Peter Holvoet-Hanssen worked as a dolphin keeper before debuting in 1998 with the collection of poems, Dwangbuis van Houdini (Houdini’s Straitjacket), which was awarded the most important Flemish debutant prize. As the title suggests, the collection is an homage to the Hungarian escapologist, Harry Houdini. Following in the footsteps of Houdini, boundaries are stretched, manacles are wriggled out of and in the same breath the accepted constraints of the poetic form are alluded to.
Holvoet-Hanssen calls himself an ambassador of the ‘active ingredient’: this poet isn’t afraid to connect all of life’s extremes in his adventurous poetry – he combines the high with the low, the inaccessible with the accessible, humour with emotion, routine with insanity. The theatrical and the musical are characteristic components of this work, which puts him much in demand as a performer at literary events. Indeed, Holvoet-Hanssen has built a reputation as a poet who is able to cause a commotion when live in a full house. His flamboyant recitals, with or without musical accompaniment, sometimes using chains or other bizarre props, can be either intimate or theatrical.
Holvoet-Hanssen is also the compiler and co-translator of a collection of poems by Arthur Rimbaud. His trilogy Dwangbuis van Houdini (1998) , Strombolicchio (1999) and Santander (2001) blew a wind of change across the Flemish poetic landscape. In 2004, Holvoet-Hanssen published his first novel De vliegende monnik (The Flying Monk) and in 2005, his fourth volume of poetry appeared: Spinalonga. This book was awarded the Flemish Culture Prize for poetry (2008).
To date, Peter Holvoet-Hanssen has published five poetry volumes. His most recent collection, Navagio, appeared in 2008 as the end of a voyage into poetry he began in Strombolicchio.
Dwangbuis van Houdini (Houdini’s Straitjacket), Prometheus, Amsterdam,1998
Strombolicchio, Bert Bakker, Amsterdam,1999
Santander, Bert Bakker, Amsterdam, 2001
Spinalonga, Bert Bakker, Amsterdam, 2005
Navagio, Prometheus, Amsterdam, 2008
French Translations appeared in Le verre est un liquide lent, 33 poètes néerlandais (Farrago, Paris, 2003), Littérature en Flandre (Le Castor Astral, Paris, 2003), Ici on parle flamand & français, une fameuse collection de poèmes belges (Le Castor Astral, Paris, 2005) and in the magazine, Action Poètique (2006/1)
Selection of poems in German, in Keine triste Isolde, Gegenwartslyrik aus Flandern und den Niederlanden, Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen, 2007
Flemish debutant prize (1999)
Dirk Martens prize (2001)
Flemish Culture Prize for poetry (2008)
Paul Snoek Poetry Prize (2010)
The works of Peter Holvoet-Hanssen are published by Prometheus .
Peter Holvoet-Hanssen’s personal website
Peter Holvoet-Hanssen on Lyrikline
A documentary about Peter Holvoet-Hanssen as the city poet of Antwerp