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Dutch poet and composer Samuel Vriezen wrote a titillating piece about Dutch poetry and globalization, arguing among other things that Dutch poets could do with a bit more barbarism; start reading around more. He also talks about the role internet has played in the last few years: “If, once upon a time, Nijhoff could hold that Dutch poetry was among the world’s finest, we can today only excuse him on the grounds that he had no internet access.”; and about Leevi Lehto’s idea of writing in a second or N-th language as a the possible redemption from all this navel gazing (Dutch critics love using that phrase). Some extracts from Samuel’s essay:

If it took half a century before Vestdijk introduced Dickinson to Dutch readers, Flarf could make its mark on the Dutch situation within about five years. What gets noticed and picked up in The Netherlands and in Flanders has less and less to do with the institutional structures of major publishing and academic canonization, and more and more with the vitality of poetical discussion, which, in the States, generally is most vibrant in the “Post-Avant” general family of poetic directions

For myself, then, foreign poetry has become a more important factor than original Dutch poetry. About half the poetry I have bought over the past five years is in English; about a quarter is in Dutch; the rest is mostly in German, French, or Spanish. This has caused a veritable reversal in my relation to my own language: if, normally, one would read foreign poetry and evaluate it with respect to its relation to domestic poetic developments, today I increasingly find myself “testing” Dutch language poetry against what I know from foreign poetries.

I don’t read much Dutch poetry myself. Don’t buy much either. Read mainly online dare I confess. And from PDFs (which doesn’t mean I don’t love books, but have also sort of gotten used to reading PDFs). Really like his formulation of his view that the local should be read in relation to the global; reading different literatures as interconnected, not separate. It reminds me of a similar point Graham Harman frequently makes about writing: that it does not happen separately from, but in continual reciprocation with the rest of life.

To acknowledge globalization in literature would then mean both to read and write in any language that one has access to, one’s own as much as those of others, acknowledging the local at the same time as its place in the world.

Here some more about Leevi Lehto’s proposal for a barbaric poetry:

He observes that the most widely spoken language in the world today is “English spoken as Second – or Nth – Language”, but that this language does not yet have its proper literature. Therefore he advocates the production of “barbaric poetry”: that as a Finn, for example, he might write original work in other languages – including, perhaps, languages he can not even read himself (and in fact Lehto has done so). Internationalism, then, is not to be achieved by everybody speaking the same language, but by everybody coming to the same uncontrollable pluriformity of languages from an uncontrollable pluriformity of linguistic positions. Radicalizing a poetics of misprision, language and nation would then no longer be fundamentally linked. Instead there would be a “new kind of World Poetry not yet in existence”, a poetry that might involve “independence vis-à-vis National Literatures, including institutionally […]; mixing of languages; borrowing of structures – rhythmical, syntactical – from other languages; writing in one’s non-native languages; inventing new, ad hoc languages; conscious attempts to write for more heterogeneous, non-predetermined audiences…”

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