‘I want to talk to a fascist’
Maarten van der Graaff’s debut collection Getawaycarpoems (2013) opens with the line ‘enormous enormous space’. In the 50 pages that follow, the poet fills this space by painting, sketching and blotting with an incessant flow of words.
Lucid announcements switch to absurd scenes; a fleeting thought can grow into a whole story or remain fleeting, or it can turn completely into its opposite, because as Van der Graaff writes in ‘The athlete trusts his jump’:
‘Only fascists never contradict themselves’.
Alternating between youthful elation and boundless boredom, Van der Graaff tries to express ‘how tired everything is’ and, simultaneously, how ‘fragrant and/ useless and light’. This results in sprawling poems that show what it is like to live and read in this very moment; what it is like to be bored to death every now and then; and what it feels like to refuse to give up hoping, maybe even believing, in something more. ‘I like question marks that are everything but profound. Can I go?
Getawaycarpoems was awarded the C. Buddingh’ Prize for the best Dutch-language debut collection in 2014. The jury called Van der Graaff an ‘immensely resourceful poet’ and praised ‘the breadth of Van der Graaff ’s poems, regarding composition, vocabulary and themes’. Soon after, Van der Graaff published his second book, Dead Work. Here again the poet stands firmly situated in the current day and reports his findings without holding back. His tone is confident and free from illusion. In ‘Lists’, the first half of the book, and ‘Clocked poems’, the second half, he attempts to create cohesion between his life and surroundings. This attempt is as slippery (‘The shape of my existence shows itself/ as crumbly factuality,’ he writes) as it is necessary, because there is:
‘a social sphere I don’t understand./ I want to write for those who/ are found in this space.’