Maartje Smits and Simone Atangana Bekono

New Dutch Poetry

10 February 2020

In cooperation with Poetry International the Dutch Foundation for Literature introduces two new voices in Dutch poetry: Simone Atangana Bekono and Maartje Smits. Bekono writes sweeping epistolary poems, in which she explores the relationship between body and identity. Smits’ poetry is musical, playful, feminist and innovative.

I wrote a poem about myself
I wrote five versions of myself that were male,
broken, disembodied and confused
I wrote myself into the hell of being an artist and left me there to rot
I wrote beyond myself and came up with a lot of empty words

Simone Atangana Bekono studied Creative Writing at the ArtEZ Institute of the Arts in Arnhem, and was selected for the Slow Writing Lab programme, The Chronicles and CELA (Connecting Literary Artist). In 2016, she graduated at ArtEZ with a collection that would become her poetry debut, Hoe de eerste vonken zichtbaar waren (How the First Sparks Became Visible, Lebowski Publishers), which was awarded the Poëziedebuutprijs Aan Zee 2018 for best first collection. Her poetry constantly alternates between combativeness and tenderness, showing how the personal can be simultaneously poetic and political. Besides poetry, Atangana Bekono also writes prose.

twee portretten Left: Simone Atangana Bekono, photo © Masha Bakker. Right: Maartje Smits Photo: © Monica Curtin

I would möchte be
a frauship’s shallow schouwdek
a bitsy bitchy lust objection

with dikke thighs
dikes off all men deck
deilig thighs bulk carriers that
tar all, tenderly tegen affection

Maartje Smits studied at the Rietveld School of Art & Design and completed her master’s in Design at the Sandberg Institute. Her first collection Als je een meisje bent (If You Are A Girl), a musical, playful and highly feminist book, was published in 2015 by De Harmonie. It was followed two years later by Hoe ik een bos begon in mijn badkamer (How I Started a Forest in my Bathroom), in which Smits reveals herself as one of the first Dutch poets with a deep ecological awareness. She also experiments with the use of chat bots and AI to generate poetic texts and support her performances. The way in which Smits lets her poems break free from the Dutch by peppering them with German, English and French words is becoming something of a trademark for her.


Victor Schiferli


Victor Schiferli

Specialist Dutch non-fiction and poetry

[email protected]