Born in Wemeldinge on November 30, 1919, Jan Elburg, for much of his life, was a lecturer on spatial planning at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. His earliest poetry was rather traditional in form and content. But after World War II, as an editor of the avant-garde literary magazine Het Woord (The Word), Elburg helped prepare the way—along with fellow poets Gerard Diels, Bert Schierbeek, and Koos Schuur—for the postwar experimentalist movement in the Low Countries. In the 1950s, he continued his association with the literary underground as an editor of Podium and a contributor to such periodicals as Reflex, Braak (Fallow), and Blurb, while beginning to exhibit in own visual art.
Elburg conceives his poetry from a Marxist standpoint, in keeping with his belief that art has a social task to perform: “With poetry I want to lay some lines of contact from person to person. And renew myself and others; learn to see more and feel more….make something clear, give some warnings, set some examples.” His poetic technique is essentially one of montage—the juxtaposition of previous jottings and fragments. “I mount my poems,” he explains, “more than modeling them.”