A few months ago, we published an article about the wall poems in the Dutch city Leiden. Poetry is everywhere and it’s not only written on walls. The Dutch website Straatpoezie.nl (Street Poetry) promotes all those poems that can be found in the “public space.” This website shows that poetry can be found anywhere.
The website is an initiative of Kila van der Starre. This Dutch poet and researcher at the Utrecht University, writes about poetry a lot. She even published a book that is a challenge for those who want to learn more about poetry. Yes, this website of her is in Dutch and is related to a Dutch research project. We found it important to show you that this website exists and it’s the perfect combination of how to make poetry more accessible to a large audience.
To get a project listed on this website, it must be a poem or part of a poem that is to be found in The Netherlands or Belgium (Flanders to be precise, because of the similarities in language). The poems don’t necessarily have to be written in Dutch. There are many examples of other languages on this website.
For our Dutch website (ministryofpoeticaffairs.nl), we interviewed Kila about her research project and this website.
The website Straapoezie.nl is all about poetry in the public space. Or, to use other words: poetry in public places. Not all poetry on this website can be found on walls. We see a lot of poems that are written on signs, benches and other parts of the public space.
The Dutch term Straat poëzie and its translation lead to confusion. Street poetry is the translation, but most people consider street poetry to be something different. According to them, this is a form of urban poetry inspired by life on the streets. There are many examples of beautiful poems that fit into this “section” of poetry. And now, we use this term for a translation of a Dutch word.
Whatever you want to name this project, it’s unique and it’s great. More than 1,800 poems can be found on this website. Most of them in Dutch, but there are some good examples of international poems that can be found on the website as well. A good example is a poem written by William Butler Yeats and it can be found on the wall of a building in Leiden (Lange Mare 31-33).
|I made my song a coat
covered with embroideries
out of old mythologies
from head to throat;
But the fools caught it,
wore it in the world’s eyes
as though they’d wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
for there’s more enterprise
in walking naked.
|William Butler Yeats|
This isn’t just any other poem by Yeats. It was his way to deal with the criticism he faced. He made his song (poem) into a coat and decided to wear it. He made sure that it was full of striking motifs, embroidery, that were based on stories in history; mythology. It’s true, Yeats wrote a lot about mythology and not everyone seemed to like this. How unfortunate for him, the coat he made was stolen, by what he describes as fools. These fools used his coat to get the fame they wanted, they needed. Finally, he realises that there is no other option than to led them. Eventually, the rest of the world will see, that it was him who first started writing these inspiring words, instead of them.
The mysterious poem: Treno in corsa
And that brings us to the poem Treno in corsa. This poem can be found on the website Straapoezie.nl and the website of the project that made it all possible: Muurgedichten.nl. Recently this last website was updated to make it look a lot like a modern day website.
The poem Treno in corsa is probably one of the most mysterious poems that are to be found in The Netherlands. The funny part: it’s not even Dutch. Based on the title, you might think it’s an Italian poem. In fact, this is a universal poem. Everyone who knows about trains should be able to read this poem.
When translated the title means as much as a moving train. The poem doesn’t consist of real sentences or real words. It’s based on the sounds the trains made at the beginning of the twentieth century; steam trains. The way the poem is painted on the wall of an apartment building for students shows that it can be considered as the pipe of the steam locomotive. In the end, the poem is smaller and forms a circle.
The way the poem is written isn’t the greatest mystery there is. That is the poet. First of all, try to find this poet using any search engine. You won’t be able to. Cesare Simonetti is a mystery. His poem was listed in the poetry collection I Nuovi poetic futuristic in 1925. This poetry collection was published by Filippo Marinetti, a futuristic artist. He wanted to show the rest of Italy the greatness of poets such as Simonetti.
There is a chance that Simonetti wasn’t even a full-time poet. His work may be the result of some experimenting. Very good experimenting, to be precise. According to the website Muurgedichten.nl, the poet probably was an artist or designer. There are examples of his work that he made for the Italian company of Borsalino and several French companies. Treno in corsa shows us the more artistic side of this Simonetti.
Unfortunately, on both of the websites, there isn’t a really decent photo that shows the full text of this poem. The one on Straapoezie.nl is somewhat blurred, while the one on Muurgedichten.nl is from a distance, just like our photo.
Poetry can be found anywhere!
We covered two examples of Dutch websites that show us poetry in public spaces. We are interested, do you know more websites such as these? Feel free to share them with us!