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Poems by Mark Boog

I was fortunate to read with Mark Boog, pictured, one of Holland's best younger poets, at the Maastricht International Poetry Nights end of October.  Below you will find two of his poems, in the original, and translated, taken from his De encyclopedie van de grote woorden (The Encyclopaedia of Big Words) which won the prestigious VSB Poetry Prize in 2006.  Also a novelist, Boog was born in 1970 and is married with children.  It will be clear from these poems that, while Boog follows the Dutch poetic tendency to employ a strong, near-surrealist bent in imagery, he forgoes the avoidance of the personal, the playful, and the narrative, opening up Dutch poetry to new tones and directions.


Het geluk is overkomelijk. Men plaatst het
in een vitrine en gaat aan het werk.
Wie ernaar vraagt krijgt het te zien,
onder weloverwogen commentaar.

Het is gebruikelijk om ’s avonds achterover
te zitten en het geluk, zoals dat beschaafd
verlicht tentoongesteld staat, te beschouwen.
Men stoot de deelgenoot erover aan.
Die knikt of zegt heel zachtjes: ‘Ja.’

In hoeverre het geluk ons bepaalt
is niet eens een vraag: totaal. Wij zijn niets
dan ons geluk, en het geluk is waar wij zijn.

Slechts tijdens het afnemen van de glasplaat
slaan we soms de ogen neer. De vochtige
doek hangt slap in onze handen. Zo mooi.


Happiness is surmountable. One places it
in a glass case and goes to work.
Those who ask are allowed to see it,
accompanied by a balanced commentary.

It is customary to lean back in the evening
and, in the refined light it is
exhibited, consider this happiness.
One gives one’s companion a nudge.
They nod or say quite softly: ‘Yes.’

To what extent this happiness determines us
is not even the question: absolutely. We are nothing
but our happiness, and happiness is where we are.

Only whilst wiping the glass top
we sometimes lower our eyes. The damp cloth
is slack in our hands. So beautiful.


De lucht ligt als een blok op het land,
onzichtbaar en massief.

Je gaat gekleed in de kleur van je haar,
in je ogen, je passen en je woorden.
Je bent hier en elders. Ik draag je me na

en huiver. Je bent te groot misschien,
of te dichtbij. Je onbereikbaarheid
is onvergeeflijk. Kon ik een vogel zijn −

maar de nauwkeurigheid ontbreekt me
zoals het vertrouwen. Ik kijk naar je

en huiver. Spreek me aan, want ik zwijg,
verdraag mijn wurggreep, verdraag
de onbeholpenheid, verdraag mij, liefde.


The sky lies flat on the ground,
invisible and solid.

You are dressed in the colour of your hair,
in your eyes, your steps and your words.
You’re here and elsewhere. I give chase to you

and shudder. You are too tall perhaps,
or too near. Your inapproachability
is unforgivable. If I could be a bird –

but the precision escapes me
as does the trust. I look at you

and shudder. Talk to me, as I’ll keep quiet,
suffer my stranglehold, suffer
the awkwardness, suffer me, love.

poems by Mark Boog, from De encyclopedie van de grote woorden (Cossee, Amsterdam, 2005); translated by Willem Groenewegen.  Reprinted with permission of the poet.

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