Anneke Brassinga

‘As I do’

Anneke Brassinga is the language wizard of Dutch poetry. Perhaps the special feeling for language that she possesses has something to do with her work as a translator. Whatever the case, you are certain to find words and expressions in her work that you will encounter nowhere else.

Her collected works, Passwords (2005), looks like something of a sanctuary for threatened word species. In it you will find words like ‘nornenkot’ (Norns’ hovel) and ‘dropknotsen’ (liquorice lollies) or ‘het wijdbeense zwerk’ (the straddle-legged welkin). This might induce you to believe that a completely different world appears in her work from the everyday, accessible one. In one of her poems she described the occupation of the poet as follows: ‘the word-poacher goes to inspect his snares’.

This, however, is no mere rhetoric, no word-play on the play itself, and although Brassinga would also really seem to be in search of forgotten roots of the language, there is more involved; her abundance of language is placed at the service of a sensation that could almost be called mystical. It sometimes seems as if the poet in her work steps outside herself; for her, language is not just a means of communication but also a way of becoming ecstatic.

At the same time, you feel that via her baroque use of language in which intense experiences of love, despair, doubt play a role – something is at stake: could it be primeval forces? All-in all, Brassinga’s work – from her debut Aurora (1987) up to and including her collection The Mutual (2014) – leaves an incomparable and very particular impression on her readers.

Brassinga exploits language with humour, primal force and lust to experiment.

NRC Handelsblad

A mind-expanding universe of language and a rollercoaster of intertextuality.

Jury of P.C. Hooft Prize 2015

Poetry on the border between life and death, and the omnipotence of language. That’s what Brassinga’s poems are about.

De Standaard


The wind weighs the words
and finds them too light
the wind weeps, sweeps the words
aside, out of sight

the storm petrel that gulps them up
will rise to the heights of the giant albatross
or merely wish to screech
as I do, dusted monkey chained to its perch.

(Translation by John Irons)

Anneke Brassinga

Anneke Brassinga (b. 1948) published essays, prose, eleven books of poems and numerous translations in to Dutch of a.o. Nabokov, Beckett and Plath. Her poetry was awarded the Herman Gorter Prize, the Paul Snoek Prize, the Ida Gerhardt Prize and the VSB Poetry Prize. She also won two major prizes…

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As I do (2016). Poetry.


11 Poets from Holland


De Bezige Bij

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