It isn’t often that a pig farmer writes poetry, but Flanders has an extraordinary poet-farmer. To fellow farmers he is known as Frans Dumortier, to fellow poets as Charles Ducal. In Ducal’s universe pigs, God, mothers and the poet himself are all equals, without discrimination.
His poetry contains much irony and casual humour, yet doesn’t shrink from such grand themes as language, religion and sexuality. Ducal’s poetry is allegedly blasphemous, but ‘shocking’ would be a better epithet.
He set the scene in his debut Het huwelijk (Marriage) by criticising the sacred institution of marriage. Subsequently, in De hertog en ik (The Duke and I) he changed tack by recycling myths and fables to evoke an alienating world in which the poet is pursued by the ominous figure of the duke. In Moedertaal (Mother Tongue) he expanded on the relationship between motherhood and language. Ducal sees language as a code of magic, a vision he shares with Dutch poet Gerrit Achterberg and German grandmaster Rainer Maria Rilke. Language, according to Ducal, may at once draw reality in and push it away. In Naar de aarde (Towards Earth), Ducal finally chose a poetic in which social commitment is the ideal to strive for. This social commitment is also expressed in a series of leftist papers on the far right and the war in Iraq.
After the volume Naar de aarde Ducal kept quiet for eight years. It was feared that with this volume he had written his literary testament, but nothing could be further from the truth. The volume In inkt gewassen (Washed in Ink), published in 2006, proved Ducal still has much to write about. His most recent collection of poems, Toegedekt met een liedje (Covered with a Song) appeared in 2009. The farmer-poet Charles Ducal continues to plough a fascinating field of poetry.
In 2014 he was appointed as the very first Poet Laureate of Belgium.
Het huwelijk (Marriage), De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1987
De hertog en ik (The Duke and I), De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam, 1989
Moedertaal (Mother Tongue), Atlas, Amsterdam, 1994
Naar de aarde (Towards Earth), Atlas, Amsterdam, 1998
In inkt gewassen (Washed in Ink), Atlas, Amsterdam, 2006
Toegedekt met een liedje (Covered by a Song), Atlas, Amsterdam, 2009
Alsof ik er haast ben: Verzamelde gedichten, 1987-2012 (Like I’m Almost There: Collected Poems, 1987-2012), Atlas, Amsterdam, 2013
‘Un poeta fiammingo: estratto’ (Italian), In: Testo a fronte, 5-7, 1992
‘Poems’ (English) In: The Literary Review, 40-3, 1997
Prize of the Flemish Guide (1991)
Lucy B. en C.W. van der Hoogt Prize (1991)
Prize of the Flemish Provinces (1997)
Herman de Coninck Prize (2007)
Information about Charles Ducal in the Digital Library of Dutch Literature (in Dutch)
Charles Ducal on Lyrikline
The official Belgian Poet Laureate website (in Dutch, French and German)