (1999) / Deborah Schrijvers (2017) (Translated by Ko Kooman), Poetry International
Bibliography

Poetry
De doden zoeken een huis, Querido, Amsterdam 1956
Koude gedichten, Querido, Amsterdam 1959
Het zwarte gedicht, Querido, Amsterdam, 1960
Gesloten Gedichten, De Bezige Bij, 1964
Gemaakte gedichten, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam 1970
Aas, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1982
Het gezicht van het oog, De Arbeirspers, Amsterdam, 1989
Zo Kon Het Zijn, Atlas Contact, Amsterdam, 1999
Biterzoet, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 2000
Over en weer, Atlas Contact, Amsterdam, 2004
Het geluid van Zijn naam, Atlas Contact, Amsterdam, 2005
Licht overal, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2012
Avenue, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2013

Prose
Philip en de anderen, Querido, Amsterdam, 1955
De verliefde gevangene, Querido, Amsterdam 1958
De ridder is gestorven, Querido, Amsterdam, 1963
Rituelen, De Arbeidersper, Amsterdam, 1980
Een lied van schijn en wezen, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1981
Voorbije passages, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1981
Mokusei! & De Boeddha achter de schutting, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1982
In de bergen van Nederland, De Arbeidersper, Amsterdam, 1984
De wereld een reiziger, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1989
Berlijn notities, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1990
Het volgende verhaal, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1991
De omweg naar Santiago, Atlas Contact, Amsterdam, 1992
Allerzielen, Atlas Contact, Amsterdam, 1998
Over En Weer, Atlas Contact, Amsterdam, 2004
Paradijs verloren, Atlas Contact, Amsterdam, 2004
Rode regen, Atlas Contact, Amsterdam, 2007
's Nachts komen de vossen, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2009
Scheepsjournaal, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2010
Avontuur Amerika, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2010
Labyrint Europa / Alle latere reizen, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2012
Eilanden, rif en regenwoud, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2013
Continent in beweging, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2013
De schrijver als hoofdpersoon, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2015
Een duister voorgevoel, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2016
In de sporen van Don Quichot, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2016
533, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2016
Venetië, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2018
Japan, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2019

Essays
Een ochtend in Bahia, Rainbow, Amsterdam, 1968
Nooit gebouwd Nederland, Koninklijk Verbond van Grafische Ondernemingen, Amsterdam, 1980
Vreemd water, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1991
Van de lente de dauw, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1995
Berlijn 1989/2009, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2009
Wat het oog je vertelt, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2016

Plays
De zwanen van de Theems, Querido, Amsterdam 1959
Gyges en Kandaules, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1982
Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère