De Coninck’s poems, described as “strange, original, and absolutely fabulous” by the renowned Serbian-American poet Charles Simic, owe their popularity to the clear parlando style, the balanced tone and the familiarity of themes like love, mortality and loss. For De Coninck, poetry was, sometimes literally, an exercise in loss. In later, more romantic volumes – from ‘Sounding like an Oboe’ and ‘The Acres of Memory’ to the posthumously published ‘Fingerprints’ – the wordplay makes way for a sparser melancholy.
His poems seem so easy and so obvious, but their core is the sense of being alone in a silent worldHugo Brems
A constant in his poems is the urge to bring poetry closer to everyday reality without adopting the pose of a distant observer. In his poems, De Coninck often takes a familiar situation as the point of departure, things like an autumn walk or a birthday party. He was a poet of understatement, who countered sentimentality with ironic humour, while also admiring the grandeur in the work of poets like the American bohemian Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose poems he translated. Contagious enthusiasm and a great love for language were the gentle weapons with which the poet and essayist strove to make poetry comprehensible.