After submitting poems to several reviews from 1977 onwards, Gerlach published her first collection entitled Verder geen leed (No Further Distress) in 1979. It immediately impressed with the precise and considered organization both of the individual poems and of the whole; yet there was a strong, dark, emotional current underlying this formal control. Two years after its publication, Verder geen leed was awarded the Lucy B. en C.W. van der Hoogt Prize, an important award aimed to stimulate young writers and poets. In her many subsequent collections, Eva Gerlach developed into a poet of classical stature. The narrative tone of her early poems, born perhaps from the spirit of the age, gradually gave way to an astute, incisive plasticism, by which she seems to be trying to get a hold on life’s events.
Gerlach’s poems, in their often dark way, are concerned with the themes that have concerned poets in all ages: transience, loss, the human condition. Avoiding any tendency towards dramatic display or literary effect, she writes about the mysterious, invisible forces that govern our lives, about the thought “that in presence lives a truth/ greater than just that/ of the address.”
Eva Gerlach’s poetry has freed itself more and more from the prevailing trends in post-war Dutch poetry. Irony, therapeutic impact and linguistic autonomy, the three mainstays of the poetry of her generation, never play a significant part in her work. She is first and foremost a modest, unsentimental, yet penetrating portrayer of human emotions and motives. Over recent years it has been suggested that a stronger experimental tendency has seemed to surface in Gerlach’s poems and the more surrealistic elements are amplified. This might also be regarded a further fine-tuning of a strong and distinct poet’s tone of voice, which either whispering, stammering or speaking quite clearly always reminds us: “Whatever’s whole we fail to see” and “all that is split up sticks in us for good”.
In 2000, Gerlach received Holland’s chief literary award, the P.C. Hooft Prize, for her entire poetic oeuvre. Since then she has added several collections to her corpus, including her second book of poems for children Oog in oog in oog in oog (Eye to Eye to Eye to Eye, 2001) and her most recent title Situaties (Situations, 2006).
Poetry (a selection)
Verder geen leed, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1979.
Een kopstaand beeld, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1983.
Dochter, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1984.
Domicilie, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1987.
De kracht van verlamming, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1988.
In een bocht van de zee, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1990.
Wat zoekraakt, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1994.
Alles is werkelijk hier (with photographs by Vojta Dukát), De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1997.
Hee meneer Eland (children’s poetry), Querido, Amsterdam, 1998.
Niets bestendiger, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1998.
Voorlopig verblijf, gedichten 1979-1990 (a selection from Gerlach’s first six collections), De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 1999.
Solstitium (with illustrations by Marianne Aartsen), Herik, Landgraaf 2000.
De invulbare ruimte, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 2000.
Oog in oog in oog in oog (children’s poetry), Querido, Amsterdam 2001.
Daar ligt het, De Arbeiderspers/Poetry International, Amsterdam/Rotterdam 2003.
Jaagpad (with illustrations by Marianne Aartsen), Glance-aside, Maastricht 2003.
Een bed van mensenvlees, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 2003.
Situaties, De Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam 2006.
Published translations (a selection)
O kretanju (Servo Croatian) translated by Reina Dokter and Nada Pinteric. In: Quorum, 1995.
In: El poeta es una vaca (Spanish, anthology), translated by Francisco Carrasquer. Palma: Universitat de les Illes Balears, 1995.
Alguns poemas (Portugese) translated by Pedro Tamen. Lisboa: Quetzal Editores, 1996.
In: In a different light. Fourteen contemporary Dutch-language poets (English, anthology), translated by P.C. Evans. Bridgend: Seren, 2002.
In: Le verre est un liquide lent: 33 poètes néerlandais (French, anthology), translated by Kiki Coumans. Tours: Farrago, 2003.
In: Modern Dutch Poetry (Chinese, anthology), translated byMa Gaoming and Maghiel van Crevel. Guangxi: Guangxi Normal University Press, 2005.
In: Dias Abertos (Portugese, anthology), translated by Fernando Venâncio. Lisboa: Culturgest i.c.w. Roma Publications and Assírio & Alvim, 2006.
Gerlach’s poems have also been translated into Bulgarian, Farsi, Finish, Frisian, German, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish and Swedish.
Info on Gerlach, and her collection Oog in oog in oog in oog (Eye to Eye to Eye to Eye, 2001), at the NLPVF website
Gerlach in Portuguese
‘Duplo’: one poem in Portugese translation
Gerlach at the Dutch Royal Library, The Hague
Gerlach at VPRO, including audio
Literary essayist Yves T’Sjoen on Gerlach’s poem ‘Solve et Coagula’
Gerlach’s publisher: De Arbeiderspers
Gerlach on iPoetry.nl