Christine D Haen 
Author

poèmes

Original

Übersetzung

Grafgedicht voor Bérénice néerlandais

traductions: fr

to poem

Het tapijt néerlandais

Tien Dizains - I néerlandais

Twaalf Douzains - Als Tijd was néerlandais

traductions: en

to poem

Zee-interludium néerlandais

Leven en dood van de hamster néerlandais

Christine D Haen 
Author

* 25.10.1923, Sint-Amandsberg, Belgique
03.09.2009, Bruges, Belgique

Christine D’haen undoubtedly was the most important woman poet of post-war Flemish and Dutch poetry. Her poetical work is unique in its voice, remarkable in its wide spectrum and incomparably rich in its content and form. As the first woman in the list of illustrious predecessors to that date she was awarded in 1992 the highest literary prize possible to obtain in the Dutch-speaking area, the three-yearly Prize for Dutch Literature.

Christine D’haen studied Germanic Philology, used to teach in Bruges and later on became curator of the Guido Gezelle Museum. She translated poems by Gezelle into English and wrote a fascinating biography on this great Flemish poet of the nineteenth century. Her interest in English literature resulted in the translation of a poem by Milton, but she also much admired Edmund Spenser, Robert Browning and Edna St. Vincent Millay. She quoted with great ease Gertrude Stein or James Joyce as well as ancient Greek and Roman poets. Critic Hans Vandevoorde used a reference to Gerard Manley Hopkins to illustrate the experimental way in which she handled the traditional verse forms, linked her preference for the elegy to that of Stephane Mallarmé and compared some of her compositional methods to those of Ezra Pound. Christine D’haen also wrote autobiographical prose in which the construction of a life through writing was more important than the actual biographical data.

                She made her début in 1943 by publishing the long, narrative poem ‘Abélard and Héloïse’ in a literary review. Her early poems at first sight looked like pre-war neo-classical poetry with a refined idea about form and with its common theme of conflict between a sensual eroticism and an intellectual desire for spiritualization. Her early poetry was highly thought of, but the breakthrough of experimentalism in Flemish poetry during the fifties outshined her work. Not only became her oeuvre a symbol for all that was traditional in experimentalist eyes, it also made critics and readers blind for the personal and experimental way in which she handled fixed forms for a long time to come. In later work for instance she used highly restricted structures like neuvains, dizains and douzains which consist of nine, ten or twelve lines of nine, ten or twelve syllables, but also experimented within these classical forms with surprising enjambements, striking assonances, contrastive themes and motifs and semantic ambiguities. ‘[The renewal of the old]’, verse which concluded a poem from the collection ‘Mirabilia’, was one of her guiding principles.

From the beginning, Time has been the central theme of her poetry. Christine D’haen has always been fully aware of the short time people were given during their life span. With her poems she sought to erect little monuments of perfection that could stand time, culminations of combined skills and knowledge that with their beauty answered to personal or general grief. About the much preferred elegy, she once said in an interview: ‘Every elegy is a sort of eternalization’. At the same time, she was convinced that nearly all her poems were imperfect and therefore could be affected by time.

                Although time is the core of her poetry and although her poems are deeply rooted in time through the use of quotations from and references to mythology, art, science and literature, her work is also characterized by a certain timelessness.  This explains the large number of ‘classical’ poems that leave time behind are anthologized again and again. This timelessness also creates the possibility for different times to revive certain aspects of her poetry. In this sense the upcoming postmodern poetry during the late eighties evoked a renewed interest for intertextuality that brought her poems again to prominence. It is this promise the timelessness entails that guarantees that the oeuvre of Christine D’haen will be read by different generations and thus that it will stand time, at least for a long, long period to come.

This dense and highbrow poetry asks much from its readers, but in turn they receive wide vistas that offer invitations to reflect on life and culture.

Publications
  • Gedichten 1946-1958

    Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1958

  • Vanwaar zal ik U lof toezingen?

    Hasselt: Heideland, 1966

  • Ick sluit van daegh een ring

    Brugge: Sonneville, 1975

  • Onyx

    Amsterdam: Athenaeum-Polak en Van Gennep, 1983

  • Zwarte sneeuw

    Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1989

  • Mirages

    Amsterdam: Querido, 1989

  • Duizend-en-drie

    Leuven: Kritak, 1992

  • Een brokaten brief

    Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1993

  • Merencolie

    Amsterdam: Querido, 1993

  • Morgane

    Amsterdam: Querido, 1995

  • Een paal, een steen

    Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1996

  • Dodecaëder. Twaalf douzains

    Amsterdam: Querido, 1998

  • Dantis meditatio

    Amsterdam: Querido, 1998

  • Kalkmarkt 6, De stad en Het begin

    Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 1999

  • Miroirs. Gedichten vanaf 1946

    Amsterdam: Querido, 2002

  • Het huwelijk

    Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 2003

  • Uitgespaard zelfportret. Verzameld proza

    Amsterdam: Meulenhoff, 2004

  • Mirabilia

    Amsterdam: Querido, 2004

  • Innisfree

    Amsterdam: Querido, 2007

Prix
  • 1960 Lucy B. en C.W. van der Hoogt-prijs

  • 1989 Henriëtte de Beaufort-prijs

  • 1991 Anna Bijns Prijs

  • 1992 Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren

  • 2007 Henriëtte de Beaufort-prijs