Delphine Lecompte debuted in 2004 in America with Kittens in the Boiler, a novel that earned her comparisons with authors such as Charles Bukowski and Henry Miller. The book proved to be a preliminary study. All the themes it features were explored in further detail in her later poetry. Her first collection of poems De dieren in mij [The Animals Inside Me] was awarded the C. Buddingh’ prize in 2010 and the Prize for Literature in West Flanders in 2011. In 2010, Verzonnen prooi [Invented Prey] was published, but her third collection of poems, Blinde gedichten [Blind Verses], was acclaimed as her first ambitious, mature publication. Readers of her poetry will be pleasantly surprised by the crazy twisted paths over which the poems lead them.
Delphine Lecompte’s poetry creates an extraordinary universe, peopled with characters of highly diverse plumage. The mother, the father, the grandfather, the grandmother, the cousin, the old crossbow archer who serves as lover and muse, the ‘I’ figure . . . They are all depicted in their fundamental shortcomings in relation to the narrative self, yet the poet portrays them with a great deal of compassion and mercy. The ‘I’ figure is possibly the hardest on itself: scornful and uncompromising, almost to the point of self-destruction.
The poems are self and family portraits, which, like mirrors at a funfair, magnify the poet’s world into mythological dimensions and associations and reduce it to personal dramas. Full of unusual trains of thought, they seem most like lucid ravings. They are at once light and dark. They corroborate life, while bearing witness to a disquieting morbidity. Lecompte’s verses demonstrate little poetic contrivance. The absence of contrived enjambment and other familiar poetic rhetorical procedures enhances the parlando tone of this poetry. Nevertheless, the reader always feels that something is happening with language in these poems: in describing experiences, the words create a distance from the events. And there are constant traces of traumatic experiences in the language constructions.
When asked about the autobiographical slant to her poems, Lecompte herself once stated in an interview that “Jean Cocteau said, ‘Je suis un mensonge qui dit toujours la vérité’ – ‘I am a lie that always tells the truth’ – but I would prefer to say, ‘I am a truth that always lies’. I am constantly confessing, but I slip lies into those confessions, and that gives me pleasure”.
VSB Poetry prize jury about ‘Dichter, bokser, koningsdochter’ (‘Poet, Boxer, King’s Daughter’)
Delphine Lecompte might quite simply be a natural. Great urgency emanates from ‘Dichter, bokser, koningsdochter’: these poems suggest that it would have been quite impossible to leave them unwritten. Her work, extravagant as it is headstrong, seems vitally important. Lecompte creates a unique world, grotesque, cruel and ridiculous at the same time. Her universe is peopled by characters and situations which brutally burst into your imagination and remain there to haunt your dreams when you are wide awake. Delphine Lecompte is the boxing king’s daughter of Dutch poetry.
De dieren in mij (The Animals Inside Me), De Contrabas, Utrecht/Leeuwarden, 2009
Verzonnen prooi (Invented Prey), De Contrabas, Utrecht/Leeuwarden, 2010
Blinde gedichten (Blind Verses), De Bezige Bij Antwerp, Antwerp, 2012
Schachten en Amuletten, De Bezige Bij Antwerpen, Antwerpen, 2013
De baldadige walvis, De Bezige Bij Antwerpen, Antwerpen, 2014
Dichter, bokser, koningsdochter, De Bezige Bij, Antwerpen/Amsterdam, 2015