Before poets began to mount platforms in numbers, towards the turn of the last century, to present their poetry in a show of vocal pyrotechnics, before the term ‘performance poetry’ was coined and long before the advent of poetry slams, there was Jaap Blonk. Blonk, born in 1953, is the Netherlands’ performance poet par excellence. For many years he has been sound poetry’s chief representative and as such has been a unique link between the early 20th-century movements of modernism and dadaism and our own time.
Possibly his presentation of his own and other authors’ sound poems has so profoundly impressed listeners because he began it at a time when poetry presentations rarely deviated from the common practice of a poet reading in subdued tones to a quietly attentive audience. With his inescapable presentations, Blonk jolted his listeners into fresh awareness and perceptiveness. His performance is hard to categorize: he hisses, he grumbles, he grates, he grunts, he bellows, in short, he employs every register of the human voice. Indeed, he really succeeds in dissolving the boundaries between poetry and music.
Unique in his presentation is the way he combines candour with professionalism. Intelligible or cryptic, Antonin Artaud, Dylan Thomas or his own work, Blonk bends every poem to his will, or rather voice, without sounding the least bit contrived. In the course of his career, often collaborating with other poets and musicians, he developed such performances as ‘Braaxtaal’, using poems by Lucebert, or Kurt Schwitters’ ‘Ursonate’. His performance ‘Liederen uit de hemel’ (Songs from Heaven) also appeared as poetry collection, in a box set including a CD, published in 1993. Thus, in addition to other firsts, this poet-musician may safely be said to be the Godfather of all poets packing a CD with their printed poems.
[Jaap Blonk took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2003. This text was written on that occasion.]
Liederen uit de Hemel (1993)
CD ‘Flux de Bouche’ (1993)
CD ‘Speechlos’ (1997)
CD ‘Vocalor’ (1998)
CD ‘Six Sound Poems by Hugo Ball’ (Kontrans 844, 1998)
CD ‘Dworr Buun’ (2001)
‘Come to Catch your Voice’, muziek bij poëzie van Dylan Thomas (LopLop LLR 006, 2001)
Jaap Blonk on Lyrikline