March 2015: Poetry evening with Maud Vanhauwaert
Innovative Flemish Poet Maud Vanhauwaert Visits UCL
One of the biggest challenges faced by scholars of Dutch and Flemish language and literature in the UK is raising the profile of the discipline in order to engage new audiences with the exciting and often under-traversed works of the Low Countries. Every year students studying Dutch at UCL, the University of Sheffield, and the University of Nottingham take part in a writer-in-residence project. This involves a Dutch or Flemish writer visiting each university and working with a number of students who have translated sections of their writing. The author also provides workshops and performances of their work for students of all language abilities. In the past, authors such as Gerbrand Bakker, Abdelkader Benali and Joost Zwagerman have held this position.
This year, the baton was passed to emerging Flemish performance poet Maud Vanhauwaert. Born in West Flanders in 1984, this young and innovative poet has achieved much in her short career. Her debut collection ‘Ik ben mogelijk’ (‘I am Possible’) was published in 2011 and won the Vrouw Debuut Prijs. She was a finalist of the Poetry Slam World Championships in 2012 and of the Leids Cabaret Festival in 2014. Most recently, she won the Herman de Coninck Publieksprijs for her new work 'Wij zijn evenwijdig' (‘We Are Parallel’). She describes her poetry as consciously balancing on the border between the page and the podium.
This week, Maud arrived to spend some time at UCL. She was accompanied by journalist Stijn Tormans from the well-known Belgian magazine De Knack. Stijn will use this unique experience to report on the reception of Flemish literature outside of Belgium. Throughout the week, Maud has attended several classes with students of varying language abilities. One particular class, a module on advanced translation, gave students the invaluable opportunity to discuss their translations of Maud’s work with her in person. This was an extremely rewarding experience for everyone involved, especially as Maud is very open to her work being translated and excited about the new interpretations that can arise from translation. Students from all of the universities involved will be comparing their work in a live videoconference with Maud in the coming weeks.
Low Countries Centre poetry evening
With many thanks to Flanders House for generous support
The highlight of Maud’s visit to UCL was a performance of her work on Wednesday in the Arts & Humanities Common Room, Foster Court. On an intimate stage and to an intimate audience Maud delivered an innovative and unique performance. It was a dynamic combination of work read from the page and recited from memory, and involved much storytelling and spontaneous ad-libbing. She actively involved the audience in the performance, which at times felt very intense and at other times had the whole room laughing. Her uninhibited style meant that she seemed completely at ease on stage and with her work, which was autobiographical and often intensely personal.
Her performance culminated in a ‘polyphony’ in which four of her poems were read simultaneously. For this, she recruited the help of three audience members, two of whom were advanced students of Dutch at UCL. The emotive and performative nature of her work meant that its essence was not lost on those whose Dutch language abilities were not advanced or those who do not normally read poetry. Maud will be travelling to Sheffield via Nottingham for the biennial ALCS Student Days Conference at the end of March, where we will once more be able to engage with her inventive and original work.
By MA students Aimée Hardy and Ruth Clemens
The writer-in-residence programme was made possible this year thanks to the University of Sheffield, the Nederlandse Taalunie, the Association for Low Countries Studies, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Vlaams Letterenfonds and Flanders House.
The Low Countries Centre poetry evening was funded by Flanders House.