Hanny Michaelis was born in 1922 in Amsterdam, and her small but distinctive oeuvre has been awarded numerous literary prizes. Michaelis established a reputation as a poet of contained lyricism, and her work is characteristically tempered by an almost wry awareness of limitation. While her poems are often marked by an epigrammatic conciseness and an element of detached and analytical reflection, Michaelis nevertheless embraces the individual, felt experience, in which the overriding logic is that of the imagination.
Since the publication of her memoirs, there has been renewed interest in her life. As the daughter of Jewish parents who died in Sobibor, Michaelis was confronted with loss and devastation at an early age, and these themes are inherent in much of her poetry. Her difficult marriage to the well-known Dutch novelist Gerard Reve, and the tragic death of her second partner, undoubtedly account for the mournful note of much of her love poetry.
In fact in some of her poems there is even a defeatist, tired quality, a sense that life, inevitably and repetitively, brings loss and disillusionment. Michaelis’ range is not vast, moreover, and her vision not infused with immense variety and invention. And yet, arguably, in her best work, there is a toughness, an ability to re-inhabit an experience without sentimentality, that can lend her short, focused poems a curious strength.
Water uit de rots, Van Oorschot, Amsterdam, 1957
Tegen de wind in, Van Oorschot, 1962
Onvoorzien, Van Oorschot, 1966
De rots van Gibraltar, Van Oorschot, 1969
Wegdraven naar een nieuw Utopia, Van Oorschot, 1971
Een keuze uit haar gedichten door J.J. Voskuil, Van Oorschot, 2005
Nagelaten gedichten, Van Oorschot, 2007
Zonder een spoor van vrede (with photos by Michèle Baudet), Van Oorschot 2008
Verzamelde Gedichen, Uitgeverij G.A. van Oorschot, Amsterdam, 1996 & 2000.
In an Unguarded Moment, trs Judith Wilkinson, LanguageandCulture.net, 2005