Gerrit Krol studied mathematics. He worked as a computer programmer for Shell Oil and later as a systems designer for the Netherlands Petroleum Company. Since his 1961 debut as a writer, he has produced work in just about every genre: novels, novellas, short stories, essays, columns, studies and poetry, in publications in which genres often overlap.
His penultimate book of poetry De kleur van Groningen (‘The Colour of Groningen’) is subtitled ‘and other stories’.
In a recent interview Gerrit Krol said: ‘I think what moves me is a different kind of beauty from that of, say, the traditionally romantic poets. I am moved by the sight of a gas extraction field with flare pipes glowing in the evening sun. A traffic circle at night, deserted but for a single car, waiting for a red light. A bus doing its scheduled rounds without a soul getting on board. To me that is beauty.’
Krol’s occupation with mathematics, logic and the exact sciences can be traced throughout his literary writings, many of which include reflections on time and space, on language systems, or the workings of the human brain. In 1971 he even published an essay describing a computer programme designed to compose poetry, called APPI (Automatic Poetry by Pointed Information). Later he dismissed the project as ‘an unsuccessful hoax’, reaffirming the indispensible role of the poet.
Krol’s most recent poems, published in De kleur van Groningen and Geen man, want geen vrouw (‘No man, since no woman’) could be described as a kind of thought experiments. The train of thought is tentative and associative, with the poet proposing an idea, then recapturing himself, rejecting or correcting the earlier statement. This process invites the reader to feel he is thinking along with the poet and watching the poem take shape before his eyes. The critic Piet Gerbrandy said it like this: ‘Krol entices the reader by laying out his thoughts side by side, naked and pure.’ A surprising characteristic of Krol’s work is the fact that this process often produces strongly moving poetry.
Gerrit Krol’s unique oeuvre won him many honours. In 2002 he was awarded the Netherlands’ chief literary accolade, the P.C. Hooft Prize for Literature.
Krol’s literary obituary by Dutch news organisation NRC
A short biography for Krol on the NL Times
This text was written in 2002, following Krol's final appearance at the Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam.