Sipke de Schiffart – December

Sipke de Schiffart was RIXT-poet of the  month December 2019. You can read his original Frisian poems of that month here. The translation of one of them – ‘generation gap’ – is published below.

generation gap

my dad was an old-fashioned farmer,
every morning he went to work
at half past three
and expected the same of me

but I was half a century younger
and went to bed late,
after having watched TV,
Veronica and the VPRO,
so, I would get up later in the morning

now I think: getting up between five and six,
that’s still quite early
for a boy of around twenty years old

in the mornings I struggled
to wake up, every morning
my father got angry with me,
because I didn’t hurry up

one morning (now I think: middle of the night)
in December of 1980 he came
to my bed at half past three
to announce that Mick Jagger
had been shot in New York

the message had its intended effect:
I was immediately wide awake,
satisfied my dad went back to the barn
to feed the cattle

but when I heard on the clock radio
that it was John Lennon who was shot,
and not Mick Jagger,
I rolled over
and went back to sleep

© Sipke de Schiffart
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse

RIXT poet Syds Wiersma travels through Ireland for four months

Photo: Syds Wiersma

Syds Wiersma was travelling through Ireland last summer for two months. He was working there on a new poetry collection. This travel and work are subsidised by the Dutch Fund for Literature. In April-May 2020 Wiersma will do the second part of his travel, through Northern Ireland.

One of Wiersma’s stays last summer was in Galway, which will be one of the two cultural capitals of Europe next year. Besides writing poetry, he connected there with a few Irish poets and invited them to exchanges and collaborations with Frisian poets. Wiersma submitted this exchange project to the programmers of the Leeuwarden/Fryslân City of Literature project.

Since he intends to write about meeting people, places, spaces, and time, Wiersma has chosen altenative ways of travelling: hitchhiking, walking, cycling, and if necessary public transport. About his experiences he is writing a series of travel stories for the Frisian literary magazine Ensafh.

You can find the links to the first two stories here:

Thoor Ballylee
Letterfrack
Brandon Creek

Jan Kooistra – November

Jan Kooistra was RIXT-poet of the  month November 2019. You can read his original Frisian poems of that month here. The translation of one of them – ‘sizzen is neat’ – is published below.

Photo: Geart Tigchelaar


words not deeds

recently I read that the Poet
Laureate wants to make the woods
dark again and that Greta Thunberg

is autistic, that once more the Kurds
leave everything behind

I was in Sachsenhausen the other day
where I heard horrible stories
I saw a young man crying

saw large numbers of ashen rooks
I heard the echoes in the distance

wanted to move to a village where
you can still see the stars
where the swallows fly in summer and
owls sit on the trusses in winter

sometimes I yearn for the courage
of that lassie from Sweden
and reclaim the dark from the woods
tell those tales again and
unseat all those false blowhards

but I shouldn’t step into
the garden late at night
and look up at that
infinitely glittering sky
because then I will be reduced
to tears like a little boy

© Jan Kooistra
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse

An Evening of Prose Poetry

Last October 24th there was a sociable gathering in café De Basuin in Leeuwarden. As the Danish poet Carsten René Nielsen was staying in Groningen for six weeks to write new material and to translate work by Nyk de Vries, amongst others, RIXT invited him for a performance. Nielsen is a prose poet pur sang, so the evening was centred around that genre. Because of that, our own prose poet Nyk de Vries was invited as well.

The varying occasional formation Reade Runen – consisting of Elmar Kuiper, Cornelis van der Wal, Syds Wiersma and Geart Tigchelaar – which has a connection with Denmark as they were there last April and are busy gathering and translating a collection of Frisian-Danish poetry, performed as well. As said, the composition of the formation varies and Hein Jaap Hilarides replaced Tigchelaar for the evening, as Tigchelaar was hosting the evening.

Tigchelaar started the evening by asking the audience if they were familiar with the term prose poem. Only a couple raised their hands shyly. So, Tigchelaar hoped that the rest of the audience would be familiar with the genre as well by the end of the evening.

Hein Jaap Hilarides

Hilarides was the first to perform with verses in Biltsk and even a few in English to allay Nielsen. However, it has to be said that Nielsen is learning Dutch and understands a fair amount of the language already.

Nyk de Vries

De Vries was able to showcase his prose poetry, utilising music and images alternately in his performance. Thus, his set had a more multimedia approach. His performance was superb and it added some variety to the evening as well.

Syds Wiersma

Syds Wiersma travelled through Ireland during the summer, so he poured all his experiences and meetings over there into the mould of prose poetry. Full of narrative and with a rich language he took the audience with him on his travels.

Carsten René Nielsen had made a vibrant selection of his poems from his latest collection Enogfyrre tin (Forty-one things) and Tigchelaar read translations of them in both Dutch and Frisian. Some members of the audience were able to understand Danish, so Nielsen was pleasantly surprised when some laughed along during his original language performance.

Elmar Kuiper

After the break it was Elmar Kuiper’s turn who was in high spirits and in-between his poems he told some vivid tales about his expeditions as a young boy with his dad, a cattle photographer.

Nyk de Vries

Next up was return performance by De Vries. He took us along with him to an interview he and others from the Blauwe Fedde literary magazine had had with the Frisian author Rink van der Velde, we sat with him atop a crane in LA, and the next moment in the clubhouse in Harkema. Nielsen added that in his view the Frisian word for clubhouse, ‘kluphûs’, only has a good translation in the Danish ‘forsamlingshus’. According to Nielsen, no other language comes close to the full width of the meaning in Frisian.

Cornelis van der Wal

Following this, Cornelis van der Wal read four translations of prose poems by Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Revérdy. The last poet is less famous than the others, and Van der Wal had to concede that he himself hadn’t heard of him before either. Van der Wal had translated the poems superbly and the somewhat raw verses accorded well with his own distinctive style of performance.

That the French invented prose poetry can be asserted as fact comfortably. Which was a nice bridge for Nielsen to step in after Tigchelaar asked him to explain to the audience what exactly a prose poem is. It all started in France, but today the genre is mostly practiced in the United States and Canada, not so much in Europe (anymore).

Prose poetry is closely linked to so-called flash fiction. A prose poem often uses narrative as well and is a short form of prose, but it is more poetic in language and more concise. Nielsen would categorise some of the poems in the collections of De Vries as short prose, but Nielsen concludes that the best identifying mark of a prose poem as a prose poem is the author’s own identification of it as such. The covers of De Vries’s collections state that they are prose poems, and thus they are prose poems, according to Nielsen, because this provides a framework for the reader.

No one in the room could add to that, so Tigchelaar thanked the poet collective RIXT and Boeken fan Fryslân in particular for the (financial) support and ended the official proceedings. This allowed everyone in the cosy De Basuin to drink one more with the poets.

Tryntsje van der Veer – October

Tryntsje van der Veer was RIXT-poet of the  month October 2019. You can read her original Frisian poems of that month here. One of them – half moon – is published here in translation. The poem was written in response to the situation in Ruinerwold.

Photo: Geart Tigchelaar


half moon

in daylight
dark blue
a shiver

half my heart
reeds from the brushwood
heaps of ooze

in a drone flight
the house the barn
the yard disclosed

my whole head
full of dramatic scenes
the curtain has fallen

in naked light
a tree the garden
ditches stink

trust in keys
loved ones and deserters
helpers dressed in black

in moonlight
doors hurl
don’t resist

in the basements
the water rises
sewers never lie

until full moon
beards and old clothes
times never lie

in daylight
dark blue
a shiver

© Tryntsje van der Veer
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse