Maria van Daalen made her début as a poet in 1989 with Raveslag (The Beat of the Raven’s Wing), which was shortlisted for the prestigious C. Buddingh’ Prize in 1990. Six more volumes of poetry and a collection of short stories and essays followed. Besides being a poet, Van Daalen is one of the very few experts on Vodou in the Netherlands and she is currently working on a ‘grand essay’ about Haitian Vodou, Le Miroir des Mystères / Spiegel van Mysteriën (Mirror of Mysteries), to be published in 2009. In August 2007, Van Daalen was the first Dutch person to be officially initiated as a Mambo Asogwe (the highest rank of priestess in the tradition of Haitian Vodou) in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Since then, she has been an adviser to the Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, for an exhibition of Vodou art objects, entitled Vodou / Art & Mysticism from Haiti (November 2008–May 2009).
In her most recent collection, De wet van behoud van energie (The Law of Conservation of Energy, 2007) Vodou indeed plays a recognisable role. But in a more general way, spiritualism and metaphysics have always been part of Van Daalen’s writing, though this is not to imply that she ever really loses touch with tangible reality. The magical and the palpable are simply part of the same reality, or, as she puts it herself in a recent interview with an Indonesian newspaper, “as a poet I am always living on what is real to me, which includes the magical”.
Other subjects in Van Daalen’s poetic universe include physical and spiritual love, the struggles between different bodies and between body and mind, the mechanics of memory, the power of language and the act of writing (and reading) poetry. Many of her poems seem to be fuelled by either strong desire or a sense of violence, sometimes both at the same time. Formally, Van Daalen preferred free or blank verse in her first collections, but since her fifth collection, Elektron, muon, tau (Electron, Muon, Tau, 2000), she also frequently writes sonnets.
From the Nineties onwards, more or less since she published her third collection, Het Hotel (The Hotel, 1994), Van Daalen has taken part in various international writing programmes, foreign writer-in-residence projects and poetry festivals. For both long and short periods of time, she has lived in the USA, in Canada and in Greece, and she has read her poems on stages from Sarajevo to Cape Town; Kuala Lumpur to New York. Currently she lives in Almere, a town near Amsterdam, and teaches at the Schrijversvakschool, the academy for creative writing in Amsterdam.
De wet van behoud van energie (The Law of Conservation of Energy), Querido, Amsterdam, 2007
De zwarte engel (The Black Angel; prose), kleine Uil, Groningen, 2005
Yo! de liefde (Wow! It’s Love), Querido, Amsterdam, 2003
Elektron, muon, tau (Electron, Muon, Tau), Querido, Amsterdam, 2000
Het geschenk/De maker (The Gift/The Maker), Querido, Amsterdam, 1996
Het Hotel (The Hotel), Querido, Amsterdam, 1994
Onder het hart (Underneath the Heart), Querido, Amsterdam, 1992
Raveslag (The Beat of the Raven’s Wing), Querido, Amsterdam, 1989
Translations of Van Daalen’s poems have appeared in publications including:
Contemporary Dutch Poets. A Poetry Review Supplement, vol. 97:3 (English, anthology), translated by Renée Delhez, Autumn 2007
Poeti olandezi contemporani = Hedendaagse Nederlandse dichters (Romanian, anthology), translated by Jeannette Carp, Musatinii, 2006
Onni on vaarallista (Finnish), translated by Heimo Pihlajamaa, Nihil Interit, 2002
Die Aussenseite des Elementes no. 22 (German, review/anthology), translated by Ilja Braun et al., 2001
The low countries 4 (English), translated by Tanis Guest, Ons Erfdeel, Rekkem, 1996
100 words vol.3, no.1 and no.3, (English, review), translated by Wanda Boeke and the author, 1995–96
Tratti vol.11, no.39 (Italian, review), translated by Elio Pecora, 1995
Si scrive: revista semestrale di letteratura no. 1 (Italian, review), translated by Stefano dal Bianco, 1994
Vijenac vol.29, no.20 and no.24 (Serbo-Croatian, review), translated by Reina Dokter and Nada Pinteric, 1994
Poetry on the road (English), translated by Greta Kilburn, Poetry International, Rotterdam, 1993
Testo a fronte: revista semestrale di teoria e pratica della traduzione letteraria no.8 (Italian, review), translated by Stefano dal Bianco, 1993
Van Daalen’s poems have also been translated into French, Bosnian, Bahasa Indonesia, Farsi and Frisian.
Maria van Daalen
Van Daalen’s website
Van Daalen’s publisher
Van Daalen at VPRO, including audio
Het Periodiek Systeem
Van Daalen’s poetry in an interactive project with media artist YuriGoul
Casa della Poesia
Van Daalen at Casa della Poesia
The Jakarta Post
An interview with Van Daalen