Read reviews on: Herman Gorter - The Essential Gorter - May - Selected Poems,
or buy here directly.
Paul Vincent (translator) & Thomas Möhlmann (poet) – Mei (May) is regarded as the pinnacle of Dutch Impressionist literature. Today [Gorter's] poems are regarded by many as the starting point for modernism in Dutch poetry as a whole.
Willem Kloos, Dutch poet,1891 – Any of our sophisticated compatriots, from the highest rank to the lowest, should take off his hat immediately, as soon as this man’s immortal name is mentioned.
Martinus Nijhoff, Dutch poet,1952 – He hasn’t grown old at all, Gorter, and I don’t think his best work ever will.
Pieter Boskma, Dutch poet, 1997 – So many years after his death, it’s still a great pleasure to read his poetry. For it is emotion, it is music, it is eroticism, and those never age.
Source: Poetry International
Piet Gerbrandy, Dutch poet, 2021 – No other Dutch poet’s work is as exciting as Gorter’s, so much so that you sometimes downright fall in love with it.
Reviews of The Essential Gorter (May & Selected Poems)
Prof. dr. Jacqueline Bel, Professor of Literature at VU Amsterdam, in CAANS magazine (Canadian Association for the Advancement of Netherlandic Studies)
Both volumes [of The Essential Gorter] are a must-read for anyone with an interest in language and poetry...
Source [Dutch]: CAANS magazine
Jan de Jong, for Tzum, reviewer and poet
Dichter bij Gorter kan haast niet
... Op de vraag hoe dicht een vertaler de dichter op de huid moet zitten, zoom ik (echt!) willekeurig gekozen in op de tweede strofe uit de “Voorzang’ bij Pan (1916).
En nu zie ik mijn nieuwe liefde,
Die zich ontweefde
Aan het kristal
Van mijn oogen, door het Heelal
Gaan, alsof een Wezen daar zweefde,
En ik roep uit met zachten schal:
‘Wie zijt gij, mijne liefde?’
And now I see my new love,
unraveled from the crystal of my eyes:
how through the all of All
she goes, like a Being hovering above
to whom I softly cry:
‘Who art Thou, my love?’
Een eeuw en een taal scheiden deze twee passages. Maar dichter bij Gorter zal geen Engelstalige lezer ooit komen. Zowel in Verzen, als in Mei, Pan of in enig ander werk was Herman Gorter allereerst een stemmingsdichter, iemand die bij uitstek zijn lezers op een golf van gevoel kon meevoeren. Dát is de kern van zijn werk. En de twee delen van The Essential Gorter juist daarin meesterlijk geslaagd.
On May, an epic poem about youth
Lloyd Haft, poet and translator
M. Kruijff has captured the rhythm, and with it the spirit, of Gorter’s timeless spellbinder. The reader is drawn almost breathlessly onward through magnificent word-groups...'the water seethed in its eternal flames'..., 'in the glittering of mother gleamed the child'...The English is modern but not everyday, full of surprising turns of phrase which often hark back to Gorter’s famously innovative Dutch style. The result is a gripping story highlighted by exquisite lyric episodes. Before you know it, you’ll be reading it out loud! And others will be listening.
May has been awarded a BookLife Editor's Pick, for books of "truly exceptional quality".
Kruijff’s translation Herman Gorter’s epic poem mourns the loss of the “sweet melancholy of youth.”
For many, adulthood feels like an endless slog, and emotional numbness often accompanies this loss of innocence, quashing our ability to have transformational experiences and connect with the natural world. Kruijff’s translation of Dutch writer Herman Gorter’s epic poem, originally published in 1889, resonantly mourns the loss of the “sweet melancholy of youth,” which Kruijff defines in an introduction as “an unbounded intensity of the senses.” Translated here in English, Gorter’s poem personifies its namesake month–the epitome of springtime–by bringing to life a young girl (“the sweetest, blondest, yes, the little May”) bursting with excitement and possibility. Over time, however, she is dragged “finally into submission in the face of mundane city life,” leaving her jaded and bereft.
Unfolding like an impressionist painting, each line of Gorter’s poem is rich with vivid sensory details–colors, textures, and sounds of the countryside that illustrate the depth and intensity of his longing, though he was just 24 when his Mei was published. Kruijff’s translation juxtaposes May’s childlike beauty and innocence with arresting and sometimes jarring images that hint at the tragedy to come: “Awakening and rising on the palms / Of her flat hands, as frail shells were crackling / Underneath her – while on her delicate chin, / Still moist from sleep, a tilted sunray shot / Off the dune’s edge, and made for trembling blood.”
Though it is more than a century old, Gorter’s signature work carries a sentiment still relevant in the modern age. Readers will find this 4,381-line poem both nostalgic and slightly gut wrenching as it inevitably kicks up memories of lost love--and lost possibility. For those who are still young at heart–or wishing to reclaim the fervor of youth–this thoughtful, lyrical translation will stir the imagination and invite consideration of what makes the heart sing, even if the joy, like May, is only temporary. The poem, though, will endure.
Great for fans of: Willem Kloos, Hendrik Marsman.
Design and typography: A
Arjan Peters, literair recensent
Om de Mei, het epische gedicht uit 1889 van Herman Gorter, in het Engels te kunnen vertalen, moet je over muzikaliteit beschikken, en over een zekere kinderlijkheid. Gorter was 24, en in zijn drang om de duinen, de zee en de wind in klanken om te zetten, maakte hij gebruik van een soms praterig en ietwat losgezongen Nederlands ('watergracht', 'twalef', 'boomenlichtgetoover', en 'essence' rijmt op 'mensch'). Het is een knappe prestatie die Kruijff levert met 'May- an epic poem about youth' [...]: alle 4380 versregels, met veel vindingrijk rijm. En 'boomenlichtgetoover' wordt 'tree-light wizardry'. Het kán. Hierbij een stukje uit een lied van de blinde god Balder. Mei is verliefd op hem, maar hij ziet haar niet, en kan alleen voor zijn lied leven. [...]
Anne Walter, editor, ex. Birmingham University
Kruijff’s translation of Gorter’s Mei ably adds to the corpus of academic literature surrounding this important poet.
The translation has been done meticulously and sensitively, with great attention to detail and with a careful adherence to the principles that defined Gorter’s epic work.
The spiritual and metaphysical implications of Mei’s journey are portrayed with care, while none of the beauty of Gorter’s writing is lost in translation. [...] An undoubted romantic, Gorter sees nature through the lenses of an almost spiritual melancholy and nostalgia for a lost innocence and Kruijff’s translation conveys this with an intensity of language which reveals intuitive clarity of vision and profound empathy.
Kruijff refers to each line of the poem ‘acting like one brush stroke in an Impressionist painting’ and this is a good analogy. [...] Kruijff has succeeded in retaining all the freshness of Gorter’s use of pure colour and depiction of light in Mei’s youthful journey. As he says in his introduction: ‘… if you are seeking the colour of your memories, these blessed abilities to create them, to soak in the light and dark of days gone by… to open your mind once more to nature… then I believe that reading May can show you the way there and lead you back to it’.
I have no hesitation in concurring with this statement and recommend that you begin this journey without loss of time.
A.J. Sefton, writer
***** 5 stars out of 5
This book is everything poetry should be: beautiful, immersive, symbolic and a joy to the heart. It uses language like a paintbrush.
Gorter is arguably the Netherlands' greatest poet and despite this book being originally published in 1899, it is still the case. It's easy to see why.
The story is about a girl called May, the daughter of the sun and moon, as she moves through her life, particularly at the bloom of youth. The imagery is tied to the month of May with the vibrancy and newness of the summer season. It reads like a novel but in an elevated style, focusing on all of the senses but mostly sound and song. You can almost hear it, too.
Tying it altogether is nature and the landscape of flowers. To further enhance the experience are delicate images in the same style as the cover that are truly evocative. Absolutely stunning.
Written in three sections of rhyming couplets. the translation has not taken the feel of the poem away. All credit to M. Kruijff, the translator. A rich, stunning work that should be read by everyone who appreciates language. See also Gorter's Selected Poems.
May reviews featured on NetGalley
Joseph Spuckler *****
Herman Gorter’s epic poem May is truly a hidden treasure for the English-speaking world. The writing style reflects a youthful vision of the world. There is an innocence that flows as smoothly as the waves on the beach. I am reminded of Whitman and getting peacefully lost in The Leaves of Grass. Here the flow is equally hypnotic. The reader will be drawn into the world of the poet, and time will pass without notice. As Monet painted, Gorter wrote. ... A masterwork of poetry and translation.
Sirah Jarocki ****
You might expect that to read a poem over 150 pages long would be a grueling undertaking. I suppose if you hate poetry and clever wordplay and beautiful symbolism and gentle syllables, it would be a terrible experience. However, if you enjoy even one of these things and are committed to reading the entirety of section 2 in one sitting, you'll likely be delighted by this book. I was continually surprised and delighted by the intricate word choices and the foamy imagery. I'll never think of the month of May quite the same way again.
Alana B *****
This story envelopes you in a cocoon of May. You get lost in her tale and of the tale of the one who loves her most. Vivid sceneries transport you across the springtime and beyond, telling the tale of the rise and fall of "May". A most enjoyable tale in verse.
Stephanie Brash ***
I really enjoyed this book, the writing technique was fabulous. The way it was written was beautiful. I would really recommend this book if you want to feel fully immersed into something.
On Herman Gorter: Selected Poems
Piet Gerbrandy, prizewinning poet
The sinologist and poet Lloyd Haft (1946), whose earlier work includes a rewriting of the Psalms (2003), has had the courage to translate a wide selection of Gorter’s work into English. In Haft’s version, Gorter sounds the way he should sound: musical and sensitive, at times groping, at other times jubilant, always sure of himself and amazing.
No other Dutch poet’s work is as exciting as Gorter’s, so much so that you sometimes downright fall in love with it. For readers of English it will be a feast to be able to make his acquaintance via this translation.
A.J. Sefton, writer
***** 5 stars out of 5
A collection of the poetry by the Netherlands' most famous and celebrated poet, this one being the second volume in the two-book series The Essential Gorter. Fortunately, his work is having a revival of interest and now we have a new English translation we can enjoy too.
The beautiful cover of this book, with its bright but gentle watercolours, reflect Gorter's work. The poems in the first section (known as the 'sensitivist' verses) are sensuous and in tune with the flow of nature, with vivid imagery describing the landscape in a true creative and emotive manner. Romance, leading to erotic imagery and intensity, the format of the poems doesn't follow the traditional forms of structure but seem to evolve along with his work.
The final section of the book moves to Gorter's 'Revolution' poems, which are centred around the political European landscape at the beginning of the twentieth century, with talk of workers and red flags, depicted so well in the colour of the sun on the cover. There is also a reference to the revolutionary socialist, Rosa Luxemburg.
This is poetry at its most evocative and sublime. How can I have missed this wonderful writer? Anyone who appreciates the written word should discover Herman Gorter, the visionary and poet.
Arjan Peters, literair recensent en dichter
Er kan veel verloren gaan in een vertaling, in dramatische gevallen zelfs alle poëzie. Het lijkt dan ook vragen om moeilijkheden als je de sensitieve verzen van Herman Gorter (1864-1927) wilt vertalen. Met een zekere onverschrokkenheid heeft de sinoloog en dichter Lloyd Haft zich niettemin op deze taak gestort.
En dat levert veel op. In het resultaat, 'Selected Poems' (uitgegeven door Arimei Books, waar eerder al de knappe Mei-vertaling van M. Kruijff verscheen), is heel wat van de klankrijkdom en van de (quasi-) naïeve toon behouden gebleven. Met soms zelfs winst, zoals de zee in dit zeegedicht [The sea beyond a grey, silverish, rainish, leafery] zich tot in het voorlaatste woord laat horen.
Jan de Jong, for ooteoote, reviewer and poet
... Stemmingen en kleuren spelen [in Gorters werk] een belangrijke rol en Lloyd Haft kwijt zich in zijn selectie uitstekend van zijn taak.
Selected Poems on GoodReads
Joseph Spuckler *****
...This is a bit like an archeologist discovering a new civilization or physicist discovering a new particle... Like Gorter, Haft had to become creative with his language. The result amazing. Haft pulls out archaic words and when that fails, he makes a few of his own -- clingleafed up and down, her golden eyes of daydawning, and the twigtrees draw back to their meager leaning. The newly coined words are poetic in themselves... This is a collection of poetry that the translator must be given a great deal of credit. It was said translating Gorter wasn't difficult, it was impossible. Gorter's words of nature and self are incredible and relayed to the reader in what must be a near perfect experience... For poetry lovers looking to discover something new that rivals the greats of the past look to Gorter.
Lady Reading 365 *****
Wow this is some extremely powerful excellent poetry. I loved every single second of it. The poetry in this book so powerful and intense I actually forgot to breathe. It was that breathtaking. I love poetry but had never heard of this Dutch poet but I am definitely thankful for this book. For years I have been reading poetry books of new or lesser known poets trying to find words that contain power, are emotive and are rhythmical. And this poet had all three, finally I have found one and I can't wait to read more. I must say the translator of this book has done a magnificent job. Firstly explaining the difficulties of translating from Dutch to English and the difficulties posed by the poets love of creating made up words to continue the rhythmical flow of the poems. I loved the brief history of the poets life and did an excellent job of introducing the poets work. The poems in this book mainly evolve around the poet's love for his women -yes he had two- and the poetry can get a little naughty at times. But the words used and the emotions behind them are truly breathtaking.... I truly recommend this book to all who love emotive poetry and can find the power held within each verse. The highest praise goes out to the author/translator and publishers for bringing us this magnificent, stunning , emotive and empowering collection of poetry to light - it's spectacular.
Jayoti Mondal ****
...Soul soothing...hauntingly beautiful... The poems will linger on in your mind like the musky smell of earth, like wet soil underneath your feet, like the floral tang and the blue tint of the summer sky. This is undoubtedly one of my most favourite collection of poems and I'm glad I have finally found Herman Gorter.
...The translator Haft was able to capture the beauty of Gorter in the smaller [poems] perfectly,
"Like the glance
of a star
on a lake:
You can't conjure up an image more beautiful than that....