6 Dutch poets you should know
When asked to think of some of history’s greatest poets, a few names likely come to mind. William Shakespeare, John Keats, Emily Dickinson - the list goes on and on. But did you know there are a number of Dutch poets that are also worth your time?
Famous poets from the Netherlands
In honour of World Poetry Day, here are six famous poets from the Netherlands that you should definitely know about.
Annie M.G. Schmidt
There are likely few people in the Netherlands who aren’t familiar with the name Annie M.G. Schmidt. The world of Dutch literature is dominated by men, but Schmidt is easily one of the country’s most distinguished writers. Known as the mind behind the popular children’s book Jip en Janneke, Schmidt also penned a number of poems in her time.
Like her books, many of Schmidt’s poems were written for children - but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your time! In 1950, she published Het fluitketeltje en andere versjes; a collection of her poems, featuring the likes of Dikkertje Dap and Het Beertje Pippeloentje.
Later on in her career, in 1952, she published her first anthology of poems for adults, En wat dan nog!, followed by Weer of geen weer in 1954. These collections featured some of her most well-known poems, including Ondergang van een illusie and Leeszaal.
François HaverSchmidt was a 19th-century writer and minister who wrote poetry under the pseudonym Piet Paaltjens, and is well known for his significant influence on the Dutch romanticism genre. His melancholy and witty work remains extremely popular even 130 years after his death.
While he also published prose, HaverSchmidt is most known for his work as Piet Paaltjens and the poems published in the Snikken en grimlachjes collection in 1867, which features themes of love and death.
Another one of the greats, Menno Wigman published his first collection at the young age of just 19, and in 2012 and 2013 was named the official city poet of Amsterdam. Unlike some of the other poets on this list, some of Wigman’s work has been translated into other languages, and so he is a lot more accessible to anyone who is still getting to grips with the Dutch language.
Wigman has published a number of poetry collections in his lifetime, including Mijn naam is Legioen (2012), Slordig met geluk (2016), and De wereld bij avond (2006), which has been translated into English. In addition to being named the city poet of Amsterdam, he was awarded a number of literary prizes, including the Jan Campert-prijs in 2002 and the Ida Gerhardt Poëzieprijs in 2018
These days, this name is probably more recognisable to many people in the Netherlands as the luxury shopping street found in Amsterdam, so you might not know that the P.C. Hooftstraat was named after the successful poet, historian, and playwright, Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft.
P.C. Hooft is largely responsible for bringing elements of Renaissance literature to the Netherlands during the Dutch Golden Age, and is widely regarded as one of the most prolific and influential Dutch literary figures of all time. Critic Kees Fens even went so far as to label him the “first modern poet” in the Dutch language.
He’s famous for a number of sonnets and love poems, such as Claech-leidt (1608), as well as so-called theatrical poetry, which was written for the stage. His most famous works include Mijn lief, mijn lief, mijn lief (1610) and Gezwinde grijsaard (1611).
Another renowned Golden Age poet is Constantijn Huygens who, like P.C. Hooft, is cited as one of the best Dutch poets to ever exist. He’s known largely for more light-hearted and playful poems and quatrains, which is a style of verse that isn’t hugely popular in the Netherlands.
Published in 1617, Larmes sur la Mort de feu Monsieur Maurice de Nassau was the first of Huygens’ poems to be published. While he favoured Latin and French early in his career, he later turned his attention to writing in the Dutch language. Some of Huygens’ most famous works include Batava Tempe, dat is 't Voorhout van's-Gravenhage (1621) and Daghwerk (1627).
Again, similarly to Hooft, poetry wasn’t Huygens’ sole calling in life. Born in The Hague and educated in Leiden, he also worked as an architect and composer, publishing Pathodia sacra et profana in 1647, and as a secretary for two Princes of Orange. His influence doesn’t stop there, as he was the father of scientist Christiaan Huygens - a major figure in the scientific revolution in the 17th century.
Herman Finkers is one of the Netherlands’ most famous cabaret artists, known for his dry wit and captivating storytelling. In addition to his on-stage performances, Finkers has also published a number of comic poems.
If you’re looking for a helping of comedy alongside your serving of poetry, Finkers is definitely the man for the job! In 2011, he published Poëzie, zo moeilijk nie - a cheerful collection of witty verse which features poems such as Poëziecursus and Ei - or check out De cursus ‘Omgaan met teleurstellingen’ gaat wederom niet door (2019).
Delve into the world of Dutch poetry!
Of course, there are dozens of other Dutch poets to take a look at, each with their own distinct style and voice. Looking to delve further into the world of Dutch literature? Check out this list of six perfect beach reads by Dutch authors - don't worry if you haven't learned Dutch yet, they've all been translated into English!
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