Herman Gorter published Poems of 1890 a year after his highly successful debut collection May. It marked a radical departure, not only for Dutch poetry but in a European context.
Gorter was aiming to create a poetic form of what later became known as ‘sensitivism’: the recording of fleeting, fragmentary moments of individual experience with an almost mystical intensity. The only obvious point of comparison for this new artistic and verbal extremism is the Rimbaud of ‘Le bateau ivre’, ‘Voyelles’ and ‘Une saison en enfer’, though there is no question of any direct influence.
For this volume Gorter wrote a hundred or more poems, some of only two lines (‘You’re a dusky white lily girl / You’re a butterfly velvet swirl.’) and none longer than a few pages. They rhyme, mostly in full rhyming couplets, which serves as a stable background for irregular line lengths and syntax, a radical use of neologism, synaesthesia, surging eroticism and a haunting, fragmentary musicality.
They include some astonishingly simple and direct love poems. Gorter’s explosive and sometimes tortured expressionism recalls that of his contemporary Vincent van Gogh.