By PROSSER GIFFORD
Dutch writers Elly de Waard, Anna Enquist and Carla Boogaards read from their published and new work at the eighth reading in the "New Literature from Europe" series, co-sponsored with the member states of the European Union, before an audience in the Mumford Room on Oct. 28.
Drawing on the new volume The Defiant Muse: Dutch and Flemish Feminist Poems from the Middle Ages to the Present, the poets read many of the poems in both Dutch and English, giving the audience a sense of cadences and sounds of Dutch when read by those who love the language. Margrit B. Krewson, who was the Library's German/Dutch area specialist, coordinated this event.
The three poets were introduced by Maaike Meijer, professor of women's studies at the University of Maastricht and the editor of The Defiant Muse volume. Ms. Meijer provided a summary of some of the most striking instances of Dutch poetry by women, from early oral songs through Renaissance and 18th century verse to the early 20th century. The poems were read in English by Florence Howe, publisher of The Defiant Muse series, which offers companion books to the Dutch volume for French, German, Spanish and Italian feminist poets.
The three poets' differing tonalities and subjects reflected the variety of their backgrounds. Anna Enquist, who began as a pianist, became a psychotherapist in her late 30s working with adults and adolescents. She read a series of four poems about her daughter ("My genes all over again," "Mom manages the memories") and those about the new year ("What's left is a footprint in the crowd").
Elly de Ward is a pivotal figure in Dutch poetry, a founder of the group known as "The New Savages" and an active voice in literary politics. Her poetry is evocative, sensitive, humorous, subtle and feminist. Such poems as "Anadyonum" (about Venus rising from the sea) and "Who Can Read Plato's Symposium" convey a perceptive, reflective craft. Carla Boogaards is known in the Netherlands primarily as a performance poet and also writes for the theater and frequently reads in company with musicians. She read only in English, and her poems were the most explicitly sensual and feminist of the group, such as her recasting of the story of Odysseus and Penelope. She ended with a forceful reading of her poem "Adonis and Aphrodite."
Mr. Gifford is director of the Office of Scholarly Programs.