Mark Boog was awarded the 2000 C. Buddingh’ Prize for new Dutch-language poetry for his debut collection Alsof er iets gebeurt (As if Something is Happening). He has since been publishing at high speed, certainly for a poet who boasts about his strong penchant for idleness: three novels and three new volumes of poetry, the latest of which, De encyclopedie van de grote woorden (The Encyclopaedia of Big Words) won the prestigious VSB Poetry Prize in 2006.
Boog likes to reason and philosophize in his poems, without taking recourse to the great philosophers, however. He follows his own independent line of thought, using a logic that may seem anything but logical to others. In his poems, most of which are situated indoors, he characteristically uses abstractions in the same role as concrete objects. In the poem ‘Water, aspirine, jou’ (Water, aspirin, you), for instance, the ‘you’ brings the ‘I’ an aspirin, whereupon the ‘I’ says: “And bring me, while you’re / at it, an eternal darkness”. Grand abstractions such as happiness, chance, doubt, silence, time, loneliness, figure as commonplace objects in his poetry. In some poems this produces an amusing effect, reminiscent of the work of Toon Tellegen; in others it rather suggests a kinship with Gerrit Kouwenaar.
Boog in his poetry emphasizes the uselessness of all human actions, keeping in mind, moreover, that total destruction may be just around the corner: “and for a while the wrecker’s been awake, / although on a heavy, iron chain in front of our window / the wrecking ball hangs still, gleaming in the late summer sun.” Yet the poet resists any kind of inertia: we “beat our night clothes, ourselves, like carpets”. It is the pointlessness which clothes everything “in a storm coat / of tension”. Language plays an allaying role here: “it helps to say things beautifully”, says Boog in an interview. The poet fights arbitrariness by plotting a course, and classifying (e.g. himself as ‘among the lucky’). The 64 titles in his latest collection alphabetically sum up the 64 ‘Big words’ (or ‘Big clichés’ if you will) in poetry. As void of hope as Boog’s poems may seem at first, among Evil, Despair and War even Love and Happiness do find a place in his work here after all.
Animation film of Boog’s poems Zout deel 1 (Salt part one) by John van der Wens
(Dutch: Zout deel 1 + English: Salt part 1)
Alsof er iets gebeurt (As if Something is Happening), Meulenhoff, Amsterdam 2000.
Zo helder zagen we het zelden (As clearly as we seldom saw it), Cossee, Amsterdam 2002.
Luid overigens de noodklok (Sound the Alarm, by the Way), Cossee, Amsterdam 2003.
De encyclopedie van de grote woorden (The Encyclopaedia of Big Words), Cossee, Amsterdam 2005.
Het eigen oor (Selected and New Poems), Cossee, Amsterdam 2007.
Alle dagen zijn van liefde (All Days are of Love), Poetry International / Cossee, Rotterdam/Amsterdam, 2008.
Poetry, small press
Seizoenen (Seasons), Atalantapers, Baarn 2005
Landman (Countryman), DRUKsel, Gent 2006
De vuistslag (The Punch), Meulenhoff, Amsterdam 2001
De warmte van het zelfbedrog (The Warmth of Self-deceit), Cossee, Amsterdam 2002
De helft van liefde (The Half of Love), Cossee, Amsterdam 2005
Ik begrijp de moordenaar (I Understand the Killer), Cossee, Amsterdam 2009
Published translationsPoetinis Druskininku (Lithuanian, anthology), translated by Antanas Gailius, 2003
Retai kada sitaip aiskiai gebejom izvelgti(Lithuanian) translated by Antanas Gailius. Vilnius: Aidai, 2004
Dias Abertos (Portugese, anthology), translated by Fernando Venâncio. Lisboa: Culturgest i.c.w. Roma Publications and Assírio & Alvim, 2006
Info and one translated poem in German
Boog in Berlin, April-May 2006
Boog’s own website
Website by John van der Wens, including many animations of Boog’s poetry
Boog at the Dutch Royal Library, The Hague
Boog at VPRO, including audio