Hans Tentije chose as a motto for his 1987 collection Schemeringen (Twilights) these lines by the poet Pilinszky: “And yet, obstinately/ face to face with the sinking sun,/ all things past stay immortal.” The motto has much to do with Tentije’s favourite theme: the power of recollection. A recollection which cannot be relied on, however: “(. . .) her eyes seem/ to say that nothing is what it used to be/ or never even had been, maybe”.
In his latest but one collection, Verloren speelgoed (Lost toys, 2001) there is a section devoted to what used to be innocent, bliss-imparting toys, now affected by experience and decay. Still, the recollection of happiness remains: “Shaped like a butterfly –/ Is the key that searches, keeps on searching/ for the submerged pin/ the coils of joy (. . .)”.
Tentije often chooses a concrete spot in a poem at which he freezes time. For this freezing of time he uses marvellous images: “(. . .) in the chilly veins/ of marble, blood wearily curdles”, en elsewhere he sees “charred lightning shafts”. In this immobilized picture – painted in compelling, evocative language – he then revives all the life that must have run its course there, getting the clotted blood to flow again and the lighting to flash.
Hans Tentije published his début collection Alles is er (Everything is here) in 1975. For his second collection Wat ze zei (What she said) he received the Van der Hoogt Prize and the Herman Gorter Prize. His eighth collection, Wat het licht doet (What the light does) appeared last year. Tentije has long combined his work as a poet with teaching Dutch language and literature at a secondary school in the province of Noord-Holland.