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This report is taken from PN Review 35, Volume 10 Number 3, January - February 1984.

Lettter from Holland Johanna H. Prins

After receiving Holland's State Prize for Literature in 1967, and supervising what appeared to be the conclusive edition of his collected poems in 1974, the Dutch poet L. J. Swaansdijk lapsed into a long silence. He retreated into the seclusion of his studios -one in Spain and one in Holland-to devote himself to the visual arts. He remains one of the most prolific painters in the COBRA school, but with the recent appearance of two new volumes of poetry he has stepped back into the literary limelight. The Dutch and Belgian governments have chosen to honour him accordingly, with the 1983 Prize for Netherlandic Letters, a distinction awarded every third year to 'authors of important literary works originally written in the Dutch language'.

Born in 1924 and later known as Lucebert (a double pun on 'light'), Swaansdijk became a beacon for the generation of experimental poets who 'revolutionized' modern Dutch poetry in the 1950s: 'I reel a little revolution off' is the title of one of his earliest and now most familiar poems. The post-war movement of the 'Fiftiers' was a rebellion against what Lucebert called 'the letterladies and lettergentlemen' and 'the poets of velvet'. Today any Dutch secondary school pupil, finding the 1952 volume apocryphal/the unlettered name on his reading list, will recognize Lucebert's version of the so-called anti-aesthetic:


in this age what was always called
beauty beauty has burned her face
she no longer comforts man
she comforts ...


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