Esther Jansma

Esther Jansma (b. 1958) is a welcome guest at poetry podia and on literary programmes, not only because of the quality of her work but also because of her ability to discuss it clearly and incisively. She is an archaeologist but calls herself ‘a fulltime poet with a part-time job’. She made her debut with Stem onder mijn bed (Voice under my Bed, 1988) after which she published Bloem, steen (Flower, Stone, 1990). In her much-acclaimed third collection, Waaigat (1993) the poet distances herself from autobiographical details. Her fourth book, Picknick op de wenteltrap (Picnic on the Spiral Staircase, 1997), is comprised of short sketches from the perspective of a small child. Prose, but so poetic that it blurs the borderline between the genres. Spring 1998 saw the appearance of Hier is de tijd (Time Is Here) which just like Picknick op de wenteltrap received raving reviews.

The Poetry of Esther Jansma

(De Arbeiderspers, )

It is fitting that Esther Jansma’s day job involves dating wood through its annual rings. Deciphering the traces left by time: what could be more poetic? For Jansma a poet is:
The rag-and-bone man, collector of
remnants, moments, cracks
in things.

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‘I change so slowly she won’t notice’

(Prometheus, 2016)

In Esther Jansma’s early work, the voices of the past are heard from bewildering years: as a child, the disappearance of a father, then as a mother, the loss of a child. Her later poetry is less personal but more compelling as her poetic universe expands, embracing the whole world.

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