High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Rob van Essen: Fields
© Stephan Vanfleteren
© Stephan Vanfleteren © Stephan Vanfleteren
Friday Verses

Rob van Essen: Fields

This week's Friday Verses are written by Rob van Essen. We translated his poem Velden (Fields). This poem first appeared in Dutch in Het Liegend Konijn, a magazine for contemporary Dutch-language poetry.

Rob van Essen (b. Amstelveen, 1963) made his debut in 1996 with the novel Reddend Zwemmen (Rescue Swimming) and has since written thirteen more books. He also writes for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad about English-language literature. His collection of short stories Hier wonen ook mensen (People Live Here as Well) won the JMA Biesheuvel Prize in 2015. In 2019, he received the Libris Literature Prize for his novel De goede zoon (The Good Son). His first collection of poems, Alleen de warme dagen waren echt (Only the Warm Days Were Real), was recently published.


the slow fields we stumbled our way
across the slow fields of honour fields
of yesteryear yesterday yes again
soon the fields of a slow birth where we
were conquered with the umbilical cord around our necks
the fields of nowhere

we are not too much to blame
we didn’t know that much about it
we flagellated ourselves with real scourges
that flagellated better the fake scourges
hurt too much

we mowed the fields
and afterwards they sent us back
to the factory

(Dutch version below the photo)


de trage velden waarover we struikelend
een weg vonden de trage velden van eer
van weleer eergisteren eerlang
de velden van trage geboorte waarover we
met de navelstreng om de nek werden veroverd
de velden van nergens

veel valt ons niet te verwijten
veel wisten we er niet van
we geselden onszelf met echte gesels
dat geselde beter de namaakgesels
deden te veel pijn

we maaiden de velden
daarna werden we teruggestuurd
naar de fabriek

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