June 27, 2011

Jan Lauwereyns

Jan Lauwereyns [Belgium/writes in Dutch]

Jan Lauwereyns has been publishing poetry just since 1999, but in that brief time is has become one of the better known poems of Belgium. This is even more amazing since Lauwereyns worked as a neurobiologist at the University of Wellington in New Zealand, at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and in Japan, all far from Antwerp, where he was born.

Lauwereyns obtained his PhD. at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium in 1998. The following year, he published his first volume of poetry, Nagelaten sonnetten (Posthumous Sonnets), which received the award for "best and most interesting debut in recent years" from the Belgian paper, De Morgen. From the beginning, Lauwereyns' work contained traces of his scientific knowledge, and critics describe the poems as being akin to "lyrical essays," as in the example from his second collection, Blanke verzen (Blank Verse), "Biology on the poetic soul," in which the poet attempts to trace the anatomy of the poetic soul.

His 2002 collection Buigzaamheden (Flexibilities) was awarded the prestigious Hugues C. Pernath-prize, and helped to establish Lauwereyns as a major Dutch poet.

The following year Lauwereyns published his first novel, Monkey Business, which attracted a great deal of media attention. He also wrote a collection of essays, Splash, in 2005. More recent collections of poetry include Vloeistof en welvaart (Liquid and Welfare) of 2008 and Lied van het meer (Song of the Lake) of the same year. In 2009 he published a correspondence of poems, letters, and other materials in collaboration with the Dutch poet Leo Vroman, Zwelgen wij denkend rond (Let’s Wallow in Thought).

Lauwereyns has also collaborated with numerous other poets, including Patricia de Martelaere, Rachel Levitsky, Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven, and Michael Palmer.
His most recent book of poetry, Hemelsblauw (Blue Heaven), was published in 2011.

Lauwereyns currently works as a Professor in the Graduate School of Systems Life Sciences at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan.


Nagelaten sonnetten (Antwerp: Manteau, 1999); Blanke verzen (Tielt, Belgium: Lannoo, 2001); Buigzaamheded (Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 2002); Tegenvoetig, tweebenig (Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 2004); Anophelia! De mug leeft (Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 2007); Vloeistof en welvaart (Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2008); Lied von het meer (Brussels: DeBuren, 2008); Hemelsblauw (Amsterdam: De Bizige Bij, 2011)


Song of the Lake (Radiobook), trans. by Michael O'Loughlin (Brussels: DeBuren, 2009); Truths of Stone (co-authored with Michael Palmer, with a drawing by Nicolas Leus), trans. by Tom van de Voorde (Ghent: Druksel, 2010); Shoaling Things (co-authored by Arkadii Dragomoschenko, with a drawing by Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven), trans. by Jan Lauwereyns (Ghent: Druksel, 2011)


Is Mount Kilimanjaro high enough?
To shoot yourself in the back?

When your feet sink in eternal snow.
Well then?

You stretch your arm out,
you drag the iron canine across it.
The dragon in your hand spews fire.

Dragon: space-launcher, bearer of mostly
undesirable objects in an orbit round the earth

were it not for the fact

that the chance of success goes down
with gravity. Headwind?

The number of casualties en route.

—Translated from the Dutch by John Irons and Jan Lauwereyns
(From Buigzaamheded, 2002)


Fill up the bath and

the skin turns pale, sweat breaks out,
and something like wind blows shockwaves
through her downy wisps of hair.

Imminent application of the skunk principle.

Even though Daddy already knows
little girl naked =
armed & dangerous

the nappy does duty at most for what
the thumb does with the garden hose.

Moral of the tale:
shit hits the fan.

—Translated from the Dutch by John Irons and Jan Lauwereyns
(from Buigzaamheded, 2002)


Stick a stick in the ground,
A bolt-upright stick in a small piece
of billiard-table-flat ground.

Stick: pole, erection.

Wait for the sun and note the way
your measuring instrument stands steadfast

in the light of the heat.

Bright air, brilliant fire
but what matters/counts is the shadow,

the unveiling of the earth.

—Translated from the Dutch by John Irons and Jan Lauwereyns
(From Buigzaamheded, 2002)

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