Nyk de Vries

The Netherlands

Nyk de Vries is writer and musician, born in Noordbergum (1971) , a small village in Friesland.  His youth in that relatively isolated area in the north of the Netherlands is a persistent motif in his literary work. He writes prose poems, both in Frisian and Dutch – very short stories not exceeding more than a hundred words – but also longer prose. De Vries is on his best when on a stage. His performances are vibrant and exhilarating. In recent years he performed at large poetry festivals, such as Poetry International and Poetry on the Road in Bremen, in most cases accompagnied by a musical act.

 

De Vries’ first bilingual (Dutch-Frisian) poetry collection Motorman was published in 2007. His second volume of poetry Per ongeluk reed ik naar het zuiden (Accidentally I drove South) was published in 2010. A year later he published De dingen gebeuren omdat ze rijmen (Things happen because they rhyme) (2011), a book with prose poems.  

In 2010, Nyk de Vries’s second book of poetry Per ongeluk reed ik naar het zuiden  was awarded the biennial Belcampo stipend, the most important prize for emerging literary talents in the northern province of Groningen.

 

His poetry collection ‘Things happen because they rhyme’ was nominated for the J.C. Bloem - Poetry Prize.

 

He adapted his prize winning novel ‘Renger’ (Piter Jelles Literature Prize)  to a radio play he performed live. Gradually his performances also include a visual aspect. In 2018 he co-operated with the painter Tjibbe Hooghiemstrain in the exposition ‘Wâldman’. For this multimedial project about the Frisian Woods his texts were translated into English, German and Japanese.


It’s hardly surprising to state that we need literature to detect or confirm the strangeness of reality. Literature seems best qualified to show the distorted logic, the uncomprehensible events or the unexpected twists reality has in mind for us now and then. Literature gros glands these sorts of situations and good literature does so in a way that has a lasting effect. 

The unexpected twist is the trademark and the strength of the prose poems of Nyk de Vries. In very short texts, none of which are longer than 120 words, he paints absurd situations. Many of his lyrics are funny, but never coarse or uncomplicated fun, because there are too many disturbing details that underline his often understated formulations. In the end, the characters in Nyk de Vries’ prose poems often find themselves in a state of existential inescapability.

 

An example of this can be found in the poem ‘Plaza St. Anna’, which describes how the lyrical I is dropped off at Plaza St. Anna after winning a dance competition with a girl named Lisa. De Vries ends with the following lines:

 

‘Daar regende het confetti en op een bepaald ogenblik lag ik met de bokaal in een fontein en probeerde tien minuten mijn hoofd onder water te houden. Ik weet ook niet meer precies waarom ik dat deed. Het leek op dat moment het juiste om te doen.’

 

‘ [...] where it was raining confetti. At some stage I found myself in the fountain with the winner’s cup, trying to keep my head underwater for ten minutes. I’m not sure why exactly. It just seemed like the right thing to do.’

 

Nyk de Vries makes clear it’s not evident to have an answer to everything, that it is a strange thought wanting this badly. There is a reality, there is a man who inhabits this reality. In-between reality and the man is a question, a life-size question. It is enough to find this question and to allow it to continue to exist as a question. In this sense, Nyk de Vries makes clear to us that nothing is more valuable than a good riddle to reset our brains.

 

In 2010, Nyk de Vries’s book of poetry Per ongeluk reed ik naar het zuiden (Accidentally I drove South) was awarded the biennial Belcampo stipend, the most important prize for emerging literary talents in the northern province of Groningen.

The jury called him a remarkable talent, one with an original and unique capability to turn the mundane into an exceptional story.

‘Nyk de Vries does not shy away from the bizarre and the surreal. Although these terms are clearly applicable to his work, one only notices these qualities after the fact, because everything seems so normal. However “mundane” the style and events in his texts are, Nyk manages to integrate them and furnish them with a progression and ending that catches the reader off guard. The poems are extremely unpredictable, without any clue as to where the story is going, but you cannot help believing them; he simply involves you.

 

In just a few words, Nyk manages to tell a complete story; one that is imaginative, hilarious and peculiar, crystal clear and seemingly quite simple. The work consists of well-considered sentences. The language is not difficult at all. These are texts that testify to a totally unique perspective on the world. In Nyk’s poetry, the speed of time seems a given. Going forwards and backwards. After having established a temporal or local position, the story develops, often in big leaps. Drastic changes take place, not only when it comes to circumstances, but also to deeply-rooted convictions.

 

These poems usually have a rather unexpected ending; the poet concludes on a ‘deep’, mostly pertinent, thought, which apparently has no connection with what preceded it – yet is inevitably related to it nonetheless. De Vries is giving us CHANCE and its eternal CHANGES. He takes big leaps in augmenting and almost directly diminishing its subjects. Everything is developed in an extremely detailed way, with not a word too many. Each word is allowed to assume its full meaning within these precise texts. Above all, everything is extremely witty and funny.

 

This authentic writing style reminds us of Charlotte Mutsaers, and of Fritzi Harmsen van Beek’s grotesque poems and stories. One of us mentioned Russian absurdist Charms. But they only ‘remind of’, as Nyk cannot really be compared to anyone. His prose poems have a unique voice of their own.’

 

Excerpt from the jury report of the 2010 Belcampo stipend.

Translated by Sophie van den Bergh.