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.