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Lucebert: The Collected Poems, Volume 3
Series No.: 197
ISBN: 978-1557134165, Pages: 522
Dutch Literature, Poetry
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The Experimental Group in Holland, founded in 1948, very soon merged with an international art movement of the day known as Cobra (or CoBrA: from Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam). Closely allied to these art movements was the loosely connected Fiftiers movement (de Vijftigers), composed of Dutch and some Flemish poets. Lucebert was affiliated with both of these movements. His early impact soon made him an established and acclaimed poet. He won numerous national and Amsterdam-based prizes, and, to this day, he remains an important voice within the Dutch literary canon.
Lucebert (1924–1994), was born in Amsterdam where he lived and worked for the first 30 years of his life. In 1954, he, his wife, and their young children relocated to the coastal town of Bergen (North Holland), then popular among artists and poets. He lived there for the next 40 years.
His artistic and poetic output was staggering by any standard. He worked tirelessly, but in the late ’60s and ’70s, the publication of his poetry books temporarily stagnated. The Collected Poems, Volume 3 (of four) begins with Beautiful View & Other Curiosities, published in 1965. The next collection with a title, Harvesting in the Wandering Garden, did not appear until 1981. However, as the two Uncollected Poems sections (1964–1972 and 1973 & 1974) published in this volume demonstrate, Lucebert was not totally inactive during this period.
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Lucebert: The Collected Poems, Volume 1
Lucebert: The Collected Poems, Volume 2
NEWPAGES BLOG, July 11, 2022
by Jason Gordy Walker
"Book Review :: Lucebert: The Collected Poems, Volume 3"
The ranting, mischievous, socially engaged verse of Lucebert, the great Dutch poet, painter, and anti-apartheid activist, dazzles (and dizzies) the reader with surrealistic images, quick tone shifts, puns, and jazzy philosophical musings. Published by Green Integer in a pocket-sized, bilingual edition, Volume 3 shows Lucebert, a well-known affiliate of experimental writing movements De Vijftigers and CoBrA, on top of his game. See this tercet from the brief, wry “communiqué”:
through logic people get ahead
shoot for kicks at rats wolves riffraff
god is a pet[.]
Or consider how
…always music makes music
rocking ejector-seat directed
at perilous fluffy down
sweet skirt that frowns
like an enjoying forehead
Images morph into more images, mimicking the consciousness that commits them to paper. Diane Butterman’s translations from the Dutch into English preserve (and transform) the poems’ spirits. In “…and tomorrow the whole world,” a poem full of sharp adjectives, the poet pokes fun at class privilege:
…from our snooty benefits we will if need be
weave a temporary bandage for the world[.]
Lucebert eschews proper punctuation, creating language-rivers, reminding us to be wary of the “…little butcher [who] planned to slaughter the whole nation.”