High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Maud Vanhauwaert: A Sorry Sight
© Jill Bertels
© Jill Bertels © Jill Bertels
Friday Verses

Maud Vanhauwaert: A Sorry Sight

This week's Friday Verses are written by Maud Vanhauwaert. We translated Gehavend (A Sorry Sight). This poem was first published in Dutch in Het Liegend Konijn, a magazine for contemporary Dutch-language poetry.

Maud Vanhauwaert (Veurne, b. 1984) writes and makes things. She obtained a Master’s degree in Language and Literature from the University of Antwerp and an MA in Verbal Art from the Antwerp Conservatoire, where she herself now teaches. For her poetic debut Ik ben mogelijk (I Am Possible, 2011, uitgeverij Querido) she was awarded the Woman’s Debut Prize, for her collection Wij zijn evenwijdig… (We Are Parallel, 2014, Querido) the Hugues C. Pernath Prize and the Public Prize of the Herman De Coninck Competition. In her work she seeks out playful theatrical forms to make poetry public. She has given performances, on radio and TV, at home and abroad, from opera houses to sheep pens. She has been appointed an honorary citizen of the town of Veurne and from 2018 to 2019 she was the city poet of Antwerp.

A Sorry Sight


Far from home we’re a sorry sight

the lamp posts discreetly bent
over those bent by the streets

at night the screens glow
of all those who call home

in the palm of a hand a mother
in far too low a resolution

harbour cranes trembling in the water
a flickering letter in neon light

the city spreads its tentacles
in a city of the washed up

we form the Stranded Collective


We’re a sorry sight far from home

city of grey conmen
hidden gold teeth

backlit frail white lines
snorted in the thunderworld

blue revolving lights take the drunken
binge still further, fake sirens

spherical pupils that dilate
in a city in a city in a city

where is my mother, where
her rotating hands around wet clay

the hollow between, let me be it.


We’re a sorry sight far from home

in the bend on one side the city
and on the other side the fume-choked harbour

a smoking and derelict Gomorrah
with naked chickens and a blown-up fish

that with the oil gleams wonderfully mother-of-pearl-like,
the air so thick that it drips

the cranes stare like stuffed giraffes
on the quay, look how the light breaks

in the water, the necks crack and we just
combing the beach in the fever of finding something

that no one stole from us


From far a sorry sight we are home

however I try endlessly
to refine, these verses narrow

channels for wide-ranging thoughts
the docks incubators

in which the Scheldt breathes restlessly
and a cruise ship passes with on it

boisterously waving animated folk
a swell like a threat

for all that’s fixed and complete
here in this city still
vague people keep the distance close.

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