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The Winning Translation: Houseless

January 28, 2009

By Caroline Smith

I am very pleased to publish the poem Houseless which was translated by Caroline Smith from the Dutch. It is a lovely translation of JJ Slauerhoff’s famous poem Woninglooze. Houseless is the winning poem of our Slauerhoff Translation competition, fittingly announced on the Dutch National Poetry Day.


By coincidence this year’s theme Across the border is very appropriate to Slauerhoff’s work and ties in with the mission statement of Holland Park Press.



Only in my poems am I at home
No other shelter did I ever find
A fixed abode has never stirred my mind
A tent did not stand up against the storm

Only in my poems am I at home
If I but know I’ll find in the outdoors
This refuge, whether in town, the woods or moors
I fear no hardship, however far I roam.

It will be long yet, but the time will come
That before dusk my old strength lacks the spark
And vainly begs to raise the tender words
I used of old to build with and the earth
Must take me in and I bow down towards
The place my grave breaks open in the dark.

© Caroline Smith


I think it is very inspiring to reproduce Caroline’s note which she send along with her entry explaining very eloquently about why she is interested in translating:

Dutch is my first language, but I have lived a large part of my life in an Anglophone environment and have now moved on to France; getting used to yet another medium. Learning to be totally ‘at home’ in another language, I find a fascinating process. Consequently, trying to move smoothly and without loss of meaning from one medium to another in both spoken and written language, has become a challenge.

Translating written texts, and poetry in particular, forces me to concentrate on the full meaning of the original. Moreover, I write poems myself (in English, which I find easier to handle for this purpose than Dutch) and I have found translating poetry excellent practice.

For more background information about how the winning poem was selected, read this article