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Gysbert Japicx Prize 2013: Shortlist

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The Gysbert Japicx Prize

The Gysbert Japicx Prize is the top literary prize in Frisian literature. The name refers to the seventeenth-century Frisian renaissance poet Gysbert Japicx; the prize was established in 1947 by the Provincial Council. The first to win the prize was the poet Obe Postma (1868-1963), generally regarded as one of the greats in Frisian poetry. An anthology of his work appeared in English in 2004.

The frequency of awarding the Gysbert Japicx Prize varies somewhat. Currently the prize is awarded every other year and alternates between prose and poetry. This year, 2013, marks the 33rd presentation of this prestigious prize, this time for poetry. The Province has decided to initiate a nomination system for the first time. On May 30 the nomination committee presented seven nominations. The prize winner will be announced on September 13, and the presentation is scheduled for October 12 in the St. Martin Church in Boalsert, the birthplace of Gysbert Japicx.

Shortlist Gysbert Japicx Prize 2013

The nomination committee for the Gysbert Japicx Prize 2013 hereby announces the seven volumes nominated for the prize.

Eppie Dam – Mem sjoch boi (‘Mom, look me’)

A meticulously executed study of “the” mother. Meticulous in its poetic form, strong in language, and full of wonderful discoveries. Like a skillful scout, the poet closes in on the mother in flanking movements – through language, artistic imagery, and the bible. He probes around in the theme as if it were flesh – until it starts to hurt, and he neither avoids his own pain nor the distressing relationship with his own mother.

Nothing but warmth

Does language come from mother? Land from father?
Do we suck in poetry at the teat
while the ramparts echo with soldiers' feet?
Two worlds: one spirit can thrive in either.

Is ovum mother's? Father's the stone-built house?
The cell can never generate an outstretched arm
unless wing-stumps have fumbled in the lime.
A single voice sings lullaby and blues.

Milk is mother, father bread and butter?
Satiety and hunger live in their two faces,
A single longing in their double emptiness ,
his lips and hers both taste the sweet and bitter.

Nothing but warmth is the mother's core:
an inner hum and brightness
that open hazelnut and heart to ripeness
as everything, in rhyme's embrace, rises in glory.  

* *

Eeltsje Hettinga – Ikader

It’s not the black of the letters, but the white between them, the silences, the fluid Nothing that has no shape and cannot be understood or recorded by words that Hettinga seems to be after in his well-crafted Ikader. Hettinga travels in New York’s metro subways and parades across the quays of the Seine as comfortably as gliding in a rowboat on the reflective water of Frisian peat pools, all the while carrying on intriguing dialogs with other poets, painters and etchers, his mirror images, and most of all with the mysteriously vanished Bas Ader: Ik Ader.

De gongen [3]


The sea, the sea, and the greater whole,
so I read between rustling

willow leaves the spirit of Postma, but
I don't know, I don't know,
all that talk about what it is that
shadows around behind the horizons?

I moor the boat beside the bank,
take off my clothes
and dive into water's deep silences;
there is the dream to stay
below in that which has no form,
the ever flowing.

At the surface I lie exhausted
in murky earth,
give out of longing and memory
new names to things,
as if you could denote
what passes and has passed.

Time has remained an open space,
call it the nothing of
night and silence within
the prison camp of the word.

* *

Tsjêbbe Hettinga – Equinox

Seas, skies, and people living near the water – that’s what Equinox, the last volume of Tsjêbbe Hettinga († 2013) is all about. The reader who is familiar with Hettinga’s unique recitation still hears his voice below the lines and lets himself float away on the baroque, language-rich seas of the poetry, and smells the wealth of meaning. With transfers to unusual enjambments and along the path of long, grammatically ever-parallel running sentences the reader is transported to a dream world of images and smells and mythical lands, drawn on a palimpsest with traces of a childhood in Friesland. And ever again those journeys are about love.

Wounded continents

The farmer – cap on head, cigarette in mouth –
Crawls along in his wagon on this blue and white
Late summer afternoon, through alternating
Sun and shadow, milk cans rattling, the warm smell of
The black horse rising up to him as he goes
From the clacking wooden shoes to the snuffling cows.
The milkmaid bouncing along in the back has

A touch of summer – and her fingers – forever
In her hair, as blond as straw kissed by the moon.
A few nights ago, rafters preached and nails decreed:
‘Go, flee, take her, Rica, to Amerigo!’
Swept up into her cobweb eyes, I go with her
To the land that turns her to milk, the cloud-cupped
Land that turns two wounded continents into one.

* *

Elske Kampen – Fan glês it brekken (‘Of glass the breaking’)

Fan glês it brekken betrays in no way the debut that it is. Kampen’s poetry evinces an exceptional command of language and poetic craftsmanship, facilities she employs to bring her intimate subject matter in a surprising and moving way into the footlights: the search for an I, an essence, an ideal, an equivalent, a word, an “it”.

What it requires

There, between the stones and in the sand
where up in the air the cord is stretched tight
requiring head held high and arms
outspread and the wind that plays
through hair and around fingers, you won't find it there
if you look. Nor in the scent of new paper
or curls of wood.

And not in the silent white. It requires
aimless straying through the streets, not
noticing anyone and then just like that
from a doorway your little dog
that died years ago. It requires nocturnal barking,
sharp creases in a cast-off
sheet on the floor.

So stay in your bed today
and let the day sail by on its clouds.
Stay on a chair and just look
at how nice your naked knees are.
Later in the kitchen let warm water
flow over your hands. Vapour and water too
are required.

Perhaps one light morning your back
is willing to allow the sun's warm tracks
to pass slowly along it.
It peeps over your shoulder, conjuring
letters black as beetles from your hand and
lets them fall to the sand as if the ground beckons,
fluttering into words.

* *

Jacobus Quiryn Smink – Sondelfal (‘Sondel Lost’)

It’s amazing how Jacobus Q. Smink does it. In Sondelfal he succeeds in bringing the reader off track with new forms, ellipses, wild associations, inscrutable metaphors and at the same time leading the reader straight to Sondel, the place where he was born in 1954. And also at the same time he conjures Sondel up so vividly before one’s eyes that it makes one faint with nostalgia. Then simultaneously he lets those memories in a true Sondelfal explode like fireworks. A beautiful volume from a poet who has been around a long time but who here invents himself anew.

Sondel Lost

With my heart on the hill
I arrived at Sondel
When it was all still there
And in the winter we slid
Down it when there was snow

When there was snow we
Slid down it in the winter
And strained ourselved dragging
The toboggans up to the top
And with our hearts on the hill

One day a crane drove down
The ice-age ridge
The teeth of its tracks tearing lumps
From its untouched flanks
And I saw it too late

With my heart torn apart
I arrived at Sondel
Had to put back in place
The mill grandpa's wind-motor
The harbour the Pleistocene

And the Zeldenrust Café
The smith's OK petrol pump
Playing long stick short stick
With Linus van Hessel and Dine
Who's a real ace at it

* *

Abe de Vries – Sprankeskyn (‘Spark shine’)

In Sprankeskyn Abe de Vries makes himself vulnerable by searching for new “paths of inner wandering.” An exploration of religion by one “not a believer by upbringing” and thus of religion not circumscribed by tradition. Religion as connection between man and wife, between then and now, between person and landscape. De Vries takes all this on and enchants the reader through his mastery of language. Does the connection become apparent now?

The paths of the soul (5)

To the high sea behind the dike I say, restrain yourself a little.
To the sun in the sky, don't be bashful.
To the earth in the field, give more of your bounty.

What's building up there under the skin?
What's bothering you?
What's that dust blowing up in the distance
But the chaff of the corn harvest?

To the fisherman I say, what sort of disaster was that?
To the shimmering in the night, from now on be my beacon.
To the willow shoots, don't brush away the footprints yet.

The garden around the farm is safely outside time.
The dog and the horses have plenty of room.
I prune the roses with both watchful eyes.
I lend an ear to the chirping in the eaves.

And I've stopped asking, is this the one bedrock country?
And she's stopped asking, is this the country of two halves
it adds up and lifts up as one?

* *

Harmen Wind – Heechtiid (‘Heyday’)

How delicately light one’s contact with death can be! Wind († 2010) in Heechtiid presents himself as a dying poet. He molds the language to his will, for instance the strict church language of his youth. He plays with the old, serious, solid words and gives them a new, light, loose freight. Thus he poetizes and dances his way in search of his place in the world and the path that “the departing man” must go. He “neither slips nor stumbles” but sings – with a moving, broken, high voice – beautiful love poems on earth’s exit path.


I am a skinny passer-by,
I am visible, I am approachable,
I am the child who doesn't know me,
I can't get any better now.

I am public, I am resident,
I am up to date, I've forgotten who
I wanted to be. I am tired. I've
lost the way in son and father.

I am a blue-grey bird, I have
come to light in disappearing,
my feet have been sawn off.

I am, my love, what you can still
make out of what I am.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

general introduction – Sirkwy
introduction to various poets – Nomination Committee
poems – each of the nominated poets

poem Tsjêbbe Hettinga – Susan Massotty, with permission taken from
  Fryslân revisited, Andrys Deinum and Tsjêbbe Hettinga, 2008
other five poems – Anthony Paul
prose texts – Henry Baron

[posted 12.07.2013]



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