July 24, 2011

Rutger Kopland

Rutger Kopland [R. H. van den Hoofdakker] [Netherlands]

Born in Goor, Netherlands on August 4, 1934 as R. H. van den Hoofdakker. The young man graduated with a degree in medicine from the University Groningen in 1959, soon becoming an authority in the field of psychiatry, working to combat depression through light therapy and sleep shift. From 1981 to 1996 he was professor of biological psychiatry at the University of Groningen where he produced scientific studies of electroshock therapy and other issues.

Van den Hoofdakker began publishing poetry, under the pseudonym of Rutger Kopland in 1966, with the volume Onder het vee (Among the Cattle). For the author, scientific research is fundamentally no different from scientific research. And his poems, which now include some eighteen volumes, are balanced on the borderline between language and what it evokes. That evocation for Kopland often represents a wistful, slightly nostalgic world, but one that, while speaking simply, seldom falls in cliché, and which fresh viewpoints.

His poems have become very popular throughout the Dutch speaking communities, and he has won numerous poetry prizes, including the VSB Poetry Prize for 1998, the P. C. Hooft Prize in 1988.

Several of his books have been translated into English, as well as Polish, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Norwegian, Hebrew and other languages.

Kopland has also written several collection of essays about poetry, and has published a collection of travel writings.

After a serious car accident in 2005, Kopland has largely withdrawn from public interviews and readings, living in retirement with his wife in Glimmen, a province of Groningen.


Onder het vee (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 1966); Het orgelje van Yesterday (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 1968); Alles op de fiets (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 1969); Wie wat vindt heeft slecht gezocht (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 1972); Een lege plek om te blijven (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 1975); Al de mooie beloften (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 1978); Dit uizicht (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 1982); Voor het verdwijnt en daarna (Amsterdam: Van oorschot, 1985); Herinneringen aan het onbekende (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 1988); Dankzij de dingen (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 1989); Geduldig gereedschap (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 1993); Tot het ons loslaat (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 1997); Verzamelde gedichten (1966-1999) (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot); Geluk is gevaarlijk (Amsterdam: Maarten Muntinga/Rainbow Pocket, 1999); Over het verlangen naar een sigaret (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 2001); Wat water achterliet (Rotterdam/Amsterdam: Gedichtendagbundel, Poetry International/Van Oorschot, 2004); Een man in de tuin (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 2004); Verzamelde gedichten (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 2007); Toen ik dit zag (Amsterdam: Van Oorschot, 2008)


An Empty Place to Stay, trans. by Ria Leigh-Loohuizen (San Francisco: Twin Peaks Press, 1977); The Prospect and the River, trans. by James Brockway (London: Jackson's Arm, 1987); A World Beyond Myself, trans. by James Brockway (London: Enitharmon Press, 1991); selections in The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry (New York: Vintage Books, 1996); Memories of the Unknown, trans. by James Brockway (London: Harvill Press, 2001); selections in Landscape with Rowers: Poetry from the Netherlands, trans. by J. M. Coetzee (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2004); What Water Left Behind, trans. by Willem Groenewegen (Dublin: Waxwing Poems, 2005)

For an essay on Rutger Kopland and large selection of his poetry, click below:

For a video of Rutger Kopland reading a poem of his Dutch, click here:

Under the Appletree

I got home, it was
about nine and unusually
soft for the time of year,
the garden bench sat ready
under the apple tree.

I sat down and watched
the neighbour still digging
in his garden, night rose from the earth
a light getting bluer hung
in the apple tree.

Then, again, slowly it became too good to be
true, the daytime faded and
made room for the scent of hay
there were toys in the grass
and far away in the house
the kids were laughing in the bath
all the way to where I sat, all the way
to the apple tree.

And later I heard the wings
of geese in the sky
I heard how still and empty
it was getting.

Fortunately someone sat down next to me,
to be precise it was you
who came over
under the apple tree, unusually
soft and close
for our years.

—Translated from the Dutch by Ria Leigh-Loohuizen

(from Onder het vee, 1966)

English language copyright ©1977 by Ria Leigh-Loohuizen

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