poem of the week: Pablo Neruda’s “Tonight I Can Write”.

     All my memories of holidays as a teen are framed by one album: Sixpence None The Richer’s selftitled. It was one of my first albums, and it was on tape, cuz my parents refused to have a cd-player in the car :P. But every holiday, on our way from the Netherlands to France, my brothers, sister and I would listen to that album, from the beginning to the end, and turn around the tape to listen to it again. 
       As a result, Leigh Nash’ ethereal voice comes back to me every now and then, singing “hug him like a brother/ kiss her like a sister” (“Sister, Mother”) or “you can’t marry our heaven to your hell/we, Prolific and you the Devourer” (“Waiting Room”). One of my favorite songs on that album was “Puedo Escribir” an odd entrancing song in which Leigh Nash sings in her bright and ice-like voice some lines in Spanish from Pablo Neruda‘s poem of the same title (published in his Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.) This song, this poem and the power of the both are probably some of the reasons why I (try to) write poetry.

This is the entire poem, from the Penguin translation by W.S. Merwin. The picture is taken from the site of the Dutch weather institute.

Tonight I Can Write

By Pablo Neruda (1904 –1973)

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example, “the night is starry

and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.”

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines,

I loved her and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.

I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.

How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.

And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.

The night is starry and she is not with me.

That is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.

My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.

My heart looks for her and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.

We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.

My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.

Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.

Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms

my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain she makes me suffer

and these the last verses that I write for her.

poem of the week: “Sebastian Spider” by Annie M.G. Schmidt


As a kid, my favorite writer was Annie M.G. Schmidt (1911 -1955), a dutch writer of amazingly funny and rebellious poems and books for kids. There was nothing condescending or patronizing about her or her works: she truly knew what kids love and what it means to be a kid.  I read all of her works and knew them all by heart. But of course, when in school, I had to read more highbrow books (her books are more cabaret-like ) and her works were slightly forgotten. But recently – when I found a book of her poetry- I re-discovered what a great writer she was: no-one could rhyme like her, her colloquial voice is amazing and she can adress heavy subjects in such a light-hearted way, that they make you laugh out loud in spite of yourself. Here is my very favorite poem.  I was very happy to find a great english translation of it online, cuz translating a rhyming poem is horribly difficult.
Everyone who reads it, thinks it’s actually about being an artist…but decide for yourself 🙂

Sebastian Spider

This is poor Sebastian S.
He got into an awful mess.


Sebastian stated with a grin:
It’s strange. I’m not myself today,
I feel an urge from deep within
to spin a web without delay.

All the other spiders cried:
Oh, Sebastian! No, Sebastian!
Please, Sebastian, don’t be so silly.
In wintertime we sleep and hide.
No one makes webs when it’s this chilly.

But Sebastian just replied:
Webs can be small and hard to find –
if it’s too cold, I’ll go inside,
and sneak one in behind a blind.

All the other spiders cried:
Oh, Sebastian! No, Sebastian!
Please, Sebastian, don’t make a fuss!
It’s much too dangerous inside.
There’s danger for the likes of us.

Sebastian stubbornly insisted:
This Urge of mine is far too strong.
The other spiders still resisted:
Inside that house, you won’t live long…
Oh, oh, oh, Sebastian S!
He got into an awful mess.

An open window – he slipped inside.
Stubborn, yes, but walking tall!
All the other spiders cried:
There goes Sebastian, Urge and all!


A little later, without pardon,
this simple message reached the garden:
A murderer was in the room.
Sebastian S. just met the broom.



original illustration for “Sebastian Spider” by Wim Bijmoer.
Annie M.G. Schmidt. “Sebastian Spider.” 1951.  Annie-mg.com. Translation by David Colmer. 2007. 30 May 2008.
< http://www.annie-mg.com/huiskamer/over_annie/album_english/album25.html >

poem of the week: a middle english lyric

If anyone were to ask me what kind of poetry is my favorite, i’d definitely reply “middle english lyrics”. they have an intensity and a directness which is unlike anything else I’ve ever read, and because they’re often songs, they’re very easy on the ears.
If you know Jeff Buckley you may recognize this song: his gorgeous interpretation of Benjamin Britten’s version of it can be found on the album Grace.
For a translation of some of the words and for more lyrics and info, go here.

The Corpus Christi Carol

Lully, lullay, lully, lullay,

The faucon hath borne my make away.

He bare him up, he bare him down,

He bare him into an orchard brown.

In that orchard ther was an hall

That was hanged with purple and pall.

And in that hall ther was a bed:

It was hanged with gold so red.

And in that bed ther lith a knight,

His woundes bleeding by day and night.

By that beddes side ther kneeleth a may,

And she weepeth both night and day.

And by that beddes side ther standeth a stoon:

Corpus Christi writen thereon.