The Poetry International Foundation is a literary organisation based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It aims to present quality poetry from the Netherlands and worldwide to an international readership, encouraging poetry translation, stimulating the international exchange of knowledge about poetry, and facilitating an international community of poetry readers.
The main activities of Poetry International are the Poetry International Festival, established in 1970, the Poetry International website and National Poetry Day in Netherlands and Flanders. The analogue archive of the Foundation is currently being digitised, and will be integrated with the material on the Poetry International website. The Foundation also participates in Netherlands-based projects such as education programmes and poetry awards.
The Poetry International website
First launched as the English-language Poetry International Web in November 2002, and integrated with the Dutch-language festival and organisation websites, the Poetry International website brings you information about the annual Poetry International Festival in Rotterdam and other activities run by Poetry International, along with news, articles, audio and video recordings, interviews and links to other poetry organisations – but, first and foremost, thousands of poems by acclaimed modern poets from all around the world, in the original language and in translation.
In keeping with the spirit of the web, it is a truly international collaboration. The central staff in Rotterdam works with editors from around the world. These active international domains publish poems, translations, audio recordings, interviews and relevant articles.
Advice and archive
Manuscripts, letters, photos, films and audio recordings, translations: Poetry International's archive (currently being digitised) contains unique documentation related to the poets who have been guests to the festival since 1970. Publicists, researchers and literary organisations in the Netherlands and worldwide can make use of these items. The Poetry International Foundation also answers questions about contemporary Dutch poetry.
The board of Poetry International
Siebe Weide | chair
Peter Frima | secretary
Martin de Haan
The Poetry International Advisory Board consists of various poets from around the world. These include:
Remco Campert, Netherlands
H.M. Enzensberger, Germany
Lars Gustafsson, Sweden
Judith Herzberg, Netherlands
Gerrit Kouwenaar, Netherlands
Makoto Ooka, Japan
Wole Soyinka, Nigeria
The Foundation also receives advice from fellow organisations, translators, publishers and academics in the Netherlands and worldwide.
For information about current editors and central office staff, see our contact page.
Over forty years of poetry
In 1969 Adriaan van der Staay and Martin Mooij, both working for the Rotterdamse Kunststichting (Rotterdam Foundation for Art), en Martin Mooij, attended the Londen Poetry International Festival in England. During their visit, they were inspired to organise a similar event in Rotterdam, and so the Poetry International Festival was born. Twenty-three poets, including Zbigniew Herbert from Poland, Frenchman Eugène Guillevic and Austrian poet Ernst Jandl, were among the guest readers in the smallest room at the Doelen concert building in Rotterdam. Since then, Poetry International has hosted 43 festivals, and organises a number of other poetry events in the Netherlands as well as providing an online database of articles, news, poetry, video, and more.
In 1977, on the first day of the festival, a reading was held at Rotterdam’s only statue of the poet Hendrik Tollens near the Euromast. This presentation, which was attended by a highly diverse audience, proved a formula for success. The opening day, or ‘Poetry Park’, expanded to become the large and well-known Dunya Festival.
In 1987 Poetry International became an independent organisation led by Martin Mooij. The Poetry International Foundation expanded its exploits with, among other things, a collaboration with the Rotterdam garbage collection company Roteb. As part of the project ‘The Poem is a Message,’ lines of poetry were inscribed on the cleaning vehicles, garbage trucks, and sewage trucks, from 1987 onwards. Now, all Roteb’s garbage trucks drive around with verses of poetry and many a citizen of Rotterdam knows their favourite of those verses off by heart.
Tatjana Daan succeeded Martin Mooij as director of the foundation in 1996. The festival moved from De Doelen to the Rotterdam Municipal Theatre, and in 1997 the first Childrens’ Poetry Festival was organised. In 2000 Poetry Day and the election of the Poet Laureate were introduced. Poetry Day grew to be a big event in both the Netherlands and Flanders, and with the reading suggestions, the Poetry Day Prizes, the Poetry Day Anthology and almost four hundred other activities organised annually, Poetry Day can justly be called a success.
At the end of 2002 Poetry International Web was introduced, and with that the international poetry website poetryinternational.org was a fact; an online poetry magazine with over twenty international partners, lots of poetry – in multiple languages – and information about poets and the art of poetry.
With the arrival of the new director Bas Kwakman in 2003 the various projects continued. At the Festival he established the relationship between poetry and the visual arts with the arts festival Poetry&Art.