July 5, 2011

Mark van Tongele

Mark van Tongele [Belgium/writes in Dutch]

Born in the Flanders area of Belgium, Mark von Tongele made his publishing debut in the mid 1980s in several literary magazines. His central themes included sun, light, and language, which came to structure his poetry as a whole.

In his second volume, Vaderlatingen (1997), von Tongele focuses on oppositions in an attempt to reconcile issues of life and death. Life and death become, however, are only part of the many oppositions—including darkness and light, the past and the future—upon which the poet centers his concerns.

His next volume moves more in the direction of the life forces, dispelling, as critic Yves T'Sjoen describes it, the gloom of the previous volume. Here von Tongele moves to an increasingly vitalist stance that continues his following volumes, Taalwaterval (2003) and Luchthonger (2004).

As T'Sjoen summarizes von Tongele's work (translation by David Colmer):

Van Tongele’s poetry doesn’t just dynamite conventional language; with its inventive word choice, rich palette of linguistic and stylistic registers, highly conscious deployment of metre and rhyme, accelerations and decelerations, images and formal idiosyncrasies, it dynamises language by continually creating its own highly individual linguistic reality. It really is time – another key word in these poems – for these explorations of language and life to reach and enchant a wider audience. Inviting the reader to plunge into that linguistic universe.


Zij gedichten (Ghent: Po√ęziecentrum, 1994); Vaderlatinge (Tielt: Lannoo, 1997); Lopend licht (Tielt: Lannoo, 2001); Ochtendrood en co (Tielt: Lannoo, 2002); Taalwaterval (Tielt: Lannoo, 2003); Luchthonger (Tielt: Lannoo, 2004); Gedichten (Tielt/Amsterdam: Lannoo/Atlas, 2005); Met de plezierboot mee (Amsterdam: Atlas, 2007): Lichtspraak (Amsterdam: Atlas, 2008)

Dance with Me

Look at me embody
me keep me under control
color my lenses black
kick me destroy me
don’t leave me cold
tear the plate from my

breast don’t be scared
of my skin smell
my sweat long for me
kiss me without lips lust lick
my metal tongue
clean clear the grind
from my joints send the blood
singing through my veins make me happen turn
me into a god make me shine.

—Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer

(from Gedicten, 2005)

For a reading of the poem above by the author in Dutch, click below


Wrapped in a flurry of snow on the beach,

I am caught in hell's waiting room,
reduced to an amalgam of dread and desire,

listening to the peace of the sea that surrounds me,

as if she knows nothing of the monsters
that belabour the light in her calm swell.

I'd love to grin and yell: one two three heave ho!

—Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer

(from Met de plezierboot mee, 2007)

Ideas about Dying

Do I get my hands on the key to time? will
I become a ray of light bent by gravity
on its way to the ultimate wormhole, a black hole
that sucks me in and emits me on the other side,
bright and moving in one straight line? will a
dazzling radiance take place within me,
illuminating me as an encyclopaedic revelation
elevating me indisputably to a place by the sun?
will I drift like a black dot on the face of chance?
do I become an eternal reflection in a dead future?
a ring of memory playing for all eternity?
a longitudinal vibration? a surface smear?
will I flow into nothingness like ink on a blotter?

—Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer

(from Gedicten, 2005)

At Her Grave

I went down on my knees to lay a rose below the photo
on her stone. The carefree sun shone on my back.

A sail's breadth of azure that chiselled my moment
in the marble and the realization that she was gone forever.

The ground under my feet shimmered with memories.
Wading together in the froth of the sea.

I heard her singing a last lullaby,
and humming along were the shades of the trees.

—Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer

The Therapeutic Mirror

Accept for once that wonderworking exists
and assume that during dream sleep, tonight perhaps,
you will undergo a miraculous visitation: death
falls outside the grace of time. constellations
adopt a different thrum. dawn is riotous in the gulfing
gleam of your most intimate self. look: defrowning
from folded shadows on the floor of your melancholy,
restless hummingbirds of light. like that, you flutter out
from a row of pain trees, hovering in the dead wind,
always ascending in the reborn morning,
always clarifying, beyond all troubles and difficulty.
awakened, will you consider your resurrection?
will you behave accordingly later that day?

—Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer

(from Gedicten, 2005)

English language translations copyright ©2009 by David Colmer

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