Andy Fierens

Belgium

Andy Fierens is a poet who is entirely aware of the traditions his writing inhabits without getting stuck in them. Those who still think that poetry always sings about sublime subjects in a sacred, respectful tone will have to fundamentally rethink their opinions after reading his poems. His poems are repositories of language material (brand names, puns and word play, quotations, fragments of texts heard on the streets, mangled texts, jokes...) which is woven boisterously as well as humorously into highly readable texts that also work well on stage. In Fierens’ universe we meet an anti-hero who seduces women with a fake erection. Loudness shouts down moments of silence. But black humour and disrespect oscillate into a sensitive longing, a lack or a fear of abandonment. In a seemingly naive way Fierens mixes vulgar and revolting impropriety with light, tender beauty. Attraction and repulsion are playing with each other. This poetry is hard, but not heartless.


Andy Fierens (1976) is a poet who performs unusually frequently. He is a key figure in Flemish performance culture but also regularly performs abroad. From Germany to Japan, from Scotland to Canada and from Moldova to South Africa; he recites his poems everywhere hammering at the rhythm of a machine gun.

 

Andy Fierens regularly works together with singers and musicians. For example, he was lead performer in the music and poetry band Andy & the Androids and together with composer Michaël Brijs he founded the Bronstige Bazooka’s (Horny Bazookas) choir; a choir that performs new oratorios for which he writes the librettos and in which he acts as narrator. With regard to their oratorios, Fierens and Brijs say that they want to sanctify the adolescent and that they are a cross between Wagner and Suske & Wiske (Luke and Lucy), between highbrow and lowbrow culture.

 

Fierens has published two collections. He made his debut in 2009 with Grote Smerige Vlinder (Big Filthy Butterfly). With that collection, he won the Herman de Coninck prize for best debut (2010). The jury described his poems as ‘hard but not heartless’. Gerrit Komrij called Fierens one of the wonderchildren of Flemish poetry. In 2014, his second collection, Wonderbra’s & pepperspray (Wonderbras and pepper spray) followed. That collection ‘breathes performance’, according to Dirk De Geest (De Geest, undated). That performance can already be found on the cover and in the title which refer directly to the image of the poet. However, Wonderbra’s & pepperspray not only shows characteristics of performance culture, but compared to the debut collection, many more structuring elements have been incorporated into the collection. In that second collection, Fierens also combines different registers and allows various “Andy’s” to engage in dialogue with each other, which creates a humorous effect. De Geest also states that ‘Fierens possesses an excellent sense of language and a particularly grotesque imagination’ (De Geest, undated). 

 

Apart from poetry collections, Fierens, in collaboration with Michaël Brijs, also wrote the satirical science fiction epic Astronaut van Oranje (Astronaut of Orange), a novel that denounces nationalism and about which critic Mark Cloostermans wrote: “Astronaut van Oranje is a mature gust of wind through Flemish literature and, in passing, tugs at the many shutters and blinkers of the Flemish cultural bourgeoisie. Hi-fucking-larious.” He also wrote a children’s book with drawings by Bert Lezy: Etiquette, Wat Zijn Dat Voor Manieren? (Etiquette, What Kind of Manners is That?)

 

In addition, Fierens is active as an organiser of cultural events. Thus in 2001, he organised the first Flemish Poetry Slam. He was also one of the initiators of Boest (2009), a project in which nine poets made an anthology and an LP album with which they toured cultural centres for nine weeks. The leftover copies of the anthology would be destroyed on stage during the last performance. That did not ultimately happen because the book was already sold out.

 

In collaboration with the production house Vonk & Zonen, he devised various literary exhibitions and projects, such as the recurring beard festival Barbaard, the subdued poetry exhibition Hellemonden which was a complaint against the senselessness of war and violence, and Tournee Literair, a literary guided tour in collaboration with Maarten Inghels, in which the public was taken on a city walk past Antwerp cafés where writers loitered. Under the alter ego of Boer Dandy (Farmer Dandy), for several years he has been creating poetic performances for primary school children.

 

Andy Fierens also participated in numerous other initiatives, including De Eenzame Uitvaart (The Lonely Funeral, Antwerp), a project in which poets read poetry at funerals of people who die lonely. He also participated in IJzer 2018 (Yser 2018). Together with other poets and their audience, Fierens cycled along the Yser front (front line in World War I) for a week. Every evening, a poetry performance followed in one of the central memorial sites of the First World War.

In 2013, Fierens was the in-house poet of the VRT (Flemish Radio and Television) and he released a new poem every week in the Iedereen Beroemd (Everyone Famous) programme.

 

On 8 December 2008, during his performance at the Arenbergschouwburg in Antwerp, Andy Fierens suffered a brain haemorrhage. He recovered completely and returned exactly ten years later, on 8 December 2018, to the same stage to complete his performance. Under the title Sterven op de Planken (Dying onstage), he invited a number of colleague friends to pay tribute that evening to artistic brothers and sisters who were less fortunate and died during their act.

 

Andy Fierens is featured in the books of colleagues such as JMH Berckmans, Wannes Van de Velde and Herman Brusselmans.

 

Andy Fierens cites the interaction between attraction and repulsion as a common thread in his collections.

 His performances are a cocktail of self-mockery, absurd words of wisdom and a hefty dash of punk power.

Andy Fierens’ work is sometimes described as social surrealism.

 

 

 

SOURCES:

 

De Geest, D. (undated). Andy Fierens: Wonderbra’s & pepperspray. Consulted on 29 October 2019, from http://mappalibri.be/?navigatieid=61&recensieid=4782 Komrij, G.. (2013). Tussen Hemel en aarde, Vignetten, voetnoten en verzuchtingen over poëzie. Amsterdam: Van Gennep.

De Geest, D. (z.d.). Andy Fierens: Wonderbra’s & pepperspray. Geraadpleegd op 29 oktober 2019, van http://mappalibri.be/?navigatieid=61&recensieid=4782

https://markcloostermans.blogspot.com/2014/02/?view=classic

https://www.knack.be/nieuws/gezondheid/tien-jaar-geleden-stierf-andy-fierens-bijna-op-de-planken-ik-hoop-dat-ze-zullen-lachen-als-ik-doodga/article-longread-1392435.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeRzYcCGcPk

https://theateraanzee.be/tazette/ons-oratorium-is-de-kruising-van-wagner-met-suske-wiske

https://www.boekenvak.be/sites/default/files/100126%20Juryverslag%20Herman%20de%20Coninckprijs2010.pdf