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Being a city poet of Utrecht is almost ten years behind me - I did it officially from 2009 to 2011. Then the function was taken over by the Utrecht City Poets' Guild, in which any Utrecht poet who feels called and has published two books of poetry with a national publisher can join.

With such a guild, you can raise pros and cons, and that happens once every few years. But at least Utrecht will be spared what Haarlem brought upon itself late last week by choosing Darryl Danchelo Osenga, a rapper known as Insayno, as city poet from about 50 applicants.

Insayno was city poet for two days - you involuntarily think of that advertisement in which a temp says at his grand farewell party, "It was two fantastic days" - and in doing so probably set a record as the shortest-serving city poet in history, with one city poem to his name ("sister of the capital").

What was the problem? Insayno has spent the last seven years building a controversial image that you probably get away with better as a rapper than as a city poet: having his picture taken with an AK47, posting anti-Semitic tweets, trivialising the Holocaust in a rap lyric, being arrested for sedition...

One can wonder why someone like Insayno actually aspired to the position. You can likewise wonder why Haarlem wanted someone with such a CV as its official city poet. But you can also and above all wonder why Haarlem dropped him after two days. I have a pretty good idea of what city poets are walking around in the Netherlands: they are generally a snow-white bunch of mostly friendly people who don't have the wrong opinion and who you can have gracing a New Year's reception, book presentation or opening of a bridge or shopping centre without any problem. A bit more diversity might be healthy. A bit less mainstream too.

Still, I think they should never have hoisted Insayno on the shield in Haarlem. I think this is mainly because he is not a poet, but a rapper. Yes, they are both word art and no, one is not 'better', 'higher' or 'more important' than the other. But they are truly different cultures, which is best reflected in Insayno's image. I don't believe a bugger about all the reprehensible nonsense he has spouted, just as I don't believe a bugger about his poetry. But whatever else anyone may think of Insayno, and however much he himself may have pushed himself to stand out, he is someone who can definitely do something as a rapper. Just listen to Spotify. Should have let him do it, as an urban rapper, or not asked him - but if Insayno himself labels this course of action as "character assassination", he is not entirely wrong. Though you could also say that he is especially not being allowed to change from the caterpillar of his old image into an urban butterfly.

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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