To date, I have five collections of poetry in Dutch to my name. The most successful, Liefdesverklaring , ates from 1979 and was reprinted a year later, in 1980. Liefdesverklaring is normally translated as Declaration of love, but it can also mean explanation or explication of love, and the poems in the collection draw heavily on the ambiguity of the title.
My poetry in Dutch can be qualified as neo-experimental and semi-classical, moving between the romantic sublime and a very specific, almost ironic kind of intellectualism. The influence of philosophy in my poems being clear and palpable, my latest collection, Kant-tekeningen, literally meaning Marginal notes, also refers to Kant and his aesthetic theory about parerga (ornaments, margins, etc...). This latter collection is a cross-fertilisation of lithography by Theo De Smedt and my own poetry. Work is being done to translate into English the final section of this collection, dedicated to Paul Celan.
I am currently preparing a collection of poems which grew out of a collaboration with butoh dancer Emilie de Vlam and art photographer Benn Deceuninck.
I have written poetry since I was 18 years old, back in 1964, occasionally also in English. In the next section, you will find a selection of these occasional poems. Some were written in the days when I had blended into the late 1960s hippie scene in Louvain. It was a time of great discovery. I was particularly influenced by the beat generation, especially Alan Ginsberg and William Burroughs. I translated Burroughs’s The Naked Lunch into Dutch. Unfortunately, the translation was never published for reasons of copyright.
OCCASIONAL POEMS: AN ANTHOLOGY
Oh I know sadness is old-fashioned
I thought that love could be
being an illustrious ram
bright and wild of pleasure and delight
but it was only
wavering between the profit and the loss
death and life flesh and ground
maybe it was laughing and crying
at the same time
and sometimes shocking
and surely dreadful
Oh I know sadness is old-fashioned
I thought that love would be
touching the golden rain
with hands full of seaweed
and having hearts warm bleeding
as the sunshine did
when the earth raised her thighs
and nine months later
Adam was born
and the snow melted into Adam
and he laughed laughed haha!
while Eve bore sadness Eve bore sadness
time and again she bore sadness
a little late but quite enough
During a day of common sense
I saw softheaded human beings looking electronic
And I saw very bodily changes oh yes
Swimming in the queenlips
Of an exploding galaxy I met Ghandi
Drinking goatmilk and whispering
“Oh mudheaded cosmos do not disturb me,
I opt for peace!”
THE HOLY COMPANY
to Leonard Cohen
I sat up in bed and stared at the wall
from where the cashmere patterns
were beckoning me
I wrote in green sluggish ink
a petition to my consciousness
And all of a sudden I was surrounded
by laughing albinos
They cut out the patterns which I ate
one by one to dandify my inner-space
Afterwards I slept four days
I awoke with a redbreast on my neck
while beautiful roses or words
(I couldn't identify) fell from my mouth
as so many members of the same
THE STREETS OF CALCUTTA
What remains to be said
will fly away
in naked dreams
and unsaid memories.
Words don’t fit anymore
the unspeakable desire
in the streets of Calcutta.
But this is a night to count on
because the moon will beg
the dying sun
to scream the words
that will set us free
all night long.
ART AND SUSTAINABILITY
To paint ideas with a supreme smile,
Full of irony and destiny.
To write down one’s own exile,
In art and sustainability.
What if art would be for a while,
An instrument of liberty,
A way to bestow and reconcile
Body and mind indefinitely?
What if there would be a style,
Full of inherent musicality,
Which tunes us back in due time,
To nature’s spontaneity?
No word has ever been fertile,
No one ever kissed the dignity,
In which black and white are alike,
Except in art’s own vulnerability.
Why I see beyond the dazzling
The stony handwriting in the phony screens
Of man’s destiny.
Why I see
Through the pixels of illusion
Lost men kissing the spiderwoman
Not out of anxiety
But animated by lust and sheer conviction.
What a prelude to humanity’s crazy love
And New Years Eve’s
Somewhat belated loneliness!
I hear all of a sudden
The sound of a bird passing
In my garden
The voice of a friend
Slowly disappearing in the wind.
I am alone in the world.
I am happy.
And I think of you.
I walked through Japan
And Japan walked through me.
I walked though your body
And your body walked through me.
I walked to the moon
But the moon was hiding
All night long.
The blue moon
I kissed her unknown shadow
On your queen-like lips
And I heard the blues inside me
All night long.
They were twin philosophers
Who learned to think twice
To dream in words forgotten
To cry with a silent mind.
But at Christmas they were baptized
Time and again
And told the same old story
With all the devotion
The world dreamed of since eternity.
Until the silence speaks
In bones and veins, retreats
Into the blessed body
Scattered through the fragments
The remains of yesterday
As an impulse of the nerves
Praying speaking laughing
Beyond the walking clichés
Kissing the back bones
Of barefoot memories
Till we become the endless circle
The great chain of being
The blooming of virtual love
In the games of spleen and melancholy
Becoming at last as real as burning trees
To declare the war on war
To meet and kiss
The beloved flowers in the lost streets
The inner circles of eternity.
I myself and you as illustrious wannabe
Stoned from Fakahatchee to the sea
We were lost forever except to see
The growing tragedy meant to be.
And still there is the voice in between
Dreaming in a pub in old Aberdeen
Unveiling with unspeakable spleen
The mind’s eye of a galactic queen.
Neither this nor that not even eternity
It cannot be met except indifferently
It can only be touched unknowingly
Unspeakable desire of all humanity.
Antoon Van den Braembussche