Collected Poems

The ‘Emperor’ of his revolutionary generation

The Fiftiers were connected to the European CoBrA Movement and the Experimental Group in Holland, a group of painters and writers, established in 1948 who, as the painter Constant put it in his manifesto, were ‘against the degenerate aesthetic concepts that had hindered the development of creativity in the past.’ For the first time, a definitive break was being made with the established art and literature of the past.

One thing that characterized the revolutionary new poetry of the Fiftiers was an unrestrained pleasure in language and a belief in what language could bring to bear. Simultaneously the new poetry aimed to present a reality that was stripped of all metaphysical certainty.

For Lucebert, such an experience was epitomised as a sharp awareness of being ‘a breadcrumb on the skirt of the universe’ and it is in his work that we find the expression of this sensibility to be at its most intense. Often hailed the ‘Emperor’ of the Fiftiers, Lucebert’s growing reputation as a poet culminated in his receiving of the Dutch State Prize for Literature in 1983. Throughout his entire life he remained totally devoted to his drawing, painting and poetry.

Lucebert is a prophet who, with the greatest urgency, screams and whispers a message.

Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer

School of Poetry

I am no sweet rhymer
I am the swift swindler
of love, the hate beneath it heed
and there above a cackling deed.

the lyrical is the mother of the political,
I am none other than the riot reporter
and my mysticism is the putrefied fodder
of deceit used by virtue to purge it all.

I proclaim that the velvet poets
are dying timidly and humanistically.
from now on the hot iron throat
of moved henchmen will open musically.

yet I, who in these sheaves abide
like a rat in a trap, yearn for the cesspool
of revolution and cry: rhyme-rats, deride,
deride still this far too pure poetry school.

(Translation by Diane Butterman)


Lucebert (ps Lubertus Jacobus Swaanswijk, 1924-1994) is one of the most important reformers of Dutch poetry in the twentieth century. He was a key figure in the Fiftiers Movement, an experimental group of poets that changed the face of Dutch literature after World War II. Shortly after the war he…

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Verzamelde gedichten (1974). Poetry, 813 pages.


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