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Poet

Paul Snoek

Paul Snoek

Paul Snoek

(Belgium, 1933 - 1981)
Biography
Paul Snoek, the pseudonym of Edmond Schietekat, was one of the most celebrated and popular poets in Flanders, partly because of his bravura performances in the media.
One of his much-quoted quips reduced the Flemish poetic scene to three poets, Hugo Claus, Hughes C. Pernath and Paul Snoek, and proclaimed himself as the greatest of them. He was a multi-faceted artist, writing both poetry and prose and involved in the visual arts, and professionally was a Jack-of-all-trades (working, for example, as a managing director and a copywriter). As if the mystery of his personal life were destined to reinforce the mythological self-enlargement of his poems, he met his end in a car accident which retains a whiff of a successful suicide attempt.

Paul Snoek made his debut in traditional magazines, but after publishing in the avant-garde journal De Tafelronde (The Round Table) he discovered Dutch experimental poetry. In 1955, with Gust Gils and Hugues C. Pernath, he founded the experimental magazine Gard-Sivik (Civic Guard), which he left two years later. Their generation went down in literary history as the class of 1955, an experimental movement founded in response to the generation of 1950 and hence opposed to the so-called ethical component in the work of authors associated with Tijd en Mens (Age and Mankind).

Paul Snoek built an oeuvre based on and infused with his widely praised imaginative gifts. Sustained by key motifs like ‘water’, his poetry uses fantastic nature imagery to evoke an alternative world designed to compensate for the inadequacy of life, the human condition and the ensuing loneliness. A poem often quoted to illustrate this is ‘Little Poem for Melting in Pure Water’. In a subsequent development in his work this sophisticated play with words and startling imagery are integrated into a prophetic mission that is not averse to mythical self-aggrandisement, using self-assertion as a strategy and presenting Snoek’s vision of life and the world as his truth. In this creatively abundant period Snoek published his famous trilogy Hercules (1961), Richelieu (1961) and Nostradamus (1964).

A third component of his poetry is rebellion and criticism of society. As early as 1959 De heilige gedichten (The Sacred Poems) reveal a poet lashing out wildly around him, but in Gedrichten. Gedokumenteerde aktualiteitspoëzie en/of alternatieve griezelgedichten (Perverses. Documented Topical Poetry and/or Alternative Horror Poems, 1971) which perfectly match the spirit of the times, he gives a satirical, sarcastic voice to the turbulent 1960s. The title ‘Gedrichten’ is a neologism formed by the fusion of gedicht (poem) and gedrocht (monster). From there it is only a short step to his own prose grotesques.

There is also a dark side to Snoek’s work, bursting as it is with vitality and nature metaphors, and that pessimism is expressed in what is perhaps his best collection, De zwarte muze (The Black Muse, 1967), for which he was deservedly awarded the Triennial State Prize for Poetry. Poems describing the unbearable lightness of being culminate unexpectedly in what have been called the best love lyrics ever written in Flanders, ‘The Poems for Mary Magdalene’.
© Patrick Peeters (Translated by Paul Vincent)
Selected bibliography
Archipel, De Sikkel, Antwerp, 1954
Noodbrug De Sikkel, Antwerp, 1955
Aardrijkskunde. Antopografische suite voor naieve meisjes, Gard-Sivik, Antwerp, 1956
Ik rook een vredespijp, A.A.M. Stols, The Hague, 1957
Reptielen & amfibieën (1957)
De heilige gedichten 1956-1958, Ontwikkeling, Antwerp, 1959
Hercules, Manteau, Brussels, 1960
Richelieu, Manteau, Brussels, 1961
Soldatenbrieven, Manteau,  Brussels, 1961
Nostradamu, Manteau, Brussels, 1963
Renaissance, Manteau, Brussels, 1963
De zwarte Muze, Manteau, Brussels, 1967
Bultaco 250 cc, Manteau, Brussels, 1971
Gedichten 1954-1970, Manteau, Brussels, 1971
Kwaak- en kruipdieren, Manteau, Brussels, 1972
Een hondsdolle tijd, Manteau, Brussels, 1978
Welkom in mijn onderwereld, Manteau, Brussels, 1978
Schildersverdriet, Manteau,  Brussels, 1982
Verzamelde gedichten, Manteau, Brussels, 1982
Verzameld scheppend proza, Manteau, Brussels, 1984
Dichters van nu (Anthology), Poëziecentrum, Ghent, 1991
Gedichten, Lannoo/Atlas, Tielt/Amsterdam, 2006

Translations
Four Flemish Poets (English), Transgravity Press, London, 1976
Bia?y rewolwer (Polish), Pan\'stwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, Warsaw, 1978  
Gedicht mit Stille geschrieben (German), Limes, Wiesbaden/Munich, 1976
Hercules, Richelieu and Nostradamus (English), Green Integer, Los Angeles, 2000


Literary prizes
Ark Prize (1963)
Belgian Stateprize for Poetry (1968)
Jan Campert Prize (1971)
Eugène Baie-Prize (1972)
Dirk Martens prize (1980)


Links
Audiofiles of Paul Snoek reading his poetry on Lyrikline
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