Rozalie Hirs

[Speling] ([Leeway], 2005)

What is striking about [Speling], the third poetry book by Rozalie Hirs, is its strong composition: the collection opens with a one-line poem about dreaming and thought. With each consecutive poem, the poems’ length increases by one line until the whole has grown into a pathway, a poem that fills the entire page, to finally explode into the showpiece of In LA, a text spanning many pages. The reader moves within the leeway (which how the Dutch title [speling] could be translated) between dreaming and thinking, words and lines. The first sentence introduces the elements for the rest of the collection. Hirs is looking for the moments in which experience is no longer restricted to the single body, but extends itself to the other or even to the entire world.

, ISBN: 9789021467344
Image: 'De opgerolde weg', Voebe de Gruyter, 2004; Cover design: Brigitte Slangen

"How poetry imposes its own rules, is demonstrated unequivocally by the third collection of Rozalie Hirs (1965): [Speling]. My free interpretation is that in these poems, what is at stake is the leeway between the word and its meaning, between meaning and sensation. [...] The questions that are posed in the first poems are really the starting point of the poetry that follows. [...] A poetry that is at times bizarre, and with the best will in the world cannot be explained rationally. In short, a very multifaceted poetry. Hirs alternates this kind of associative, unpredictable and at times bizarre poetry, that on more than one occasion is reminiscent of Astrid Lampe, with clear, transparent, but even so enigmatic poems such as ‘[vlinder]’ and ‘[Duchamp]’. A musical poetry, too. [...] A beautiful poetry that does not yield easily, that repulses and beguiles, that fascinates more and more, that ends up refusing to release the reader." Edwin Fagel, De Recensent

"Poetry has its own criteria for penetrating reality and translating that reality – and by these, it paradoxically expands that reality. [...] But in the musical design of her collection, she presents herself rather as a choreographer. She makes the words dance. She writes poems wearing ballet shoes. She is constantly reflecting, word by word. She is bodily yet anonymously present in the creative process. [...] Dancing is thinking in body language. Tinkering with sensual experience. The constructions of sensibility. And dancing is litheness, suppleness. Her poetry is curiously elastic. Her poems swing from sentence to sentence, ever faster, ever more reckless: gradually punctuation marks melt (in the prose poem ‘Way’ this in fact happens very explicitly.) More and more ‘leeway’ is gained between the multiple layers of meaning of the text and among the words. Between the written and the reader. She lays bare echoes within words and lets these echoes resonate repeatedly." Alain Delmotte, Poëzierapport

"The showpiece of the collection then is the ten-page long ‘[In LA]’, which can be read as a meditation on music and memory, and in which the words find themselves interspersed with a large amount of white space. The stuttering of the speaker, ‘d d d dead’, gives the words weight and renders the meditations forceful. This stream of thoughts constitutes not so much a poem as a score, and this is borne out by the fact that you can order it on CD with the poet. On it, Hirs has juxtaposed and superimposed the words polyphonically so that an orchestrated ‘Cocktail Party Effect’ emerges: sentences mingling at different volumes, so that the main speaker is hard to distinguish from background sounds. The care of this project does not lead to a metropolitan cacophony (as in L.A., say), but to an image of how things may happen within a speaker’s head. ‘LA’ is short for Louis Andriessen, whose utterances Hirs has collected and vocalized. It is a sober tribute to Andriessen’s beautiful, heavy words, and the chosen form lends this thinking-out-loud a buzzing hesitance that every speaker experiences when trying to find language for grand things. Here we experience multiplicity." Johan Sonnenschein, Awater