Unsettling poetry that fascinates by its stupefying sensuous power
Annemarie Estor is known for the sensuousness and sensory intensity of her texts and her cross-genre poetics. Critics have described her poetry as texts that ‘should be gobbled up and revelled in’. They say she writes ‘language from which there is no escape’, and uses ‘intoxicating metaphors, mesmerizing lyricism, and unique musicality’.
Uncomfortable conclusions alternate with vivid images
The international bakery appears to be a place where freedom and civil rights prevail. The whole world comes together here. Nolens has written a distinctly political and contemporary pamphlet, an attack on our individualistic society. He portrays the poetic and multi-layered quest of an individual who seeks to connect with the fluctuating forms of community in a city.
A monument, in the oeuvre of Verhelst as well as in the history of poetry
‘Choir’ is the first anthology of poems Peter Verhelst selected himself out of published and unpublished works. This new context forced Verhelst not only to change the chronological order, but often also to a rewriting of several poems.
The subtleness of this poetry continues to affect you, even once you have left the swimming pool of imagination
‘Swimming Pool of Imagination’ is Tom Van de Voorde’s third collection. The poems explicitly reflect the current political and societal issues. He is nothing more than an engaged spectator of ‘military fear’. We might heroically resolve to get involved in the world around us, but to what extent do we succeed?
For the brief duration of a poem, Van Istendael manages to save people, things and a dialect from fading into obscurity
Van Istendael takes notice of people as closely as he observes the objects around him. He serves up beautiful, melancholic poems of earthly tragedy. The ‘People’ section is an ode to the (almost lost) dialect and (almost) bygone times.
Charlotte Van den Broeck won her poetical spurs in a similar way to Maud Vanhauwaert, namely onstage. The accompanying familiarity of her name provided her debut ‘Chameleon’ with the necessary impetus. ‘Chameleon’ would appear to be the perfect title for a debut volume of poetry.
Her universe is peopled by characters and situations which brutally burst into your imagination and remain there to haunt your dreams when you are wide awake.
Jury Report VSB Poetry Prize
Delphine Lecompte’s poetry creates an extraordinary universe, peopled with characters of highly diverse plumage. The poems are self and family portraits, which, like mirrors at a funfair, magnify the poet’s world into mythological dimensions and associations and reduce it to personal dramas. Full of unusual trains of thought, they seem most like lucid ravings.
Ruth Lasters operates with a pair of silver scissors, filleting modern society affectionately, but uncompromisingly.
Jury Report VISB Prize
She connects a football game to the way our brain works, and flashing neon lights remind her of her own futility. Ruth Laster's poetry is characterized by playful leaps of the mind, yet they are never banal. Lasters employs language as a magnifying glass: she twists reality to see with a crystal-clear vision, against the loss of wonder, and for the gusto of discovery.
Erik Spinoy constructs his collections with great care, dividing them meticulously into sections and cycles that reinforce his treatment of themes. He rediscovers himself time and again, like a snake shedding its skin. His book ‘Now is Already too Late’ is no different in this respect, and at the same time it is.
He composes exuberant poems that sometimes come flying off the rails – which is actually quite refreshing considering how stagnant the world of poetry so often is
‘Wonderbras & Pepper Spray’ by Andy Fierens is revealing in its contemporaneity. Those who still think that poetry always sings about sublime subjects in a sacred, respectful tone will have to fundamentally rethink their opinions after reading these poems.
Her wonder on existence becomes the wonder of the reader
Jury Report VSB Poetry Prize
Maud Vanhauwaert already had won her spurs on the stage before notably debuting as a poet with her collection ‘Ik ben mogelijk’ (I am possible). ‘Wij zijn evenwijdig’ is a complex collection that at a closer look gets more and more coherent, using rhetorical strategies that easily seduce the reader. Reader and poet, walking parallel, touch each other in infiniteness.
Gradually the light nonchalant tone in Jooris’s poetry disappears and it becomes more severe. The world moves increasingly out of the frame; more and more frequently the poems are about poetry itself. In his poetic work too Jooris has often turned to the world of the arts for inspiration. 'Sculptures' is the perfect introduction to his comparatively modest oeuvre.
Buelens writes a forthright terroristic poetry, although with still carefulness and subtility
‘Home’ investigates what makes us feel at home. Is it a place, a feeling, a language, a wireless connection or a carefully cultivated illusion? At first sight his poetry appears to be difficult, and while it can hardly be called simple, it is never uncomprehensible. Rather, it links the quest for the appropriate linguistic structure with the everyday struggle of the lyrical protagonist.
A chilling display of all the things people do to each other. Bogaert is not only one of the most modern but also one of the most interesting poets writing at the moment, one who gets under your skin rather than remaining at a distance, on paper.
De Martelaere is not someone who thinks slowly or laboriously. No – her trains of thought thunder at full speed, are compelling and, within a limited space, summon up and deal with a variety of issues
Love, insecurity and an endless longing for another are the most prominent themes in the poetry brought together in this anthology that spans 20 years.The poetry in ‘Nothing that Says’ portrays something that cannot be made tangible in any other way.
A delightful piece to read and look at, with international allure
Verbeke and Verplancke offer a parody of the sovereign power of the artist in modern society. At a more abstract level, this story, taking place in the limited confines of a ski lift, is about an unsympathetic society that demands the artist to justify him- or herself. The result is a parable you will not easily forget.
Leonard Nolens is a monumental figure in Flemish poetry. His poetry forms one of the most all-encompassing and uncompromising oeuvres in Dutch-language literature. With brilliance, Nolens addresses a number of classic themes in ever-varying modulations, as if haunted by them. Nolens’ poetry is distinguished by the polyphonic ways of thinking and imaginary ways of acting that are contained within it.
Act like Elvis and shoot a bullet through your telly: it is here you have to look
Charles Ducal’s poetry contains much irony and casual humour, yet doesn’t shrink from such grand themes as language, religion and sexuality. His poetry is allegedly blasphemous, but ‘shocking’ would be a better epithet.
In the dead calm literature in Flanders, the most remarkable debutant in years
With the skill of a pathologist, in 'Waakzaam' (Vigilant, 2011), he dissects the ugliness of hedonism and the aberration of egotism using drawn-out tirades in which the metre jerks and judders, and in which he makes a conscious choice to use ugly, often composite words full of hard consonants, like something posted by a spammer on an Internet forum.
In ‘The Trip to Inframundo’ (2011) Peter Holvoet-Hanssen presents a challenging selection of poems taken from these five collections, and by altering the original chronology and combining poems in new ways he constructs a completely fresh collection in which he follows trails that emerge before fading away
About this poetry, we will not run out of themes to talk about
Paul Demets' poetry is very much aware that language constitutes both the individual and the society in which a human being lives. His poetry questions the social and ethical dimensions, and resulting dilemmas, of modern society and time. In a world without fixed points to hold onto, the search for the self and the longing for interaction with the other ground Demets’ poems.
Peter Theunynck’s body houses twin souls: a virtuoso aesthete and a contrary troublemaker; a mild melancholic and a snappy hero of the resistance; a whistling nature-lover and a protesting city-dweller.
Insingel’s language has the grim structure of a machinery, but when carefully read that machinery displays emotions
Language is at the heart of Mark Insingel’s oeuvre. His writing is based on an idiosyncratic, creative relationship with existing forms of expression such as slogans, traditional proverbs and idiomatic phrases, which he undermines and in his unique way playfully and unexpectedly combines in varying settings to eke out new meanings.
In his texts Gruwez is looking for the boundaries of what is considered as decent or fitting
Gruwez' work does not shy away from heavy emotions. His poetry is a plea for sensuality, daring to be different, for emotional courage, for lyricism. In ‘Wardrobe’ he made a selection out of forty years of poetry writing. It is a strong and severe choice that presents a perfect introduction to the poetical work of Luuk Gruwez.
Hadewijch's Songs are the beating heart of Dutch-language literature. This mystic was the first woman in Europe to have dared to sing of mystical love in pure love poetry. Hadewijch created with astounding mastery and linguistic skill a mysticism of desire.
The Sons of the Sun’ is an anthology of his seven published poetry collections, each of which has an internationally-inspired theme as its foundation. Paul Claes’ poems conjure up meaning using the alchemy of words, blend in Shakespearian sonnets, showcase rhyming sound poetry alongside pastiches, visual poetry and epigrams, and so on.
Moeyaert is at his most interesting when he allows himself to be driven by subject matter. It is then that he knows best how to disarm and move his readers in a fresh and elegant way
In ‘Poems for Happy People’, happiness and love are inseparably linked. Love (in all its forms) emanates from every page. Young readers discover a love of reading for the first time, the lighthouse loves seeing people around its town, and the sea loves washing ashore (because, after every low tide, it always changes its mind and returns).
Karel van de Woestijne is perhaps the most important post-symbolist poet to have written in the Dutch language. Van de Woestijne’s collected work consists of almost one thousand pages of poetry and an equal amount of prose, a significant portion being dedicated to epic poetry and essays on the visual arts and literature.
This is an extremely accurate and haunting collection of poems.
Jury Report Herman de Coninck Prize
In the poems of Moors’ debut collection ‘There is a tall sky above us’, a rather peculiar ‘I’ communicates ongoing amazement about a rather peculiar world. Undoubtedly the strong compositional aspect and the equally strong, provocative nature of her work are partly why these poems have already been deemed classics of the twenty-first century and Moors one of the rising stars of Flemish poetry.
Observation is second nature to Bernard Dewulf, not only as a means to gather inspiration, but also as a linguistic method to catch a glimpse of the essence of things. In a stylised language he transforms his images and impressions into highly sensitive poems.
This is great theatre on the square centimeter. The leading role? The classical duo: you and me.
The poems in ‘Help’ show the influence of the theatre: the two characters presented are utterly at the mercy of their urges, fears and desires. ‘Help’ is representative of Meuleman’s themes and obsessions; he is a cold observer of what might better be concealed behind closed doors. The author portrays characters who cast off their façades and make their way through a dark universe of loveless dependency, power, perversion and rampant sexual compulsions.
Impressive, many-voiced poetry, generous, rich, unhampered by conventions of fashion or good taste
Jury VSB Poetry Prize
Although Claus is a stirring eclectic who displays a masterful variety of genre and style in all his activities, the basic theme of his work is clearly the urge for freedom, which must be fought for in family, church and society. Claus’ work addresses not only the malaise in society, but also inner unease.
Possibly the greatest Flemish poet of the 20th century. High time for a rediscovery
In a time when competing upheavals and –isms came successively at break-neck pace, Minne searched for and found his own voice, which made no attempts at pathos, sentimentality or exaggerated optimism in progress. With its inimitable blend of minimalism and irony, Minne’s poetry was remarkable, accessible and subversive right from the outset.
Everything proves that the work of Christine D’haen is unique in Dutch-language literature
Jury Report Anna Bijns Prize
It is certain that the oeuvre of Christine D’haen will be read by different generations for many years ahead. This dense and highbrow poetry asks much from its readers, but in return they enjoy broad vistas that invite reflections on life and culture.
Van Bastelaere provokes, menaces and seduces, curses and sings, but ceaselessly knows to fascinate his reader, to tangle him in his web of words
‘Affairs of the Heart’ is generally acknowledged as Van Bastelaere's best and richest work to date. In this collection, the heart appears as an empty signifier which is accorded another meaning in every poem and is shown as a cultural construction.
Gilliams’ sixty-eight poems and his entire body of work are part of the painful and obsessive effort to uncover and preserve his true self. The ultimate goal of his endeavors was to create a “lyrical autobiography”, a still portrait in the sea of life.
Van hee holds on to the ordinary, familiar, everyday things: landscapes, conversations, relationships and moments of intense love. The seeming transparency of her language gives a universal dimension to our everyday images of loss. The reader imagines himself safe in her world, an illusion that is often suddenly dashed.
His poems seem so easy and so obvious, but their core is the sense of being alone in a silent world
A constant in Herman de Coninck's poems is the urge to bring poetry closer to everyday reality without adopting the pose of a distant observer. In his poems, he often takes a familiar situation as the point of departure, things like an autumn walk or a birthday party. He is a poet of understatement, who counters sentimentality with ironic humour.
Each poem attests to a supreme form of living – even in failure
Tom Van Inschoot
Acutely aware of the destructive power of time, Bontridder does not set an ethical or aesthetic example to his audience. Rather, he holds a broken mirror up to them, creating a reflection in which the poet and reader rebel against their powerlessness.
Distinctly innovating poetry resulting in a whirling reading experience
Using old myths of fertility described by Frazer, biblical and Christian references and literary quotations, Claus evokes a mythical and fatal family constellation in which the mother, the father, the son and the beloved play roles that are alternately driven by desire and love, but also by fear and hatred. Definitely one of the highpoints in his oeuvre.
At the end of his life and in the first two decades of the 20th century, Gezelle was hailed by the avant-garde as the founder of modern Flemish poetry, and his unique voice was also belatedly recognised in the Netherlands and often compared with his English contemporary Gerard Manley Hopkins.
A literary all-rounder who explores all facets of life
‘Pitfalls’ is a varied collection of letters, verse and short stories. The excerpts from the letters – which were never intended to be made public – caused a furore at the time. The title refers to the obstacles between Minne and the process of writing, between the author and publication – in other words, to the aforementioned struggle. As Minne put it: ‘Caution, enter at your peril!’
Embedded in a fragmentary atmospheric sketch of life in the port of Antwerp during World War I, ‘Occupied City’ is first and foremost a settling of accounts with the bourgeois culture and politics of Ostaijen’s period. The Dadaist influence from his time in Berlin can be found in its inventive rhythmical typography, its use of the collage technique, and the radicalism of its unparalleled cynical evocation of wartime suffering.