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The Proteus of Dutch letters

Poems 1948-2004

Hugo Claus

Hugo Claus’ poetic output, running to over 1,400 pages, is a plethora of forms, styles, themes, even poetics. He made his début as a poet in 1947 in a rather traditional manner, with a volume of confessional poetry, which he published on his own. In Paris in the early 1950s he came into contact with existentialism and surrealism, and with artists of the CoBrA group. Immersed in ‘the cult of the spontaneous’ he produced several volumes of experimental verse, of which ‘The East Acre Poems’, is generally rated highest. From about 1960 Claus began to allow more of the outside world and current events to enter into his poetry and with social involvement came a growing interest in the (literary) past.

Impressive, many-voiced poetry, generous, rich, unhampered by conventions of fashion or good taste
Jury VSB Poetry Prize

His later collections display his full poetic range: next to moving autobiographical poems there are complex, intertextual ‘rewrites’ and text montages, satirical occasional poems, doggerel rhymes and poems commenting on other poems, or on a photograph or work of art. All the themes from his earlier work – time, motion, transience, consciousness, corporality, sexuality, language and tradition, return.