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Migration and Writing Poetry

January 14, 2018

by Arnold Jansen op de Haar

Q: Having lived in more than one country and culture, has this, and if so how, altered what you consider your nationality or identity?

Arnold: For the last three years I’ve been living in England, but I remain Dutch. So, I still can be blunt, as the Dutch are, or ask impertinent questions. However, my identity is split, my loyalty is split, my love is split. I would have died for my old country. I was an officer in the Dutch Army and have been in a war, as part of the UN force during the Bosnian conflict in 1994. Yet, I think England is nicer than the Netherlands. Although the Netherlands habitually claims this title, England is more tolerant, in the Netherlands everyone has to fit in, be the same. (Every middle class family plays hockey.) Here, in England, they like their eccentrics.

Q: How does poetry from different countries compare and has it influenced your own poems?

Arnold: I think Dutch poetry is more inaccessible, more elaborate, more associative, whereas English poetry is more accessible, anecdotical, narrative and rhythmical. There is more rhythm in every day English than there is in Dutch. There is more pitch in a sentence to begin with, and this is reflected in poetry. Has it influenced my poetry? I think (hope) that my poetry in Dutch and in its English translation is somewhat in between: associative and narrative, with a distinct rhythm.

Q: Does it matter where you write your poems?

Arnold: No, the poets I like most were always English anyway. That is more of an influence than where I live. My poems often come to me when walking down the street. It starts with a first line and your footsteps tapping out the rhythm. I write my poetry in longhand with pen on paper whereas I write prose on my laptop.

© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press