Maria Barnas

Netherlands

Maria Barnas (1973) is a poet and visual artist. Both in her written work (including novels, poetry and essays) and in her visual work she works with the idea how description (de)forms reality. The poetry of Maria Barnas forms an introspective collection of observations and experiences, with a wide range of descriptions - from 'what one generally fears', to precise children, rejected psychiatrists and our limited understanding of the universe - showing contemporary life and society in a stark yet unusual light.
The use of language is controlled. The individual poems cover a wide range of form registers but together create thematic and stylistic unity. The imagery is powerful and evocative, and has a unique, lucid quality.
Barnas was awarded the C. Buddingh’ Prize for her first collection of poetry Twee Zonnen (2003) and has since published highly appraised collections. Her latest collection of poems Jaja de oerknal ('Yeah-Right the Big Bang'), came out in 2013. This book, focusing on mechanisms of fear, was nominated for the VSB Poetry Prize 2014, the Anna Bijns Prijs, as well as the Belgian KANTL prize. 


Maria Barnas is a Dutch poet and artist. She has also published two novels. Her debut collection Twee zonnen (2003) was nominated for the Jo Peters Poetry Prize and was awarded the C. Buddingh’ Prize for the best poetry debut. For her second collection Er staat een stad op (2009), she received the J.C. Bloem Prize. Her third collection Jaja, de oerknal (2013) was nominated for the VSB Poetry Prize 2014 and for the Anna Bijns Prize 2014.

 

Poems by Barnas have been published in various literary magazines such as Maatstaf, Tirade, Het Liegend Konijn and Poëziekrant. She also writes about art and literature for the weeklies De Groene Amsterdammer and Vrij Nederland and for the literary magazine De Gids. Her columns written for the newspaper NRC Handelsblad were collected in the book Fantastisch (2010).

 

She studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, a renowned college of art, and at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, where she later also taught a course in ‘Writing’. This dual perspective, writing and work in the visual arts is also emphatically present in her work. The critic Erik Lindner described her as “one of the few true dual talents. That is to say, that she is able to view literature from the perspective of the visual arts and vice versa. Anyone who reads her literature will not escape the impression that she is an artist, because of her vision, her meticulousness and her buoyancy.”

 

Barnas’ debut collection Twee zonnen (2003) was nominated for the Jo Peters Poetry Prize and was awarded the C. Buddingh’ Prize for the best poetry debut. The jury described her poems as “pensive musical poetry, desperate and witty, strong and fragile, with a transparency that, on rereading, becomes more complex.”

 

Whilst in Barnas’ debut collection the poems often remain fairly ‘close’ to the author with anecdotes from everyday life and reflections about relationship problems, in her second collection, Er staat een stad op (2009), the poet spreads her wings. Several poems in the collection arose in response to radio or newspaper reports about world current events (bombings in London, asylum seekers, Hiroshima...). Barnas, however, does not limit herself to cool observations. She takes as a starting point reality as it presents itself to us, and from there, as the critic Piet Gerbrandy remarked, she allows herself to be driven as little as possible by clearly defined concepts. Reality is, as it were, a character in itself which is constantly evolving and the poet is constantly chasing after it. Barnas herself says of it: "I can go a long way, but reality and my thought world are always too quick off the mark for me. There is always more than what I want to describe and it's already changed while I write about it.” With Er staat een stad op, Barnas won the J.C. Bloem Prize for the best second collection.

 

As an artist, Barnas is well aware of the perspective that man ‘applies’ to reality. Neutral reality is inevitably coloured in by a subjective consciousness and as such, that reality can never be wholly represented in a work of art or a poem. The consciousness of the text as a ‘metaphor’ for reality is central to Barnas’ third collection, Jaja de oerknal (2013), for which she was nominated for the VSB Poetry Prize 2014 and the Anna Bijns Prize 2014. The poems in this collection go back to the creation of everything: of reality, but also of language. In her poems she tries to put into words the field of tension between the two, and the uncertainty that accompanies it.

 

Barnas also explores the theme of the changeability of reality and the relativity of the human perspective in Binnenzee, a project that Barnas carried out for Stichting Kunst & Openbare Ruimte (Foundation for Art and Public Domain). Barnas went on a 21 km walk and wrote a report about it in the form of poetry. The walk started at a psychiatric institution and ran till it reached the sea. In this way, Barnas wanted to give the patients who are not allowed to go out, an imaginary access to the outdoors.

 

Poems by Barnas have been published in various literary magazines such as Maatstaf, Tirade, Het Liegend Konijn and Poëziekrant. She also writes about art and literature for the weeklies De Groene Amsterdammer and Vrij Nederland and for the literary magazine De Gids. Her columns written for the newspaper NRC Handelsblad were collected in the book Fantastisch (2010).