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Book Review :: Lucebert: The Collected Poems, Volume 3

Lucebert: The Collected Poems, Volume 3 book cover image

Guest Post by Jason Gordy Walker

The ranting, mischievous, socially engaged verse of Lucebert, the great Dutch poet, painter, and anti-apartheid activist, dazzles (and dizzies) the reader with surrealistic images, quick tone shifts, puns, and jazzy philosophical musings. Published by Green Integer in a pocket-sized, bilingual edition, Volume 3 shows Lucebert, a well-known affiliate of experimental writing movements De Vijftigers and CoBrA, on top of his game. See this tercet from the brief, wry “communiqué”: “through logic people get ahead / shoot for kicks at rats wolves riffraff / god is a pet[.]” Or consider how “…always music makes music / rocking ejector-seat directed / at perilous fluffy down / sweet skirt that frowns / like an enjoying forehead”; images morph into more images, mimicking the consciousness that commits them to paper. Diane Butterman’s translations from the Dutch into English preserve (and transform) the poems’ spirits. In “…and tomorrow the whole world,” a poem full of sharp adjectives, the poet pokes fun at class privilege: “…from our snooty benefits we will if need be / weave a temporary bandage for the world[.]” Lucebert eschews proper punctuation, creating language-rivers, reminding us to be wary of the “…little butcher [who] planned to slaughter the whole nation.”

Lucebert: The Collected Poems, Volume 3 by Lucebert (Lubertus Jacobus Swaanswijk). Translated and Introduced by Diane Butterman. Green Integer, March 2022.

Bio: Jason Gordy Walker (he/him/his) has received scholarships for his poetry from The New York State Summer Writers Institute and Poetry by the Sea: A Global Conference. His book reviews and interviews have appeared in Birmingham Poetry Review, NewPages, Subtropics, and the Dos Madres Press blog, among others.

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