August 4, 2011

Eva Gerlach

Eva Gerlach [Netherlands]

Born in 1948, Eva Gerlach writes poetry for adults and children. Her first collection, Verder geen leed (No Further Distress) appeared in 1979, and since then she has written over sixteen collections, published primarily by Arbeiderspers in Amsterdam.

In 1989, she won the "Zilveren Griffel" for children's writing, after the publication of Hee meneer Eland (Hey Mr. Moose). In 2000 she was awarded the P.C. Hooft-prijs for her entire oeuvre, the jury writing of her poetry: "Everything starts moving, becomes ambiguous, gets a new meaning."

The Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature has described Gerlach's writing: "Gerlach's poems, in their often dark way, are concerned with the themes that have concerned poets in all ages: transience, loss, the human condition. Avoiding any tendency towards the dramatic display or literary effect, she writes about the mysterious, invisible forces that goven our lives, about the thought 'that in presence lives a truth / greater than just that / of the address.'"

Gerlach's work has helped to move Dutch poetry in a direction different from the major post-war concerns—irony, therapeutic impact and linguistic autonomy—representing a writing that is modest, unsentimental, and yet penetrating of human emotions and motives.

BOOKS OF POETRY (adult works only)

Verder geen leed (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1979); Een kopstaand beeld (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1983); Dochter (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1984); Domicilie (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1987): De kracht van verlamming (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1988); In een bocht van de zee (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1990); Wat zoekraakt (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1994); Alles is werkelijk hier [with photographs by Vojta Dukát] (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1997); Niets bestendiger (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1998); Voorlopig verblijf, gedichten 1979-1990 (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 1999); Solstitium [with illustrations by Marianne Aartsen] (Landgraff: Herik, 2000); De invulbare ruimte (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 2000); Daar ligt het (Amsterdam/Rotterdam: De Arbeiderspers/Poetry International, 2003); Jaagpad [with illustrations by Marianne Aartsen] (Maastricht: Glance-aside, 2003); Een bed van mensenvlees (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 2003); Situaties (Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers, 2006)

For a selection of poems by Eva Gerlach, press here:


This is your eye. This is the sun. This tugging
cold, draught from a window left ajar.
This is water that fits you like a glove

This is the kettle singing on the stove
above the four knobs that control the gas.
Here you've the breadknife in its board's long groove.

All of these things you need to keep a grasp of.
Today, or soon, their say will make their sense.

—Translated from the Dutch by John Irons

(from Een kopstaand beeld, 1983)


I rushed through water, slipped and fell.
Legs to yourself someone said, deep
asleep beside me, sleep, don't shove. Slept
and rushed. No water anywhere.
Slipped, fell, He beside me
woke up, helped me to my feet,
brushed down my clothes. Better he said
to just run off. Not rush like that.

—Translated from the Dutch by John Irons

(from In een bocht van de zee, 1990)

Man Alive

He's there then outside, a fly lands on his tongue and
he spits it out, sees if it's living, allows it
to dry in his hand, with his stick touches all of the
mulberry tree's yellow leaves, each one in turn,
they fall to his fee. And the crow
does not leave him.
You want him, he's never again that man out there,

you've only just seen him and yet: at no time before
so perfectly framed in the light, man a-
live, all you know of him touches now
all that you see of him, there in the crook
of the question-mark mulberry tree
standing briefly translucent,

how you see him, his whole face
uplifted, the triangle under his chin, with the throat
most vulnerable, the skin there
now taut—never yours in this way, except when
inside you perhaps, forgotten—you want him, rap
on the window, he sees you, the fly he
throws up from his hand and upward it flies.

—Translated from the Dutch by John Irons

(from Situaties, 2006)

English language translations copyright (c)2007 by John Irons

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