RIXT-poets at the exhibition Tabula Rasa / Skjin Laai

Edwin de Groot, André Looijenga

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.

Grytsje Schaaf: Heintiid, koartlyn, krekt, Wrine, spriede, tekken, Diiskâld, skrousk, klomsk. Material: steel.

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.

Grytsje Schaaf, Hein Jaap Hilarides, and 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.

Nothing bound

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
which speechlessly
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
dat sprakeleas
it ûnbestimde iepenteart.

© Marije Roorda
English translation: Trevor Scarse

Photo’s: Geart Tigchelaar

Swallows and Floating Horses. An anthology of Frisian literature

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.”


Poets Sytse Jansma and Frank Keizer at the Kistrech Poetry Festival in Kenya

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.

Tsjisse Hettema – September 2018

Tsjisse Hettema was RIXT-poet of the month September 2018.
You can read his original Frisian poems of that month here.
One of them – Storm Rider – is published here in translation.

Storm Rider

the exotic makes room within me
drives my reluctance off to the outer ring
where embellishments lie in wait to pounce

within me
my square habits slide roughly over each other
up to the colours
on the eight interfaces of every change of mood

out of my mouth sticks the inner button
like a grey susceptibility outside

© Dichterskollektief Bouwer-Hettema
Translation: Trevor Scarse


’t eksotiese in mi’j maekt ruumte
verdrieft mien eigenwiezens naor de buutenste ring
woar as de versierings klaor liggen om toe te slaon

binnenin mi’j
skoeven mien vierkaante gewoontes rieuwerig over mekaander henne
tot de kleuren
op de acht raekvlakken van elke stemmingswisseling

uut mien mond stikt de binnenste knoppe
as ’n grieze gevulighied naor buten

© Dichterskollektief Bouwer-Hettema

André Looijenga – August 2018

André Looijenga was RIXT-poet of the month August 2018. You can read his original Frisian poems of that month here. One of them – We are wolf – is published here in translation.

we are wolf

we are wolf
you hide behind hedges, beyond the woods
you’ve strung up wires, poured black roads
you speed on light wheels ahead of the night
you are stuck in the trap of clickbait
you’ll be met by the cold tooth of the wild
we are wolf

we are wolf
you convene at institutions in your desert
you fatten up the grass, steal eggs, deplete the soil
you hang on our silver televised image
you dither day and hourbingeing
we are wolf

we are wolf
you await our coming
you gaze through binoculars, cameras
you offer not fruit of the ground but sheep
we are wolf

we are wolf
we peek, we sneak
we are but few, we are master
we are wolf

© André Looijenga
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse

Marc Kooij – July 2018

Marc Kooij was RIXT-poet of the month July 2018.
You can read the original Frisian poems of that month here. One of them – Football and the sun – is published here in translation.

Football and the sun

it’s football and the sun
two competitors which you
cannot foresee beforehand

it’s not the story

there is not one word of Greek in it
let alone any Frisian

it’s not the style

premiere at the square
the image will linger in your minds
we have the world
and ten years time

it ‘s not us

© Marc Kooij
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse

Jetze de Vries – June 2018

Jetze de Vries was RIXT-poet of the month June 2018. You can read his original Frisian poems of that month here. One of them – Harlingen and the Wadden Sea – is published here in translation.

Harlingen and the Wadden Sea

you radiant fish glow amidst the shoal
stream like music, suck you up like a sponge
your echo chamber – the sound reverberates

you dancer beat in the heart of my harbour town

blue I lay anchored at the lighthouse, heard your name
splashing under my pillow, ring tone in your body
tail tussled – seagulls shriek wildly by

you dancer beat in the heart of my harbour town

from now on the morning lies steaming on the dike
will I run past the masts, across clinkers to quay
cast off, the glittering below sea luck
your echo chamber – the sound reverberates

you dancer beat in the heart of my harbour town

© Jetze de Vries
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse

Syds Wiersma – May 2018

Syds Wiersma was RIXT-poet of the month May 2018
You can read his original Frisian poems of that month here.
One of them is published here in translation.

In the Netherlands the 4th of May is commemoration day of the victims of the Second World War and Dutch victims of wartime violence. The 5th of May is  liberation day.

May 4-5, 2018

Froubuorren engulfed by the sun’s fall
as I take the Alde Leie exit.
The 4th of May, another visit
of the cry, I saw them against the wall

and didn’t know who I was, the scared man
before the firing squad or that coward
who as soon as his boss gives the razzia word
starts with the formulation of a plan.

Injustice boils the blood, but would I persist
with hangmen hunting me tirelessly?
Real heroes are a rare breed, you see
never know who’ll shy away and who’ll resist.

On ‘t Bilt the sun now lies under the lea.
Old dikes crisscross the open country.

© Syds Wiersma
Translation: Trevor Scarse


4-5 maaie, 2018

De sinne sakket happich oer Froubuorren
wylst ik de ôfslach Alde Leie nim.
De jûn fan fjouwer maaie, wer dy stim
dy’t seit, ik ha se stean sjoen tsjin de muorren

en wist net wa’t ik wie, de bange fint
foar ‘t fjoerpeloton of dy oare skiter
dy’t as syn baas blaft as de soademiter
mei ‘t plennen fan in razzia begjint.

Fan ûnrjocht siedt it bloed, mar wat soe ‘k dwaan
as boalsfeinten my op ‘e bealch sitte?
Echte helden binne seldsum moatst witte
witst noait wa’t swije sille en wa’t slaan.

De sinne leit bedobbe op it Bilt.
Ald diken fykje troch it frije fjild.

© Syds Wiersma
Lân sûnder ljurk (Hispel, 2019)

Geart Tigchelaar – March 2018

Geart Tigchelaar was RIXT-poet of the month March 2018. You can read his original Frisian poems of that month here. One of them – The word that lives on the wind– is published here in translation.

The word that lives on the wind

stones sprung forth from the hard soil
do not merely accuse our old sins

but the look glancing across the clear horizon
as human after human has sought refuge

in boasting about their own hearth for centuries
nothing lasts and all that left brought less

connection through the lies in stained glass
clung unto the old stories and stubborn unbelief

that need neither heavy roof nor deep foundation
the sentence that’s blown away like the dust from your skin

one day we too my love will go into that same soil
words that unveiled our sincerity always

colour into new verses on misted windows
the soul of each letter that grows in freedom

like arching reeds stands as long as the world
disappears in thirsty white horses near the cliffs

© Geart Tigchelaar
Translation: Trevor M. Scarse