New Poet Laureate of the Netherlands

Ester Naomi Perquin

27 January 2017

Ester Naomi Perquin has been appointed as the new Poet Laureate of the Netherlands for a period of two years. Perquin’s great experience of the literary world makes her perfectly suited to the role of poetry’s ambassador in the Netherlands. She has edited a literary magazine, hosted a national radio show, written columns, compiled a poetry calendar and served as the Poet Laureate of Rotterdam. Perquin does not, however, limit her activities to poetry and literature; two years ago, for instance, she wrote the memorandum of basic principles for Rotterdam’s cultural policy.

She is also an effective representative of Dutch poetry abroad, having appeared at numerous international festivals, including Poetry on the Road in Bremen, Germany, the Tbilisi International Festival of Literature, Georgia, Wordfees in Stellenbosch, South Africa and the Brighton Festival in the UK (for Modern Poetry in Translation). Her work has been translated into English, German, Spanish and Slovenian, appearing in both magazines and anthologies. The first book-length translation of her work, The Hunger in Plain View, will be published in the United States in April 2017 by White Pine Press.

Perquin excels in both deceptively light observation and narrative poetry, as seen in her prize-winning collection Cell Inspections, which consists largely of portraits of inmates she worked with during her years as a prison guard. The American poet Kathleen McGookey has described her poems as ‘by turns quirky, playful, surreal, and chilling, [they] delighted me and broke my heart.’

The new Poet L aureate was chosen by a commission formed for this purpose in October 2016 by Poetry International and the leading Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad. Made up of a number of prominent Dutch writers and critics, the commission was charged with finding a poet who is recognized both within and outside the poetry circuit, who is capable of generating a wide audience for poetry, who is passionate, proactive and communicative, yet finds it easy to interact with the media and has a relaxed stage presence. This was no easy bill to fit, but that only increases the pride and enthusiasm with which the commission presents Ester Naomi Perquin as the fifth Poet Laureate of the Netherlands. “Her sharp mind, creative personality and linguistic sensitivity make her the ideal Poet Laureate 2017-2019 and a dream successor to Anne Vegter, Ramsey Nasr, Driek van Wissen and Gerrit Komrij.”

Ester Naomi Perquin (b. 1980) put herself through writing school by working as a prison guard. Her poetry has won her many awards, including the prestigious Van der Hoogt Prize for her first two collections and the VSB Poetry Prize, the biggest Dutch-language prize for a single volume, for Cell Inspections (2013). Her most recent collection, Multiple Absence, was published in February 2017 by Van Oorschot publishers.


‘Her sharp mind, creative personality and linguistic sensitivity make her the ideal Poet Laureate 2017-2019' – the Dutch Poet Laureate commission