High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Florence Tonk: An Ocean of its Own
© Quintalle Nix
© Quintalle Nix © Quintalle Nix
Friday Verses

Florence Tonk: An Ocean of its Own

This week's Friday Verses are written by Florence Tonk. We translated Een eigen oceaan (An Ocean of its Own). This poem was first published in Dutch in Het Liegend Konijn, a magazine for contemporary Dutch-language poetry.

Florence Tonk (b. 1970, Wageningen) made her debut in 2006 with the collection Anders komen de Wolven (Otherwise the Wolves Will Come). Her second collection, Rijgen (Threading), appeared in 2013. Between the ages of 19 to 29 Tonk lived and studied alternately in the Netherlands and the United States, where she worked at the University of Iowa-Iowa City and at Duke University. In addition to collections of poetry she published two novels: Blijf bij ons (Stay with Us, 2010) and IJsheiligen (Ice Saints, 2017). Besides her literary activity, Tonk works as a journalist and teaches poetry at the Writers’ Professional College of Amsterdam. At present, she is working on a third poetry collection. Tonk is an allotment gardener and took the initiative in setting up the Jan Wolkers commemorative garden and writers residency in Amsterdam.

An Ocean of its Own

(Fourth Piano Concerto, Sergei Rachmaninoff)

I did not know I would be gone
forever when I left
when the century was almost over
in which jazz and a little later the two
of you were born, in the midst of
the murderous storm which in this corner
of the world, where I arrived,
would provide a few decades
of care, a conscience we could
not guarantee for long since
a new set of czars arose
new and different, yes, I call it evil,
and people are seduced again
they have forgotten the storm.

I left home as one does
could not know we wouldn’t be able
to talk anymore, that the two of you
were in fact already my children, that I would bear
a child of my very own, its eyes
yours, father, its love of summer fruit
yours, mother.
I went away. What lay between
us obtained its own measure,
an ocean of its own.

(Dutch version below the photo)

Een eigen oceaan

(Vierde pianoconcert, Sergej Rachmaninov)

Ik wist niet dat ik voor altijd weg
zou blijven toen ik ging
de eeuw bijna voorbij was
waarin de jazz en even later jullie
werden geboren, midden in
de moordzuchtige storm die in deze hoek
van de wereld, waarin ik arriveerde,
voor een paar decennia zorgzaamheid
zou zorgen, een geweten dat we
niet lang konden borgen want
er zijn weer nieuwe tsaren opgestaan
nieuw en ander, ja ik noem het kwaad,
en de mensen geloven het weer
ze zijn de storm vergeten.

Ik ging van huis zoals het hoort
kon niet weten dat we niet langer
zouden kunnen praten, dat jullie toen al
feitelijk mijn kinderen waren, dat ik
een echt en eigen kind zou baren, zijn ogen
van jou, vader, zijn liefde voor zomerfruit
van jou, moeder.
Ik ben weggegaan. Wat tussen
ons in lag, heeft een eigen maat
gekregen, een eigen oceaan.

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