At the end of October Ljouwert/Leeuwarden, the Frisian capital and European Capital of Culture in 2018, was designated City of Literature by UNESCO. Leeuwarden is the second Dutch city, after Utrecht, that joins the group of worldwide Cities of Literature.
The project of Cities of Literature started in 2004, with Edinburgh being the first City of Literature. Since then the network has grown, in collaboration with the larger UNESCO Creative Cities Network, to include around 30 cities. Other cities in the network are Ljubljana, Prague, and Melbourne, amongst others.
The UNESCO jury had the following to say about the bid book of Leeuwarden: “The bid-book gave a glimpse of great ambitions. Creative and substantively strong.”
With access to the network, it is hoped that the Frisian literary network can be expanded. That Leeuwarden has been named is a reward of the ambitions of both Leeuwarden and Friesland to keep literature and culture high up on the list of priorities for the city.
Talented Frisian writers and artists will be challenged to contribute to literary projects in Leeuwarden. With the Frisian language, being the second official language in the Netherlands, and the multilingual atmosphere in Leeuwarden, the city together with the province of Friesland will mobilise its literary and artistic heritage and potential, and showcase them in innovative ways on the local, regional and international level.
RIXT is very pleased that Leeuwarden has received this title, since our poets pack wants to reach beyond the Frisian borders and intends to invite poets from other regions and countries to stay here for a while and cooperate with Frisian poets.
In October 2019, the Frisian poet Nyk de Vries will perform at the poetry festival ‘Druskininkai Poetic Fall’ in Lithuania. The festival invited De Vries (who lives in Amsterdam) in the context of Versopolis, a European project around promising European poets. At the inivitation of the Poetry Center in Gent, De Vries was added to the project In the beginning of this year. Together with the Dutch poets Maarten van der Graaff, Maria Barnas en Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer. Each Versopolis partner selects a few poets, who subsequently can be invited by other European literary festivals.
It will not be Nyk de Vries his first performance in Lithuania. He was there before in 1992, as a musician with his band The Amp. One of his performances was broadcasted then by the national Lithuanian television station.
A jury of the Frisian Writers Association has chosen RIXT-poet Elmar Kuiper to represent the Frisian language at the ninth edition of Transpoesie, an European poetry festival in Bruxelles. Kuiper will perform on September 16, at the Day of the Languages, one of the events organized by the festival in the period September-October. The annual festival is organized by the EUNIC, the network of European Union National Institutes for Culture.
Elmar Kuiper was selected by the Frisian jury because of his poem Myn lân (‘My land’). Last year Janneke Spoelstra, also connected to RIXT, was the first poet to represent Friesland in Bruxelles.
Tabula Rasa (‘Skjin Laai’ in Frisian) was an exhibition in the Cultural Capital year 2018. It was organized by Tresoar, the center of Frisian history and literature, together with art galery Schoots en Van Duyse (Antwerp). In the old mayor’s house of the Frisian village Beetstersweach, visual artists and poets imagined and expressed the theme of creative emptiness.
Almost twenty RIXT poets participated in the project. Art objects and poems were exhibited together and in close connection, which lead in some cases to surprising relations.
In the catalogue of the exhibition, all the poems were included tri-lingual: Frisian, English, and Dutch.
The participating artists/poets were: Armando, Willem Abma, Harmen Abma, Pieteke de Boer, Bernard Aubertin, Edwin de Groot, Sies Bleeker, Tsjisse Hettema, Bram Bogart, Eeltsje Hettinga, Marije Bouman, Hein Jaap Hilarides, Jan Henderikse, Simen de Jong, Maaike Hogerhuis, Jan Kleefstra, Elmar Kuiper, Anke Kuypers, Rein de Lange, Jan Maaskant, Bartle Laverman, André Looijenga, Albert Oost, Zoltin Peeter, Aggie van der Meer, Grytsje Schaaf, Henk Nijp, Baukje Scheppink, Marije Roorda, Jan Schoonhoven, Geart Tigchelaar, Kaneli & Smit, Jetze de Vries, Syds Wiersma.
The exhibition took place from October 14 – December 16, 2018.
You can read here the poem written by Marije Roorda. It was inspired by Mark Rothko’s work.
It takes more than emptying out
this room, painting the walls white
and binding the empty room to secrecy
to bring emptiness home to me.
Only then do I stray towards
a deeper nothing where deafness
settles in a word and an image
becomes intoxicated as I stare
at the black of Rothko,
walk anxiously into a field of darkness
unfolds the inscrutable.
Nei it neat
It freget mear as dizze keamer
leech te heljen, muorren te wytsjen
en lis de keale romte in swijplicht op
sadat in leechte yn my trochkringt.
Earst dan dwaal ik ôf nei
in djipper neat dêr’t dôvens
delstrykt yn in wurd en rekket
in byld bedwelme as ik nei
it swart fan Rothko stoarje,
mei huver syn donker fjild ynrin
it ûnbestimde iepenteart.
Last year the first English anthology of Frisian literature was published: Swallows and Floating Horses. This publication forms a perfect match with As Long as the Tree Blooms (WLT, Jan. 2019). Where the latter is a concise, colorful, and illustrated introductory history of Frisian literature, Swallows offers a more detailed approach that includes excerpts of texts with a translation in English, accompanied by essential information for sufficient context. An eight-page introduction provides the historical framework. The book contains a selection of around 140 entries in a compact layout.
The first entry starts with the arrival of English missionaries and offers an excerpt of the biography of Liudger, the first missionary bishop of ethnic Frisian origin. He miraculously cured the blind Frisian singer Bernlef (ca. 800), “who was dearly loved by his neighbours . . . for his skill in reciting their ancestors’ deeds and their kings’ feats of arms to the music of the harp.” The last entry presents a poem by a RIXT-poet, Elmar Kuiper (b. 1969). He cries out about the deadened agro-industrial modern Frisian landscape: “when the lapwing / on my land shrieks eek-eek at the sight / of her ruined nest, where my godwit weeps / like a blind poet, sick with yearning.”
The Frisian-language poet Sytse Jansma and the Dutch-language poet Frank Keizer are currently at the Kistrech International Poetry Festival in Kisii, Kenya. They read their own work, give workshops and will do research for their writing. The results of this poetic expedition will be presented next year, during Explore the North (2019).
The Kistrech International Poetry Festival in Kenya is one of the largest and most popular literature events in Africa. The festival brings together local and international poets and actively allows the local people to become acquainted with poetry and other languages and cultures (and vice versa). This year poets and artists include Finland, India, Israel, Canada, and of course Kenya in the festival. Sytse Jansma and Frank Keizer, two poets with Frisian roots, were invited by Explore the North and represent the Netherlands in Kisii.
Sytse Jansma explores in his poetry the guiding nature of language. In Kenya, he continues on this theme and immerses himself in the interdisciplinary nature of Kenyan writing. What influence does film and music have on poetry? And how does the Frisian and Dutch culture differ from the Kenyan culture? Jansma explored in his latest poetry book ‘like nomads in tents’ (2015) the border between poetry and life itself. In addition to a personal, artistic search, he also visits Kenyan schools to inspire students with creative writing. Being an education specialist at the Frisian theatre company ‘Tryater’ in his daily life, he keeps himself busy with the cultural development children every day.