Frank Koenegracht is one of the best, albeit not yet best-known, poets of the Dutch language area. His poetry has often been described as funny, a poetry in which reality tends to ‘get agreeably out of hand’. ‘Agreeable’ may be a less than apt qualification of what Koenegracht does.
Behind every bizarre and, admittedly, funny image and every laconic yet searing observation lurks mute despair or even anger over life’s absurdity. Or, to quote the motto of his latest collection: ‘Frank Koenegracht’s world is no laughing matter, even if it makes us laugh.’ A pervading theme in his work is man’s imprisonment in an incomprehensible, exasperatingly banal and often dangerous world in which ‘everything falls down’ - and his search for a way out. There is no way out, however, not even a glimpse of what might be ‘outside’: ‘I’ve noticed that this house / has no way out. Looking for at least / windows I wander through the feast.’ The dovetail sutures, the tiny bandaids we use to dress our ‘figurative wounds’, are nowhere to be found. Looking for diversion is the only thing left for us to do.
Hopelessly lost amongst the revellers at the party of life, the poet has no choice but to join them in feigned high spirits: ‘Shall we dance, my love?’ He is a master of the light fantastic, this poet. He had better be. He has no choice.
[Frank Koenegracht took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2001. This text was written on that occasion.]
Essay about Koenegracht