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Rutger Kopland, Memories of the Unknown. Read it.

But you will want to know why.

Read it because the poems are so sharp and beautiful that they hurt. Read it because the pain feels good, even when it makes you cry. Read it because the sadness and longing takes you through to something new and different and wonderful.

An Empty Spot to Stay

Go now into the garden, dear, and lie
in an empty spot where the grass grows tall.
That’s what I have always wanted to be,
an empty spot for someone, to stay.

Deceptively simple.

And you don’t want to miss lines like this:

My topography is too enigmatic
to describe, too evident
for words, I am because I am.

Or like this from a poem inspired by a painting by Mondriaan:

he died and saw everything, saw everything and he died.

I have never read any other poet who begins a serious poem:

When I was still a horse in a meadow

Nor have I read anyone who has made tears spring to my eyes so easily no matter how many times I read the poem:

this is happening here: a garden in the evening

and what you don’t hear and don’t see — the places
where we dug holes
and filled them up again, weeping

I tell this because I do not want to be alone
before I am.

It is a shame that only a fraction of Kopland’s poetry has been translated into English from Dutch. My friend Cath told me about this collection and I am ever so grateful to her for it. Many poems will be going into my personal poetry anthology. You can read more about Kopland at Poetry International. The article describes his poetry as evoking “a wistful, almost nostalgic atmosphere of a lost paradise,” but I didn’t find his poetry to be wistful or nostalgic nor did I get a sense of lost paradise. Loss, yes, loss of love, pets, people, but not paradise. I get the sense that paradise was never known to begin with and the longing and desire in so many of the poems is for something never experienced and perhaps impossible to experience.

Poetry International has a number of Kopland’s poems online that you can read. Be sure you don’t miss In the Morning, Time, Under the Apple Tree and What is Happiness.

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