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Little eyes and a filled heart after brilliant 39th Night of Poetry

The night of Marieke Lucas Rijneveld's sweetly soft children's voice, of course; but also the night of Joke van Leeuwen; of Maria Farantouri and Mikis Theodorakis; of 'illusory poet' Hans Klok even; and of the families of Nisrine Mbarki and Ivo de Wijs.

I will try to explain the latter in a moment, in my unpoetic style, forgive me. At my 15e year W.F. Hermans sucked me into literature with The Dark Room of Damocles, ending ten years of mere football and, well, later interspersed with some homework, fierce crushes on unattainable beauties, and then always, always: music.

Poetry came, saw and conquered only years later, thanks to a Night of Poetry. It must have been one of the first Nights, in the 1980s as a history student. Vredenburg you knew from music, I saw there U2 in late 1982, a band on global breakthrough

Yesterday, on the way to the 39e edition, the 15-year-old daughter asked in vain about the poets during my first Night. All I could blurt out was that the fantastic atmosphere always stayed with me. Along the lines of the Kuip concerts of Dylan, Bowie, Rolling Stones and Springsteen, the finals of Feyenoord, Ajax and Oranje, of course. Grandpa narrates, who finally shuts him up?

Young and old

Which succeeded yesterday, as the night is still a bit of elderly NRC-reading ladies enjoying Marjoleine de Vos, but the tone of the still great atmosphere of the Night of Poetry is set by dedicated, cheering youngsters. They create a dance floor with Broken Brass, ending with a tribute to Remco's Lamento. Young people swing, seeing no fight against tears of old - melancholy of bygone days.

Young people, they bring present and future, naturally go crazy at midnight for 'our' Marieke Lucas Rijneveld who draws many of them (including daughterlove) across the line of Dutch prose and poetry, and for whom they wait rows thick for a scribble and genuinely kind words for each; and cradle Daniëlle Zawadi (1999), Mattijs Deraedt, Tijl Nuyts (both 1993) and Charlotte van den Broeck (1991) in a salutary bath of adoration; but also deliver Joke van Leeuwen (1952) with her shrewd flow of language briefly earned the heroism she deserves.

And coming and going, also with the presenting duo; the bubbly Ester Naomi Perquin with her accumulation of fine qualifications for poets, versus Piet Piryns who, with his wonderful Flemish diction, briefly bid an ex-Free Netherlands colleague farewell to eternity. Coming and going.


Hence, the euphoria of a brilliant Night involves generations; the going, white white Dutch man for whom praise falls short of my expectations, versus Moroccan-Dutch debutant whose performance will hopefully stay with me until the charring of brains is there. Both their bundles went into the bag.

Nisrine Mbraki (1977) and Ivo de Wijs (1945) both sang of the families that made them what they are and were. Ivo, with his tasteful Brabant accent groggily fantasising in a "nasty childhood is an absolute goldmine" (he actually had a "wonderful childhood"):

We smelled rather typical, as we never bathed
I would definitely have run away, had I had shoes
I could sing very well, but I wasn't allowed in the choir
However, I did get abused by the priest after evening mass

Delightful, free-wheeling audience, equally easy. Of a very different timbre, Nisrine Mbarki on her parents:

They will...not forget where they came from
they will become translators
spring rollers cleaners textile workers cooks
feed their children with simple nutritious dreams


And about melancholy too, deepest state of mind fuelled by Maria Farantouri, partner of the wonderful composer and poet Mikis Theodorakis, the tones of her voice and ensemble and translated words cut through the marrow.

And enjoyment of Hans Klok, the clown who, with his disappearing tricks as a practical educator, made us privileged elites his warm audience within seconds with 'illusionism is also poetry'.

Wonderful, how fantastic Ilfu with this programme of the Night allows Dutch, Flemish and European culture to flourish with poets and appropriate entr'actes, and the gets pennies around. On to the 40e edition with who knows what surprises (Kees Torn maybe?)

So grateful for this evening and night. Now it is but written down, lest it be forgotten for grandchildren when they visit the 69e night of poetry...

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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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