‘I’ve begun breathing again’
After her acclaimed debut collection in 2010, the young poet Lieke Marsman was considered a prodigy by many. Three important literary prizes and four years later, she confirmed her reputation with her next book of poems, The First Letter.
It was already evident in her debut collection that she was a thinker, but in The First Letter compulsive thoughts and delusions seem to lead a life of their own. A fear of everything and more plays an important role and can even get in the way of the poetry:
‘Today/ poetry seems to me a country/ to which I have not/ been given a ticket (…)/ a far-off island/ full of penguins.’
On paper it sounds more or less as it would sound in a hyper-aware and cogitating head. Talking is going on the whole time, the tone muttering at times, at other times as if she is having a row with (ex-) boyfriends and then suddenly realising: ‘who is it I’m actually talking to?’
The poems represent an attempt to recover language and poetry, and to find peace of mind. She writes aphoristically at some point:
‘The loveliest person/ is the one who doesn’t reflect on things; who has enough self-trust not to need/ any words inside the head when putting on a cup/ of tea’,
That this never turns into something sombre or heavy is due to the fact that Marsman’s sometimes panic-stricken fears are served with a generous dose of absurdity. She manages to lend even the most painful moments – a girl that is beaten black and blue by her boyfriend – a certain laconic charm, although behind such burly lines one dimly senses vulnerability.
The First Letter concludes with a tender lullaby. The tempest of thoughts has died down, and the poetry has returned. For good, let us hope, for Lieke Marsman is a valuable asset to Dutch poetry.