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More than Pretty Flowers

dichter bij kunst
dichter bij kunst

Unless you are a native Dutch you probably haven't heard of Lisse, although you might have heard of or at least seen pictures of Keukenhof – even though you can't pronounce it right – where the beauty of the tulips is celebrated in all its glory every year. However, Lisse doesn't rest on the fame of Keukenhof and the thousands of tourists surging to admire its flowers, but is actively promoting art and culture for its citizens to enjoy. In this context, every few years the town council appoints a "dorpsdichter", translated literally as "village poet". From 2016 to 2019, Alida van Leeuwen, a very active member of the Lisse community, a laugh psychologist and one of the most positive people I've ever met, was the dorpsdichter of Lisse. During this time she created a poetic collection, Dichter bij Kunst, that has just been published.

Usually I treat each poem as a unique entity but in this case I have to consider the book as a whole to give its contents justice. There are a number of things Alida manages to do in this collection and that need to be mentioned: First of all, she combines her work with the visual work of a number of artists, and the result is beautiful. Thus, we have a full-colored book full of images depicting mostly the natural scenery of the Netherlands but also the human being as part of and in connection to it. Secondly, Alida has collaborated with other poets to create some very unique pieces that stand out for their difference in tone, giving voice to others and letting show the power of co-creation. One of these poems is the result of our collaboration, a work combining two languages, namely Dutch and English.

When reading the poems one has to keep in mind the target group of this book, where it sprang from and what it's trying to honor. The work doesn't claim a position among the poetic masterpieces but its intention is to bring joy and reinforce the pride of the Lisse citizenry, and to be accessible to all. The book is brimming with local imagery, the beauty of the turning seasons and elements specific to the calm, rural life of Lisse. Nevertheless, Alida goes beyond this noble cause and encompasses social inquiry in her work, openly promoting the notions of tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness – important ideas to propagate, especially when the grip of conservatism is tightening. To illustrate this major point, I will stand on the finishing lines of one admirable piece, celebrating the Polish flower workers in the fields of Lisse: "Houd onze dankbaarheid hen op de been? / Ik betwijfel het. Zij verdienen hun eigen vreugd". ("Does our gratitude keep them going? / I doubt it. They earn their joy themselves"). 



If you can read Dutch and would like to order the book, contact Alida at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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Sunday, 01 March 2020 10:50
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