Initially, Robert Anker wrote poems like those of Christ van Geel – small, concentrated verses full of symbolism. Over the years, however, he has developed into a ‘lifesize’ poet who makes use of social and topical themes. From minimal to maximal, from stillness to vitality, Anker’s poetic development reflects what took place in Dutch poetry in the 1980s – a considerable upheaval.
In Robert Anker’s poetry (as in his prose) you can see that the TV is on and the newspaper read. Not that the poet is to the fore with corny songs or that he constantly praises new man to the skies, but you sense his zest for life and furthermore his willingness to reflect on existence. Sometimes you get a hint of the rapper in his poems, at other times a touch of the foreign charwoman. Anker’s poems are colourful, displaying great pleasure in language and images. The worn-out symbol of the autumn leaf, for example, is given a more updated look: “her randiest chlorophyll negligee”.
In a certain sense, you could call him a modern humanist poet, bearing in mind the shortcomings of De broekbewapperde mens (Man, trousers a-flutter), the man of the title of one of his recent collections, but without any moral judgment. The main character of these poems would seem rather to be inspired by a cheerful sort of sadness, a brisk acceptance of inadequate homo sapiens. The tone of his poetry is sometimes almost nonchalant, but behind this, undiminished, the words and problems of existence lie concealed:
Without death life is meaningless. Voilà.
For the rest it is the question of living through life. That we do that.
Both the tone and the message itself betray their casual-sounding though intense involvement in the great issues of life. This stamps him as one of the most prominent Dutch poets of the present time.
Translated by John Irons
One of us VIII
In the Pub XI
Homesick for the dark
Homesick for the day before you came
Waar ik nog ben, Querido, Amsterdam 1979
Van het balkon, Querido, Amsterdam 1983
Nieuwe veters, Querido, Amsterdam 1987
Goede manieren. Een episodisch gedicht, Querido, Amsterdam 1989
In het vertrek, Querido, Amsterdam 1996
De broekbewapperde mens, Querido, Amsterdam 2002
Heimwee naar, Querido, Amsterdam 2006
De thuiskomst van kapitein Rob, Querido, Amsterdam 1992
Een soort Engeland, Querido, Amsterdam 2001
Hajar en Daan, Querido, Amsterdam 2004
Essay collections on artists and writers
Olifant achter blok, Querido, Amsterdam 1988
Vergeten licht, Querido, Amsterdam 1993
Poet and novelist Robert Anker on the NLPVF website
Robert Anker at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Royal Library, The Hague)
An interview with Robert Anker, by poet and critic Remco Ekkers