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  TWO poems
 (& an incline ... )

& (an extract from) a poem called DAUGHTER OF

            Translated by
            Astrid ALBEN

ISLAND MOUNTAIN GLACIER—a new translation by acclaimed poet Anne VEGTER (and published by Prototype)—is tumultuous, humorous, erotic, enigmatic and vulgar in equal measure. Written in an elastic, playful style that levels the playing field of what kinds of images carry poetic weight, the poems inhabit an incongruous space between everyday distractions and intimate, at times uncomfortable or disturbing questions.

Featuring drawings by the author, the original Dutch language edition of this collection was awarded the prestigious Awater Poetry Prize in 2011. Published here in collaboration with her long-term translator Astrid ALBEN, ISLAND MOUNTAIN GLACIER is VEGTER’s first full collection in English.

Order a copy direct
from the press here ...

“About my translations I can be brief: no translation is a replica, and a comparison between these translations and the original poems will reveal plenty of incongruities and inconsistencies. The very things that attracted me to the work—the unpredictable handling of language and custom-built grammar, the disregard for hierarchy and conformity, VEGTER’s signature shift between the stylised and the arbitrarily mundane, all the elements that make her poetics estranging and intimate in equal measure—were also the very things that proved the most challenging to translate. Where the English could not accommodate, I improvised.”

                A.A., 2021


We missed you only when your departure could no longer be delayed.
Later that day breaking news you bolted upright on the backseat

and refused point blank to comment. Is there a word for that
or would an audition suit you better? There’s studio space available,

a coach fresh from the egg with some top tips. Everyone looks gorgeous
in the light, someone fingers your viewpoints and I can almost touch you—

by the way today everyone excels in everything frightening.
A horse drops to its knees in the snow; you said that’s how they’ll find me.


Everyone saw I could be anyone.

My drop of Prussian
was deemed beautiful
beautiful was who knew this

or had my traits.
Was there a shelf life?
Trip of a lifetime,

with languages and experiments
and germanisms.
I laid my first my

very very first tiny hands
on the hairy chest
of a farmhand.

(sometimes the child outruns its journey,
clings to farmers / relatives)
It was awful good weather

but what did I care,
my adolescent glands did nothing.

Sometimes farmhands mow

down children,
sometimes a farmer runs down the drive
sometimes the first breast is alibi.

(an extract from) a poem called


I am from just after creation at least that’s what I was told it’s not something you can check my mother’s just always told it this way you don’t know anything you are from just after creation is that a stupidity-guarantee indeed knowledge had been forgotten in god’s lap she always said common sense was not yet in mankind at least this was her observation but not before it had happened and certainly not after the event only then when we were with fewer far fewer it became clearer but by then we were all so beat up once it was all behind us that it was as if we were collectively doped up

we had all kinds of words 
for sand we had
for red
also words for earth:
we had earthworm
earthy was another
you could be earthy
or an earnestly unearthly type
we had dry
we had drying off arms wide open
we had dry for water
for red we also had
and when everything was behind us
we had dead

me, my brothers, my mother and my father
see here my noah family:
mr and mrs noah, their well-behaved
noah-lads and me the noahs
all five of them
in shock
all noahs
in the accident
they just ran out of luck
I hate bad luck
even though I’m better at handling
oncoming bad luck
than bad luck coming from the inside out

we had to be thankful
me, my brother, my father and my mother
had to be grateful
that we survived
chosen ones
we can’t even bury our dead
they said ten metres high
I say twenty-five metres high
they said within three minutes
I say it took one minute
they said first the perfectly smooth slipperiness 
followed by god’s blinding eyes
sliding across the water
I say no way shut your face
I say the water’s surface a mirror of ice
flinched like a cramping muscle
underneath the ocean’s skin
the screams from the bystanders
a hollow accolade;
a wretched punctuation mark
presiding over a forward lurching
roaring outwardly gaping
unfurling deep-sea wound
rolling itself out like a foaming carpet
of swirling water fury across the shell-shocked
abruptly extinguished human flame
dragging its hydropower and groping
at anything of strength in its wake
at anything with whirlpool strength
slurping sucking heaving
retreat retreat retreat

sea hammered from sea
the hissing water pounds
a flood-monster reaching under surfaces
climbs onto the growling earth
drives the cubic water masses
forward hauls groundwater up to
water level then to ram against the sky
high above the ocean
collapses on the beach
where all lights extinguish
a kilometres wide fire surf
pounds the cliffs
ricochets off the rocks
rips them apart
smashes boulders to bits
injured black wet animal
keeps itself pressed fearfully
to the ground and is called: earth
there’s no more depth
there’s the whirlpool the downwards tornado
to the ocean floor like a vacuum cleaner
on the rampage
leaving nothing intact
human bones push through
from underneath the wet armpits
of sea tentacle waves
then snap like matchsticks
that came from tiny houses
swept away long ago
are cold
their arms break away

their legs dangle limply
the final light on their retinas
as the water engulfs them
as in a maelstrom
at the sluice-gate where brighter light
hauls them in close
the coma that precedes drowning
is oxygen deficiency
the air sacs on the lungs collapse
now brainless breathing
in the sluice of deathly light
in the final spasms for survival
in a gasp for oxygen the lungs unfold
this time to suicide
the bodywork floods
blue bloated water-drunk testifies
the body concrete overflows
concrete you’s
concrete me’s

I discolour
I dilute
I drift away
the final drunken witness to the toil
of the total murder-machine:

Anne VEGTER is the author of numerous poetry collections, children’s books, theatre monologues and erotic stories. Her first collection of poems, HET VEERDE [IT BOUNCE] was published in 1991, and was followed in 1994 by ONGEKUISTE VERSIES [FILTH]), a book of erotic tales. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Awater Poetry Prize in 2011. VEGTER became the first woman to be named Poet Laureate of the Netherlands in 2013, and is Rotterdams city poet for 2021–22. Her most recent collection, BIG DATA, was published in 2020.

Astrid ALBEN is a poet, editor and translator. Her most recent collection is PLAINSPEAK (Prototype, 2019). LITTLE DEAD RABBIT is due out in 2022.


Anne VETGER, sketches excerpted from
in order of appearance,
pp.  6, 47, 14, 26, & the book’s back cover.


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Partner to a press called Tenement, Hotel is a publications series for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. 

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