Tsjêbbe Hettinga

The poetry of Tsjêbbe Hettinga

Grand lyrical poetry

The resounding, musical performance of Frisian poet Tsjêbbe Hettinga has made a great impression on numerous Frisian, Dutch and international audiences. He recites his poetry by heart, not just because of his poor eyesight, but principally to create maximum space for the expression of his emotions. He is also a saxophone player and he likes to compare his recitals with solos in jazz.

In Hettinga’s poems the landscape of his own region, but also that of Wales and Greece, plays an important role. The poet celebrates the sea, the sky, the seagulls, the cattle, the grass, but most of all the shore, the line where two worlds meet. His poetry is about great romantic themes, such as love, decay and death, about longing for strange shores and the longing to be back home. It is not a poetry of fine-spun reasoning but one of images. The images Hettinga evokes seem to be prompted by the sound patterns of the Frisian language, or by previous images and this sometimes results in their baroque enumeration, over which he keeps control by a regular syllabic pattern in regular stanzas and by giving his poems an epic framework.

His strongly expressive musical language tends to carry the reader away and the listener still more. Attending a recital by Hettinga is an experience in itself. In this respect T.S. Eliot’s words ‘Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood’ certainly apply.

In 1995 Hettinga’s bilingual book Vreemde kusten / Frjemde kusten was published, including the cd De foardrachten (The Declamations). It was generally hailed as a success and sold thousands of copies. Four years later an edition of this book was published in English and Frisian, entitled Strange shores / Frjemde kusten. In 2001 his Frisian collection Fan oer see en fierder was awarded the most important prize in Frisian literature: the Gijsbert Japickx Price.

Hettinga is not an oracle-spelling, blind visionary whose poetry happens to make some sense on paper only occasionally. On the contrary, it is the other way round: he is a very special poet, a lyricist and a constructor rolled into one, a poet who can make the language of speech sing, a colourful painter who is very conscious of what he is doing.

Guus Middag in NRC Handelsblad

We will have to get accustomed to this broad and mythic style, as if reflection, irony and conciseness had never existed, and to the fact that poets can be visionaries again unashamedly. (…) Hettinga is an exceptional poet in our country, someone who honours the legacy of Slauerhoff and Marsman and, more distantly, reminds one of Baudelaire.

Rob Schouten in Vrij Nederland


Tsjêbbe Hettinga

Tsjêbbe Hettinga (1949-2013) was born in Burchwert, a small village in the Province of Friesland in the Netherlands. He studied Dutch and Frisian language and literature at Groningen State University and has been living in Ljouwert / Leeuwarden, capital of Friesland, since 1982. In 1973 he…

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De poëzie van Tsjêbbe Hettinga . Poetry.

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Friese Pers Boekerij bv

P.O. Box 394
8901 BD Leeuwarden
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 58 28 45 545
Fax: +31 58 28 45 82

[email protected]

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