This is the most extensive selection in English of poems by one of the all-time great Dutch poets, Herman Gorter (1864-1927), Part 2 of Arimei Books’ The Essential Gorter collection. It welcomes the reader to the rich spectrum of Gorter’s verse and traces his lyrical development following the epic masterpiece, May. The book includes a selection of his introvertive ‘sensitivist’ Verses (Verzen, 1890), defining transitional poems, and key passages from the socially engaged epic Pan, complemented with a first publication in English of Gorter’s little-known and highly personal last work Lyrics (Liedjes, 1930).
"...Amazing...a near perfect experience...For poetry lovers looking to discover something new that rivals the greats of the past look to Gorter."
[Reviewer page: https://evilcyclist.wordpress.com/2021/12/28/poetry-review-selected-poems-by-herman-gorter/]
Selected Poems by Herman Gorter (translated by Lloyd Haft) is a collection of poetry from The Netherlands greatest poet, and presented for the first time in English. Gorter was a Dutch poet and socialist. He was a leading member of the Tachtigers, a highly influential group of Dutch writers who worked together in Amsterdam in the 1880s, centered on De Nieuwe Gids. Haft is an American-born Dutch poet, translator, and sinologist. He has been living in the Netherlands since 1968. Haft was educated at Harvard College and Leiden University.This is a bit like an archeologist discovering a new civilization or physicist discovering a new particle. Gorter has been mostly hid from the non-Dutch world until recently. The reason for his obscurity is because of the language he wrote. The Dutch language is filled with words that have multiple meanings (that can play on each other) and don't readily translate into English. If that is not difficult enough Gorter also liked to distort his own language to make things fit. Haft explains this in great detail in the introduction to the poems. He also tries to capture the original intent of the poems at the price of rhythm schemes. Haft also gets creative with English words that actually expand their meaning.Verses (1890). The second section is from his political work Pan. The final section in titled Lyrics. Verses provides a welcoming introduction to Gorter's style of poetry. The words paint a complex picture of the poet's experience. Here, the reader will see the difficulty of the task that Haft faced in this undertaking. Like Gorter, Haft had to become creative with his language. The result amazing. Haft pulls out archaic words and when that fails, he makes a few of his own -- clingleafed up and down, her golden eyes of daydawning, and the twigtrees draw back to their meager leaning. The newly coined words are poetic in themselves. Gorter is also a man of themes. The word gold (as a metal or meaning precious) is used fifty-six times in the collection. Eyes are also used fifty-six times in the collection. The "all of All" appears twenty-five times in the collection, and has several forms but mostly it is light or the divine.
Someday you'll be one
with the all of All,
your golden limbs extending through the knowledges of all the
This is a collection of poetry that the translator must be given a great deal of credit. It was said translating Gorter wasn't difficult, it was impossible. Gorter's words of nature and self are incredible and relayed to the reader in what must be a near perfect experience. When Gorter turns to Marxism the change is as sudden as a gunshot:
And why? because you were murdered by capital
But by the workers
Who left you alone with your attackers.
Gorter also has a softer side for revolution. In a long four-part poem Rosa Luxembourg is Beatified in verse that rivals the Assumption of Mary. For poetry lovers looking to discover something new that rivals the greats of the past look to Gorter.
5 stars out of 5
The sinologist and poet Lloyd Haft (1946), whose earlier work includes a rewriting of the Psalms (2003), has had the courage to translate a wide selection of Gorter’s work into English. In Haft’s version, Gorter sounds the way he should sound: musical and sensitive, at times groping, at other times jubilant, always sure of himself and amazing.
No other Dutch poet’s work is as exciting as Gorter’s, so much so that you sometimes downright fall in love with it. For readers of English it will be a feast to be able to make his acquaintance via this translation.
"This is poetry at its most evocative and sublime. How can I have missed this wonderful writer? Anyone who appreciates the written word should discover Herman Gorter, the visionary and poet."
A collection of the poetry by the Netherlands' most famous and celebrated poet, this one being the second volume in the two-book series The Essential Gorter. Fortunately, his work is having a revival of interest and now we have a new English translation we can enjoy too.The beautiful cover of this book, with its bright but gentle watercolours, reflect Gorter's work. The poems in the first section (known as the 'sensitivist' verses) are sensuous and in tune with the flow of nature, with vivid imagery describing the landscape in a true creative and emotive manner. Romance, leading to erotic imagery and intensity, the format of the poems doesn't follow the traditional forms of structure but seem to evolve along with his work.The final section of the book moves to Gorter's 'Revolution' poems, which are centred around the political European landscape of the beginning of the twentieth century, with talk of workers and red flags, depicted so well in the colour of the sun on the cover. There is also a reference to the revolutionary socialist, Rosa Luxemburg.This is poetry at its most evocative and sublime. How can I have missed this wonderful writer? Anyone who appreciates the written word should discover Herman Gorter, the visionary and poet.
5 stars out of 5
The Netherlands is a small country, and its language has never become widely known in the rest of the world. As a result, many a Dutch writer who surely would have become world-famous if he or she were writing in English or French has had to remain content with a modest and local level of fame. This has been especially true of poets, given the exceptional difficulty of translating poetry.
If Dutch were a world language, one of the poets who unquestionably would have become world-renowned is Herman Gorter (1864-1927). In Holland, he was famous from an early stage as a writer of both epic and lyric verse. Due to the lack of translations, let alone good translations, abroad he has remained known, if at all, as a once-prominent early exponent of socialism and communism. In The Netherlands, whether or not because under Covid conditions more people are staying at home and reading books, there has recently been a rediscovery of this major poet, even something of a revival. Appropriately, an extensive selection from Gorter’s main poetic works is now being made available to English readers in excellent translations via the new two-volume set The Essential Gorter.
Volume One is M. Kruijff’s translation of May (Mei, 1889), a long epic poem with which Gorter broke into immediate fame when he was only twenty-four. For generations of Dutch schoolchildren, this was the poem that Gorter would always be remembered by. Set against the twin backgrounds of Old Norse mythology and magnificent Dutch land- and seascapes, the story is an allegorical tale with which everyone can identify – of youth, its discovery of love and ideals, and the eventual...but no, no spoilers here!
Kruijff’s translation, written in a style which perfectly echoes the mythic-historic tone of the original, comprises nearly 150 pages of text. It is accompanied by suggestive color illustrations and followed by a synopsis of the story, notes on the text, and a brief biographical sketch of Herman Gorter.
If Volume One presents the epic side of Gorter’s writing, Volume Two, Selected Poems, introduces the reader to the other side of Gorter – his unique and timelessly intriguing lyric poems. Translator Lloyd Haft, himself a prize-winning poet best known for his free-verse adaptation of the Psalms, has put together a rich selection of lyric poems from various stages of Gorter’s career. They include introspective and stylistically daring poems from Verses (Verzen, 1890), lyric high points from the book-length Pan (1916), and the first presentation in English of Gorter’s last work, the posthumously published Lyrics (Liedjes, 1930) in which visionary ideals and erotic intensity combine to form an unforgettable personal myth. Haft’s introduction gives background information on the development of Gorter’s thought and career as well as glimpses of the specific linguistic difficulty of translating this outstanding Dutch poet.
This two-volume set, with its nearly 350 pages of poetry and background information on Gorter and his writing career, finally puts the many sides of Gorter’s art within reach of the English reader in a single compact and attractive format. It is sure to win many new enthusiasts, not only among English readers but among Dutch readers who may be aware of Gorter but have never taken time to explore the various sides of his deservedly lasting oeuvre.