Tom Van de Voorde

Belgium

Tom Van de Voorde (1974) is a poet, essayist and translator of American poetry into Dutch. In 2008, he published his first book of poetry, a collection of "contemporary landscape" pieces. The book, titled Vliesgevels filter, was nominated for the C. Buddingh Prize for best poetry debut. In 2013 he published Liefde en aarde (Love and earth), his second collection of poems, isolating microscopic stills of political and economic issues. The collection was nominated for the Herman De Coninck prize for the best poetry collection. His work is now translated in seven languages, and he has been invited to take part in various poetry festivals in Europe.

In the past years he has been translating the poetry of Wallace Stevens and Michael Palmer. Until 2010 he was the Belgian editor of Lyrikline.org and Poetry International Web. He works as a literature programmer at the Centre of Fine Arts Bozar in Brussels, where he has developed literary projects on modern and contemporary art.


Tom Van de Voorde (1974) was on the staff of the Vlaams Fonds voor de Letteren (Flemish Literature Fund) and now works as a literature programmer for the Bozar arts centre in Brussels. He was editor of the literary magazine Yang and poetry reviewer for the daily newspaper De Financieel Economische Tijd (The Financial Economic Times). He made his debut in 2008 with the collection Vliesgevels filter, for which he was immediately nominated for the C. Buddingh' Prize for best poetry debut. In 2013, he published the collection Liefde en aarde. This collection earned him the nomination for the Herman de Coninck Prize 2014 for the best poetry collection. Poems by Van de Voorde were published in various literary magazines such as Poëziekrant, DWB, Yang, nY, Parmentier, Het Liegend Konijn… Van de Voorde also published articles on and translations of the American poets Wallace Stevens and Michael Palmer in the literary magazines Parmentier, Tirade and Poëziekrant. In 2009, his translation of the Aygi Cycle by Michael Palmer was published by the bibliophile publishing house DRUKsel.

 

As a young literary critic, Van de Voorde was associated as an editor with the post-modernist literary magazine Yang. Inter alia, he wrote articles on poetry for the daily newspaper De Financieel Economische Tijd (The Financial Economic Times). Early on in his critiques and reviews, his interest in American literature, and more specifically its language-oriented variants, was already evident. He persisted with this fascination later through his translations of the work of the American poets Michael Palmer and Wallace Stevens. Inter alia, he published translations of these poets in the literary journals Parmentier, Tirade and Poeziekrant. He translated the complete “Aygi Cycle” by Michael Palmer, which was published in 2009 by the bibliophile publishing house DRUKsel.

 

The fascination with linguistic poetry is also recognisable in his own work. He made his debut in 2008 with the collection Vliesgevels filter. This debut was nominated for the C. Buddingh’ Prize 2009. Authoritative critics spoke of “the striking debut of this spring” (Paul Demets in De Morgen) and "clearly a talent" (Erik Lindner in De Groene Amsterdammer). Vliesgevels filter contains a series of poems about nature. However, anyone expecting anecdotes about rustling trees and softly buzzing dragonflies, will be disappointed. Vliesgevels filter consists of a number of short untitled poems without punctuation or capitalisation. Each poem is presented as an autonomous ‘text block’. Nevertheless, the many cross-connections among the poems suggest a close, albeit fragmented picture. Punctuation and capitalization, however, are not the only thing missing. Dirk De Geest points out in the literary magazine Ons Erfdeel the total absence of the lyrical ‘ik’ (‘I’) in Van de Voorde’s poems. This objectification of the text is a way of the poet’s to transcend the subjective anecdotage normally associated with nature poems, and to draw attention to the underlying structures that operate in nature. By switching off the ‘I’, after all, he is switching off the source of subjective observation (of nature) and focuses on the underlying system. In this way, an analogy is established between his 'objective' poems and the ‘objective’ reality.

 

In 2013, Van de Voorde’s second collection, Liefde en aarde appeared. The collection was nominated for the Herman de Coninck Prize in 2014, which makes an award for the best poetry collection of the past year. The critic Piet Gerbrandy described the collection in De Groene Amsterdammer as “a sublime experience, in which fright, excitement, euphoria and fathomless melancholy are engaged on the battlefield.” If nature plays the main role in the debut collection, in this second volume society makes its appearance as a stronger factor. Although actual events (the murder of an Iranian student, the banking crisis, environmental pollution...) are sometimes the occasion for a poem, this volume too stays far away from any cheap anecdotage. The poems seem to illustrate the wrestling of man with his environment, of nature with culture. Despite the occasion for some of the poems in actual events, they still escape a unilateral interpretation. Van de Voorde often goes to work in an associative way in his poems, so that one image is indeed caused by the other, but where the association is open to multiple interpretations. Jeroen Dera confirms this suspicion in Ons Erfdeel: “poetry cannot be forced in terms of definition or lack of definition. ‘Love’ and ‘earth’ are big words and at the same time are not susceptible to being caged in - and thus they escape the categorising reader.”

 

Van de Voorde’s work presents itself as an unusual, sometimes disquieting, exploration of nature and society. Gerbrandy characterises the poet “not so much as a floating seeker, but rather a sensitive critic, who does not hesitate to strike out against the absurdities and atrocities of political systems and environmental degradation.”