Poetry International Poetry International

Gerrit Komrij

Gerrit Komrij

Gerrit Komrij

(Nederland, 1944 - 2012)

Gerrit Komrij was a lone figure in Dutch poetry at the time of the appearance of his first collection of poems in 1968. In the age of the Fiftiers and Sixtiers with their free verse forms and ready mades, the fixed form and diction of his poems was thought to be archaic and hackneyed. And the masquerade he put on in his poems contributed to his initially not being taken seriously. His most recent anthology Alle gedichten tot gisteren (All poems up to yesterday, 2004), however, comprises almost seven hundred pages of poetry and Komrij, who has always remained faithful to the fixed form of his first poems, is now – masks and all – considered to be one of the greatest living Dutch poets. From 2000 to 2004 he was the first poet laureate, Dichter des Vaderlands, of the Netherlands. In addition to being a poet, Komrij is also a prose writer of stature. His pieces on poetry make him one of the few Dutch poetry critics of any significance.

The title of Komrij’s latest collection of poems, Spaans benauwd (Spanish constriction), which appeared at the beginning of 2005, betrays the fact that it is still claustrophobia that spurs him on to write poetry. For Komrij, the first and last line of each poem are nothing less than reflections of the boundaries imposed on the life of the poet – and of humanity. The constriction of the chest evoked by the presence of these boundaries prompts the poet to stretch the bow between them as tautly as possible. The approaching final line of the poem – death, the end of time – causes ominous creaks and groans in Komrij’s poetry. He is balancing above the abyss. The sheer fun and frolics of a masquerade tend to wear off if the real poem may turn out to reveal a death’s head. “Divest me of my masks and/ I’m (…) With marble grave close at hand”, Komrij writes in his latest collection. The balance is precarious: “Whoever changes colour even faster/ Will really disappear, perhaps”. It is thanks to the figments of the poet’s imagination that language and humanity escape from the fossilisation that they live and love (for the erotic connotation is always there in these poems): “Strip me of poetry and/ I’m (...) A man with no magic wand.”

© Tatjana Daan (Translated by John Irons)


Maagdenburgse Halve Bollen en Andere Gedichten, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1968
Twee werelden, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1987
Rook zonder vuur, Stupers Van der Heijden, the Hague, 1998
52 Sonnetten bij het Verglijden van de Eeuw, Bert Bakker, Amsterdam, 2000
Luchtspiegelingen: Gedichten, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2001
Komrij's patentwekker, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2007 (originally 1974)
Boemerang en Andere Gedichten, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2012

Daar Is het Gat van de Deur, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1974
Papieren Tijgers, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1978
De Stankbel van de Nieuwezijds, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1979
Verzonken Boeken, Synopsis, Amsterdam, 1986
Humeuren en Temperamenten, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1989
Over de Bergen, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1990
De Pagode, De Bijenkorf, Amsterdam, 1990
Dubbelster, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1993
Niet te Geloven, Stichting Collectieve Propaganda van het Nederlandse Boek, Amsterdam, 1997
In Liefde Bloeyende, Bert Bakker, Amsterdam, 1998
De Klopgeest, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2001
Luchtspiegelingen, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2001
Demonen, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2003
Komrij's Kakafonie, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2006
Wagner en Ik, Uitgeverij 521, Amsterdam, 2006
De Tempel van Diana, De Bezige Bij, 2008
Morgen Heten We Allemaal Ali, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2010
De Loopjongen, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2012
Twee Punt Nul, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2013

Verwoest Arcadië, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1980
De Buitenkant, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1995
Brieven uit Alvites, De Bezige Bij, Amsterdam, 2015

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