Biography J.A. Deelder

Deelder the man Prices

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Justus Anton Deelder (Rotterdam, 24th November 1944) started writing when he was 11 years old – his first poem: 'Hoort, men werpt een atoombom.' (Hark, an atom bomb is being thrown)

In 1962, having just completed his HBS (secondary school), he made his debut with the poem 'Straat' (Street). After his graduation he studied for his Dutch teacher trainer certificate for a while and travelled for the first time, to Spain, Italy and Britain, amongst others. To be able to afford these and make a living he had all sorts of jobs, such as assistant stock-trade reporter for a bank, porter with a courier company (Van Gend & Loos) and at various vegetable markets, dock worker, classifier and more besides, yet even then he was a poet at heart. In 1963 he initiated the Nieuw Vormgevend Gezelschap (New Creative Company) and organised a variety of jazz & poetry happenings, with performances of poetry being read, a spastic ballet piece and a composition for whisk, grate and a book opening and snapping shut. For a brief spell he was also the lead singer in the guitarless beat group The Addicts. They only had two songs on their repertoire: Hallelujah, I'm a Bum, a British song from the depression, and a song from the first Stones album: 'Can I Get a Witness'.

He had his breakthrough with 'Poetry in Carré', the first large-scale poetry festival in The Netherlands, organized by Simon Vinkenoog on 28th February 1966, where two thousand people watched readings by Deelder, Johnny van Doorn, Louis Th. Lehmann, Gust Gils, Adriaan Roland Holst, Gerard Reve, Remco Campert, C. Buddingh', Gerrit Kouwenaar, Jan Hanlo, Jan G. Elburg, Adriaan Morriën, Koos Schuur, Vinkenoog himself, K. Schippers, C. Nooteboom, Ed. Hoornik, Hans Verhagen, Bert Voeten, J. Bernlef, Dick Hillenius, Hugues C. Pernath, Ewald Vanvugt and Jaap Harten. In the anthology Poëzie in Carré (Poetry in Carré), which appeared shortly after the festival with De Bezige Bij publishers, Deelder's poems were published in book form for the first time: fragments from poems 'Cloud 9'and 'De Notulen van de 364-ste vergadering van de Bureau in Search of the Living' (Minutes of the 364th meeting of the Bureau in Search of the Living).

In 1968, together with his then girlfriend Roselie Peters (with whom he met Jimi Hendrix in 1967) and school friends Peter Snoey and Rob Peters, he formed the Schlager Company of the Hyacinth. The group managed to get a record contract with Bovema and on 28th November presented their first single 'We Were as Happy as My Uncle Ray'.

In 1969 the Peters leave the Schlager Company of the Hyacinth. The remaining duo reinvents itself as Popera and records two more singles: Something and Look over Here. After a fight with Radio Veronica, which refuses to play Something, singer/songwriter Deelder and composer Snoey call it a day. Rob Peters and Deelder then jointly write comic strips for youth magazine Robbedoes. Adopting the pseudonyms Youssouph Ben Houpla (Rob Peters) and Julian the Joint (J.A. Deelder) the duo also publish the booklet ABC For The Enjoyment of Marihuana. With a poetry volume entitled Gloria Satoria published by De Bezige Bij, he makes his debut under his own name. It is well-received and is reprinted several times over. The seventies see the publication of further poetry books: Dag En Nacht Geopend (Open Night and Day; 1970), Boe! (1972) en De Zwarte Jager (The Black Hunter; 1973) and he performs his work at the Poetry International festivals in Rotterdam of 1971 and 1972. In 1976 he makes his prose debut with a book simply entitled Prose.

© AMC Fok
As his performances on stage are based on both speed and volume of pop music, his work is on par with popular British punk poet John Cooper Clarke and reggae poets Benjamin Zephaniah and Linton Kwesie Johnson. Following Deelder artists like Bart Chabot, Ton Lebbink, Deelder’s school friend Casper van den Berg and in Flanders Tom Lanoye, all took to the stage with their work. 

In 1977 Deelder debuts on television in Stadslicht (City Light), a documentary about Rotterdam made by Bob Visser for the VPRO broadcasting company, in which Deelder recites the eponymous poem. The following season he went on to present punk show Neon, also for the VPRO. Not everyone is delighted with Deelder's razor-sharp delivery and after only 8 shows this youth programme is abandoned. Through all his travels past the country’s youth centres, literary bars, community centres, manifestations, poetry nights and festivals, Deelder always managed to stay controversial. He is regularly catapulted with bottles of beer, spat at and called a fascist by punks. Deelder was never easily put off, which alongside fierce opposition also results in a strong fan base. In 1979 he would again perform at Poetry International in Rotterdam.

In 1982 Jules Deelder and Rien Vroegindeweij wrote the script for Bob Visser’s first feature-length film Het Veld Van Eer (Field of Honour). Deelder also had a small role in this movie. In the early eighties this is followed by more prose and poetry, among which is The Dutch Windmill (1980), a biography of boxer Bep van Klaveren, and a number of books of short stories and poems. 
© AMC Fok

The poems in Junkers 88 (1983) and Portret Van Olivia De Havilland (Portrait of O.d.H.; 1985) especially exemplify his style, based on Dada and Beatnik forebears.

In 1985 Deelder instituted Deelder Ltd. (BVD; which was also the abbreviation of the then secret service). Privately things were looking up as well. On 6th March 1985, with his 'eternal' fiancée A.M.C. Fok, he has a daughter, who they call Ari. Later that year the brand-new father took the leap from youth and community centres to the big stage with a full evening show entitled Deelder Speaks. In between the set pieces Deelder freely improvised and this made him comparable to American entertainers like Lenny Bruce. The five-man jazz combo Trio Me Reet (Trio My Ass) did the musical backing for this and following shows. The band has been around for years and is the pet project of Jules Deelder (drums), Chris Koenen (guitar), Aad van Pijlen (bass guitar) and the tenor saxophonists Boris van der Lek and Ger 'Sax' van Voorden. They recorded a few albums together, as well. The theatre show was a hit and in 1986 the Deelder Speaks tour was prolonged for two months. This wins him the Silver CJP prize. Riding the wave of his success, label EMI issues the show in its entirety on vinyl and Pieter Van Oudheusden and Herbert Verhey publish an interim biography, De Mensch Deelder (Deelder the Man; Veen, 1986). In 1988 he followed suit with a new show, JA Deelder, which was also broadcast by VPRO on television. Deelder was by now unstoppable, for alongside his television and theatre work he also continued writing. In 1986 this resulted in the novel Gemengde Gevoelens (Mixed Feelings) and in the succeeding years many volumes of poetry and prose followed. In 1988 he was awarded the Rotterdam Anna Blaman prize for his entire literary oeuvre.

Deelder, having tasted success, now made a new show, entitled Kiezen of Deelder (Choose Deelder), which ran up until 1990. This show was recorded as well, and published by BMG this time. Following shows were Deelder Draait Door (Deelder Keeps on Turning; 1990-1992) and Deelder Denkt (Deelder Thinks; 1992-1994). In 1992 the album Deelder Drumt Jazz appeared, containing music, stories and poetry.

His sixth theatre show, Deelder Leeft (Deelder Lives), was also a great success. The show opened in 1994 and took Deelder past sold-out theatres in the entire country till 1996. All the while he kept writing, and most notably published: De T Van Vondel (Vondel's T; 1990), Jazz (1992), Canadian Caper (1994) and the children's book De Bevrijding van Koos Spook (The Liberation of Dick Spirit; 1995). In 1994 his publisher De Bezige Bij gathers together all his poetry published till then in Renaissance: Gedichten '44-'94.

On 5th November 1995 singer and artist Herman Brood turned fifty. Deelder, who put words to many of Brood's paintings, writes the song 'Oh Kut' (Oh Cunt), a litany on the subject of female genitalia. On the cd 50 The Soundtrack Deelder and Brood perform this as a duet. That year commercial TV-station Veronica even gave him his own talk show on television.

In 1997 Deelder toured with his latest show Deelder Zingt? (Deelder Sings?), in which he tells a couple of stories, such as 'Beest zonder staart' (Animal without a tail) and 'Proefkoning' (Lab king) about an alcohol test on the racing circuit of Lelystad in which he once took part for television. Also, he cracked jokes and read poems. Trio Me Reet, the jazz combo, took care of the musical part of show. In 1999 he was to tour together with Bart Chabot and Herman Brood. He also wrote a play that year: Angel Eyes, about a jazz musician. In October he won the Johnny van Doorn prize 1999 for his spoken word work, awarded by the city council of Arnhem.

In the year 2000 Deelder was a special guest at Poetry International, where he was translated into many languages, and in the season of 2000/2001 he toured the country, together with fellow artist Bart Chabot, with the programme 'Voorwaarts Nuts' (Onward Nuts).



Deelder is an 'auctor', a poet who needs to be heard and seen. He fires off his texts at the audience in staccato fashion, with emphatic stresses here and there. (Gas!!! – Which had nothing to do with one of his pet subjects, Germans). Besides performing his own work he is also a playwright.  

He wrote a piece called 'De automaat' (The automaton) and for youth theatre company Hofplein in Rotterdam he wrote the contemporary family piece Snow-white. Deelder insisted on having a coloured girl playing the lead.

He also translated work by British playwright Jim Cartwright ('Road', 'The Rise and Fall of Little Voice' and 'Two').

translation: Willem Groenewegen, 2003

sources:, and the Rottend Staal archives.

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Silver CJP prize, 1986
Anna Blaman prize, 1988
Johnny van Doorn prize, 1999

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De mensch Deelder, by Pieter van Oudheusden and Herbert Verhey, Uitgeverij Veen, Utrecht, 1986.

Also containing : J.A. Deelder: texts 1962-1985

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