Against the Forgetting
Modern and classical at the same time
Hans Faverey is currently considered one of the greatest and most influential Dutch poets of the twentieth century, but his poetic reputation grew slowly.
His first two collections, Poems (1968) and Poems II (1972) gained cautious critical acclaim and were seen by some as ‘difficult’ and ‘hermetic’. His third volume, Chrysanthemums, Rowers (1977), however met with unanimous praise, and gained the Jan Campert Prize. The poems indeed seem more accessible, though they still contain a sense of mystery and paradox. They also became slightly longer, setting a tone and format which he was to retain for the rest of his poetic life.
The poetry of Faverey seems modern and classical at the same time, transparent and complicated, unpredictable and witty. His work contains traces of the ancient philosophers (e.g. Heraclitus, but also Meister Eckhart), Anglo-Saxon literature and Chinese poetry. Faverey’s love for nature, his fascination for landscapes, is tangible in many of his poems. The title poem of Chrysanthemums, Rowers, in which eight rowers row further and further inland, until they simply cease to be, was an immediate household classic.
Little by little –
they are drawing nearer: 8 rowers,
growing ever further inland
in their mythology:
with each stroke ever further
from home, rowing with all their might;
growing till all the water is gone,
and they fill the whole landscape
to the brim. Eight –
rowing ever further inland;
landscape, for there is
no more water: overgrown
rowing ever further
inland; land without rowers;
(Translation by Francis R. Jones)