June 14, 2012

Els Moors

Els Moors [Belgium]

Els Moors (1976) received a warm welcome from Flemish and Dutch critics alike, as the first young Flemish poet to have appeared on the scene for a long time. Her debut Er hangt een hoge lucht boven ons (There is a tall sky above us; 2006) was nominated for the C. Buddingh’-prize and was awarded the Herman de Coninck prize for best poetry debut, where the jury described it as a, ‘debut of one’s dreams’.

In There Is A Tall Sky Above Us a rather peculiar ‘I’ describes the ongoing amazement about a rather peculiar world. Important within this world are men; men who are constantly coming and going. In ‘de witte fuckende konijnen’ (the white shagging rabbits), the cycle at the heart of the volume, Moors convincingly shows that the urge is omnipresent and all consuming, showing man’s inner beast. One could say that the volume contains a high quantity of Sex and the City style within its pages, but this comparison would be misplaced. Moors’ humour has a bitter quality and is in no way expressed in one-liners. More often than not, the humour is found in the absurd nature of a situation or in the disruptive nature of an observation. Small, everyday scenes are dissected and then screwed back together again. There is a constant menace at work.

When at a garden party a cake is being cut, then this action appears as equally violent as the shower scene in Psycho. A violent atmosphere also permeates the poem in which a handicapped city pigeon ‘is put out of its misery’ while the main character seeks out this suffering with positive glee. In ‘the water floating by is the water’ loneliness and paranoia rule. The main character can only look at – the perhaps deceptive beauty of – the facades that float past her. She cannot go behind the house fronts, the fronts that will both reflect her voice and hide the people around her, the people that appear to have conspired against her so she will lose her compass north. In the final poem the protagonist does attain a certain sense of domesticity and happiness. Her homecoming is something of a relief. Yet while the inevitability of the Other is confirmed in the final verses, it seems at the same time quite a matter of course that this Other will disappear.

These somewhat sadomasochistic poems in a way resemble (expressionist) paintings. While sometimes appearing quite jumpy, Moors’ work shows evidence of a strong feeling for composition, both in content and in form. Note, for example, the continuing play between vitality and stasis and the continuing play between horizontality and verticality. The latter is already expressed in the title of the book, in which a ‘tall sky’ – Might we interpret this as a deep blue sky? As the column of smoke from the Bible book of Exodus perhaps? Or a whirlwind? – hangs threateningly above us. Undoubtedly this strong feeling for composition and the equally strong provocative nature of the poems are partly the reason why these poems are already deemed classics of the 21st century and Els Moors one of the rising stars of Flemish poetry.

In 2008 Els Moors made her debut as a prose writer with Het verlangen naar een eiland (Longing For An Island), a novel about love, sex and the yearning for the Other.

—Anneleen de Croux


Er hangt een hoge lucht boven ons (Amsterdam: Nieuw Amsterdam, 2006)

For a selection of poetry by Els Moors, click here:

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