Poetry week 2024: home

25 - 31 January Flanders & the Netherlands

The annual Poetry Week in Flanders and the Netherlands is from Thursday 25 January to Wednesday 31 January. As in Book Week, you will receive a booklet as a gift from the bookseller if you buy a book of poetry worth at least €12.50. Plús a free poster with a poem. The Poetry Gift is by Edward van de Vendel.

The theme of Poetry Week 2024 is 'home'. At the back of Haarlem station you can read the text by Godfried Bomans: 'One travels to get home'. A beautiful text for a train station. We would like to offer you some poetic inspiration and you might like to take a train journey to get acquainted with the great poets in the countries surrounding us.
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The train in verse

Piet Paaltjens’ poem is the first time someone thought about combining trains and poetry. The writer fell in love with a girl sitting on a passing train. The poem is in the collection 'De trein schrijft liedjes van verlangen'. The poem is called Aan Rika. Piet Paaltjens wonders why she did not fling herself around his neck. Was she afraid of a railway disaster? That would not have bothered him.

'Maar, Rika, wat kon zaalger voor mij zijn,
Dan, onder helsch geratel en gestamp,
Met u verplet te worden door één trein?'

The book 'De trein schrijft liedjes van verlangen' is an anthology featuring a selection of train poems compiled by Henny Vrienten. The collection contains poems about locomotives, coal on the fire, cigarette smoke in smoking compartments, rattling split-flap signs, the pointsman and saying goodbye.
A beautiful poem is 'In de trein' by Willem Wilmink which ends thus:

en 'k had naar China willen reizen zo,
maar moest er helaas uit in Almelo.

AI Rika, what she may have looked like this

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Seeking poetry in London

John Keats and William Shakespeare
  • Visit Hampstead Heath where John Keats (1795-1821) lived. Keats spend hours at the Spaniards Inn. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) could often be found there too. And while you are there... visit stunning Kenwood House and walk to Parliament Hill for the beautiful view of the city.
  • Every Saturday, you can take a walking tour led by Rick Jones along 'Shakespeare's London' (1564-1616). Accompanied by lute music, he tells of Shakespeare's brother, his fellow writers, the saddle-maker and butcher. The reviews are glowing!

The German poets

Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Friedrich Schiller
  • Goethe (1749-1832) was born in Frankfurt but lived most of his life in Weimar. The city centre was badly damaged in the war but has been beautifully restored. It is now a Unesco world heritage site. You can visit Goethe's residence with national museum and his Gartenhaus.
  • Schiller (1759-1805) was a friend of Goethe. He is known, among other things, for his poem Ode an die Freude, which Beethoven incorporated into his 9th symphony. In Weimar is het Schiller residence is in Wiemar and you can see his statue. Right beside Goethe's statue.

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Great Flemish poets

Guido Gezelle and Paul van Ostaijen
  • Guido Gezelle (1830-1899) was born on the outskirts of Bruges. Besides being a poet, he was also a priest and known for his poetry about nature. Do you know Het Schrijverke? In Bruges, you can visit the House Gezelle. His mausoleum is one of the most beautiful tombs at the Bruges cemetery.
  • Paul van Ostaijen (1896-1928) held not only Dutch but also Belgian nationality from the age of 22. He was born in Antwerp and is buried at Schoonselhof. This beautiful cemetery is just half an hour by bike from Antwerp Central. If you plan to cycle more often in Belgium, get a discounted subscription to Blue-bike, the 'Belgian public transport bike'.

Poem by Paul van Ostaijen

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Les Poètes Français, the French poets

Charles Baudelaire and Jacques Prévert
  • For a short period, the poet Baudelaire (1821-1867) had a room in Hôtel de Lauzun on the Quai d'Anjou. He wrote part of his most important collection Les Fleurs du Mal there. Baudelaire died of syphilis while still young and is buried at Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris. His friend, the painter Manet painted his funeral, L'enterrement.
  • Jacques Prévert (1900-1977) grew up in Paris and for a while lived there at 54 Rue du Château. He wrote the collection Paroles, the best-selling French poetry collection of all time. He later went on to write film scripts and children's books.

Manet's L'enterrement

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