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What It Is

What It Is

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Esther Jansma is a leading Dutch poet as well as an influential archaeologist. Interweaving a dazzling variety of strands, her poetry explores time and memory, past and present, death, loss, decay and legacy, and yet draws fresh power from these perennial themes because she writes from two opposite but complementary viewpoints.

As an archaeologist she refined a technique for establishing the age of wooden artefacts from growth-rings in the wood which could be applied to timber from the Netherlands. Lending a voice to the past, making time visible in all its aspects, is also what she does in her poetry. The philosophical is earthed in the everyday, the mythic intertwines with the mundane, the word with the world.

In her early work, the voices of the past are heard from bewildering years: as a child, the death of a father, then as a mother, the loss of a child. Her later poetry is less personal but more compelling as her poetic universe expands, embracing the whole world.

"Jansma is a past master in bringing home to the reader the convergence of death and life, of holding on and letting go, of having and not understanding, and this is what makes her one of the most important poets of our time."
Koen Vergeer

"A harsh, versatile, colourful collection, with life and death as equal forcesÖ full of mysterious forces which keep the poet and reader spellbound."
Rob Schouten, Vrij Nederland

"Just like fairytales and the stories about Alice and the baron who pulled himself out of a swamp by his own hairÖ both cheerful and cruel, meaningful and senseless."
Xandra Schutte, De Groene Amsterdammer

Translated by Francis R.Jones.