Henk van Loenen / Julien Holtrigter

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Biography: Although Henk van Loenen (Hilversum, 1946) had always been artistic and loved drawing from an early age, it was not until the 90's that he began to write poetry as well.
Next to his job as an arts teacher he increasingly directed his attention towards writing, painting and photography.
He has published five volumes of poetry under the pseudonym of Julien Holtrigter at the independent Dutch publishing house The Harmonie, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

A selection of poems by Juliën Holtrigter:
translated by Eva van Loenen


Slept under the stars, looking long
in the time, in the delirious, screeching space.
The strange joy which creates that unthinkable.

I saw a picture someone took from a pit.
“View from a grave”, was written below it. You could see
a piece of sky and the thin crowns of trees.

I think of my father, far from home, not having
the power to return anymore.
And of my ex whom I suddenly met at the dentist
above my wide open mouth, more gorgeous and harder
than ever, with a snake in her hand to suck away
the grit and water. There I was.

I’d so much like to travel light, with in my backpack
no more than some clothes,
a flask, a pencil and paper.

(Dutch Turing Award Winning poem 2011)


Somewhere in Russia there must be a lady
who still reads.
She is breathing (as we all have to breath)
or listens breathless to her heartbeat.

She just cannot believe that she is really.
- I am, thank heaven, a figure in a book,
don’t let me think that I really exist. -

She ventilates and her heart
refuses sometimes.

Just reading helps.
When she’s reading, she recovers.
Then it is as though she really exists.


It happens again, what stayed in my mind:
comes a man at the door, a schlemiel.
Goodevening sir, may I ask you,
I am in search of my sheep.

A tiny cloud of his breath steams in the light
of the lamp. A hundredst of a second reincarnes
the God of my father.
I shut the door and enter the room. I was reading.

He asks: do you understand what you read?
I am not certain, I say.
And he asks: where is everybody?
And I shall say: I am everybody.

Nothing passes or it returns,
it comes closer and whispers: till later.


The kingdom of heaven is
like a chess player,
he plays his game against God.

Yet soon he walks from the table.
There is no clock and God smokes.

Then he returns, he can’t leave it.
Once more it takes years.

Finally it is his turn and he says:
First you blow your holy smoke in my eyes,
then you allow that I steal from you your
towers and bishop and even your king.

God has no way out and
surrenders himself.


In a small boat, more like a coffin, drifting over
the black water where straw floated and
flowers and oil.

We rowed ourselves slowly till the end and spoke
about the humility of the master.

We saw confusion, numbness.
but our view was also quite hazy.

He, a non-violent Jew, was like a blood-red flag,
flown at half-mast, but in this way,
like a constant wound for the world.

He only could give himself as seed
which deep in the soil decays.


Crossing ‘The IJ’ on my way to
a bargain, I heard someone say: I am
the narrator and you are my character,
one out of many.

But donot let that impress you, please go
and run with my plot.

And this writer who invented and cherished me,
who protects me, not against madness or despair,

nor against cancer or death,
was a moment in the present.

I wrote you, the voice softly said, and now
I am curious to read you.


People walk hastily down the streets or
sit pretty behind their beer. The village

is a spot in the canvas on the table. My father
stares to a point behind me in the garden.

Where it will end, he says, the dirty river
and the sea of loss, is what you see,
the well is hidden.
You are wearing the shoes of progress
but they are leaky and worn out.

Sounds from far away arrive, from cars, TVs,
the humming of people, their bathtaps.

It is going somewhere, this rumble, as it came
from somewhere.


Behind the dike lies the wind and she waits.
My tour of duty leads me to very old nobility.

But what I find is agoraphobia and mildew.
And shudder.

Rattling, the roll-down shutters fall when we talk.
Everything remains the same, she repeats.

She does have very rich teeth,
one would want to offer a chop of one’s hand.

If I bite her, I shall regret it,
though then we should have lived.

She is cold and blows on her nails.
I am allowed to write it down, she observes it
and that delights me.


The foot of the tower cuts deep in the myth.
Once the spire stinged in the skin of heaven.
Some light still leaks out of the tiny hole.

The weeping-willow imagines itself as a fountain.
She rather resembles a horse. The dead sleap
under her mane.
Here dwells the man with the scissors, he

cuts the world into pieces en glues her together.
In his domain he questions his brain,
it is here where he eats the strangest registers,
the illest lists.

Slowly but surely the words smother the story
and what stays is an icy silence.


In the city I stand still for The Time,
a shop full of sleeping clocks and dead watches.
My breath glides along the window.
After some waiting, patience gets paid, the wonder
happens: appears from under the red
velvet curtain The Living Hand.
It is the fumbling hand of a lady, not
young and not old.
Fast she draws back with a clockwork.
And I can hold on a bit longer.