Rage, rage against the dying of the light

A look back to remember the lives of the poets

Martin Mooij, Poetry International, Netherlands, poetry

While we, at Poetry International, look forward to the new poets and poems we'll meet in 2015 – especially at the 46th Poetry International Festival in June – we'd like to begin the year by remembering those we've known long but lost in 2014.

For those of us who follow poetry debates online, 2014 might mark the year that the question ‘Is poetry dead?’ receded into obsolescence.

Instead, we watched – and joined – the world as it celebrated the expansive work and lives of Dannie Abse, Maya Angelou, Manoel de Barros, Abdelwahab Meddeb, Alastair Reid, Tomaž Šalamun and Mark Strand. In the Netherlands, we recalled the pivotal writings and personalities of Leo Vroman, Erik Menkveld and Gerrit Kouwenaar. And we grieved the younger writers who leave behind a smaller body of work, but still enough for us to know how much international readers would have loved seeing them at our festival or on our pages –  such as American poet Hillary Gravendyk and Canadian spoken word artist Zaccheus Jackson. 

The most direct and personal loss for Poetry International Web, however, has to be the passing of Martin Mooij, co-founder and longtime director of the Poetry International Foundation, on 12 August 2014. Following Mooij's vision and leadership, Poetry International began in 1970 by hosting 23 poets – including Zbigniew Herbert and Ernst Jandl – in the smallest room of Rotterdam's Doelen concert hall and now has grown to become one of the largest literary festivals in the world and the primary poetry foundation of The Netherlands.

As our current director Bas Kwakman wrote in his Dutch elegy to Mooij (translated here): ‘Hardly a day passes in the Poetry International office when the name Martin Mooij is not mentioned, or without his influence being noticeable . . . Martin built with firm conviction, with the cunning of a streetfighter and the determination of a longshoresman, a lighthouse for international poetry’. And Allen Ginsberg is one such international poet that responded to the beckoning of the lighthouse with an ode to its keeper: ‘For Martin Mooij’.

Do not go gentle into that good night. As we emerge from 2014 to the brilliant possibilities of 2015, we remember Mooij and the others we lost, and we keep the beacons glowing.

© Mia You  
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