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Who are those Poets from Epibreren?

Coming directly from the Mud Sea, or Waddenzee as it is called in the Low Countries: the much talked-about Poets from Epibreren. They present a dazzling show: poetry on and across the borders of rock, talk and theater with unabashed, strong poems about life on the road to god knows where. In various sets on stage the two poets and the musician let the audience hear, see and feel that poetry is alive! From prisons to youth centers, from theaters to pubs, from South Africa to Germany. Black surrealism, violence, romance and crime: the Poets from Epibreren, fresh from the Netherlands.

The Poets from Epibreren are: Bart FM Droog (1966), Tjitse Hofman (1974), and Jan Klug (1971). The latter is virtuoso baritone and tenor saxophone player, flutist, Siberian Tuva-style singer and inventor and player of the pataphone.

The Poets from Epibreren are everywhere, in books, anthologies, both in the media as on stage: broadcasts on regional and national Dutch, Belgian, Croatian and British TV and radio networks; performances at festivals: Lowlands 1995, Double Talk 1997, Euroslag 1997, De Nachten 1998 and 2000 (Antwerp, Belgium) and Oerol 1998, Faladura Spoken Words Festival (Porto, Portugal, 1999); Woordfees (Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2002), Barfood Poetry (Luzern, Switzerland, 2003); on the clubscene: Vera Groningen, Melkweg Amsterdam, Tivoli Utrecht, Doornroosje Nijmegen, Effenaar Eindhoven, Zakk Düsseldorf etc.

bibliography: Randweg (Rottend Staal, 1996), Jawohl (Rottend Staal, 1998) by The Poets from Epibreren; Hotel Hel (SRLE, 1995), Deze Dagen (Passage, 1998) Benzine (Passage, 2000) and Radioactief (Passage, 2004) by Bart FM Droog; TV 2000 (Passage, 1999) and Roodvocht (Passage, 2003) by Tjitse Hofman, and in the anthologies Double Talk (Arbeiderspers, 1997), Het Hogere Noorden (Passage, 1997), Sprong naar de Sterren (Kwadraat, 1999) and many others. See the complete bibliography (in Dutch).

Some review soundbites: * this battle of words (BBC-Radio) * professional poets (Utrechts Nieuwsblad) * Heart-felt on the road poetry (De Volkskrant) * Absolutely pathetic (Groene Amsterdammer) * An impressive surprise (Groninger Dagblad) * The new Martians (Vrij Nederland) * Like savages around the boiling cauldron of language (Leidsch Dagblad) * Sheer Poetry (The Journal, Newcastle)

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How the Poets of Epibreren perform abroad

Translations of Epibreren`s poetry are available not only in English, but also in Danish, German and Portuguese.
However, for their live shows the poets prefer performing in their parents' language, which is Dutch, because this way the natural atmosphere of the poems remains intact.

So how do they deal with the dilemma of most non-Dutch people not understanding Dutch? - Well, they handle a so-called "multi-lingual-multi-media-performance-system", which means that the translations are projected on a screen behind the performing poets, in a way that the audience is able to follow the meaning of their texts while taking a deep dive into Dutch poetry sounds, and still can watch how the Poets from Epibreren recite, which is worthwhile. Check out the example!

To complete the picture, additional slides and Super 8-films are shown at the same time, and of course the soundscapes of Jan Klug keep on creating an extra dimension...

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You may like them, you may dislike them - that's not what matters. What matters is the question: how and why do the Poets from Epibreren perform as they do?

It all started in 1980 by a television broadcast of a performance by the Rotterdam poet Jules Deelder. Dressed in a suit, with tie and all, he was seen reading his poetry at a punk festival. People spat and threw bottles of beer at him, but he didn't stop. With almost satanical determination he persevered.

Justus Anton Deelder - his full Christian name - was born in Rotterdam in November, 1944. The Germans then still occupied this big harbour city, the second biggest city of the Netherlands. Deelder luckily survived the war and started to write poetry while on secondary school. At a young age he debuted with a poem in a national newspaper. When he was 21 he was asked to perform on the first modern scale poetry festival organized in The Netherlands, Poëzie in Carré, in the Amsterdam Carré Theatre. Organized by the Dutch poet Simon Vinkenoog (1928) and a man called Olivier Boelen, it attracted almost 2000 people and was well covered by the media. Shortly afterwards Deelder could publish his first poetry bundle with one of the bigger publishing company.

Deelder, and one of the other poets reading at that festival, Johnny van Doorn (1944-1991), always bestowed much care on their performance. They gave good thoughts about how to let their poetry come 'alive' whilst performing.

This was not an new idea. Other poets as Simon Vinkenoog and Lucebert (1924-1994) were well known for their flamboyant readings. The most important thing about Van Doorn and Deelder was that they picked up the tradition and worked with this tradition in mind and kept it alive.

Where Johnny van Doorn more or less stopped writing poetry and started to write mainly prose, Jules Deelder developped his skills in both directions. During the seventies he and Johnny van Doorn continued reading in the Netherlands. Around 1980 - when the previous mentioned television broadcast took place - Deelder and Van Doorn became the godfathers of a younger generation poets: Bart Chabot (1954) and Diana Ozon (1959). They read their poetry at punk festivals, cultural youth centres and so on and they called themselves the 'Poppoets', from 'populair poets', because they brought poetry back to the people, where most settled poets were only interested in reading to other settled poets and small audiences and not giving any thought at all about the best ways to read their poems in public.

As a young boy of 14 years old, already writing poetry myself, I heard of these poets, read their poetry and thought: 'He, that's the way to do it'. A year later, in 1981, I performed for the first time, in a youth club, as the support act of a befriended punk band. I soon became involved into the punk and squatters movement, so most of my readings were at punk festivals and in squatted houses. My poetry was basically political poetry, telling the people about the wickedness of the political system, that kind of work. But, as I became more and more experienced, I started to realize that writing or preaching 'politically correct' poetry meant a dead end: it's just too simple. You know in beforehand how a punk audience will react to a poem stating: 'Fuck the State'. They will love it. It's just as cheap as making poetry filled with sex and genitals: the audience loves it, but it means nothing. So I tried to write poetry which wasn't stating 'this is good and that is bad', but left room for the audience - be it at present at the performance or reading it at home.

I was at that time, in 1993 a poet like so many others: now and then performing, publishing only in small magazines, knowing only two collegue poets (who lived in Amsterdam and Rotterdam) and printing now and then poetry booklets of my own poetry.

Then something happened which radically changed my life and - I'm proud to say - a part of the outlook of Dutch poetry. I was invited to perform at an art party in an old country-house, a few kilometres south of Groningen-city. I was not the only poet to perform at this place. Three other young Groningen poets, just as me from Groningen city, were asked to perform as well. We had never met before.

So we discussed how we could perform together and we decided that each one of us would read a poem, then another poet would read and so on. Because in the same room where we were to perform a drum group also had to play, we decided to interweave the drums and poetry. Not knowing then anything about the Last Poets from New York who have a similar show since the late 1960's - but that's quite a different story.

Anyhow, this resulted in something quite amazing: the audience loved it. They loved it because they constantly got new input: every passing minute they would hear another voice, another sound, see constantly changing speakers and musicians, just as they were accustomed to when watching television.

In the months to follow we worked on the act, keeping constantly in mind that we had to be as varying as could be possible. Just as the cinema in the 20th century had developed from very long shots more and more into shorter shots, we wanted to introduce the tempo of the day into our poetry shows. Because nowadays it's very hard for most people to concentrate longer than a few minutes.

We also realized that we had all the time to think about new things in our performance to keep the attention of the audience. We started experimenting with two gogo dancers: two beautiful scarcely clothed girls dancing on stage during our performance. This worked very well in one of the prisons we performed in, needless to say why. Later on we had two inflatable seals (one exploded during a school performance in The Netherlands, the other exploded in a theatre in Portugal) and now we have our two furbies. Not only do these 'gadgets' liven up the stage, they also serve to attract the media. Which we need to attract audience to our performances.

As mentioned before we were during our first performance accompanied by a drum group. One of its member joined the group of poets and played didgeridoo during our shows, to add atmosphere to the poetry. This original musician, Martijn Woldring, was replaced in 1996 by our current musician Jan Klug, who tries to create soundscapes under the poems so that sounds and poetry come together and can more or less hypnotize the audience, without it being necessary that the audience fully comprehends the poems. The atmosphere, that's the main thing for us.

We are not the only poets from the younger generation experimenting with music and trying to make something out of their readings or performances. Dutch poets like Serge van Duijnhoven, Arjan Witte, Ingmar Heytze, Hagar Peeters, Tommy Wieringa and Menno Wigman are fine examples of new shoots from the ancient tree of performing poetry in the Netherlands.

Bart FM Droog, July 2000.

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Press about The Poets from Epibreren

The Poets from Epibreren
I was very happy when emptying the Fringecore mailbox I found a small book containing poems by the Dutch "De Dichters uit Epibreren" in... English! I had been wanting to do something on this illustrious poetry trio from Groningen for a long time, but never made the time to translate their poems.
The Poets from Epibreren have been around in various outfits for about five years, originating from a former drum band member and a couple of poets. Currently they consist of three people: poets Bart FM Droog and Tjitse Hofman and multi-instrumentalist Jan Klug. I had met them at various festivals and had been very impressed by their unique and exciting style of performance.
Their name can be traced back to Dutch writer Simon Carmiggelt, who used it as a fantasy verb meaning "not doing anything". The poets turned it into a fictitious place, a small island, situated just above Groningen, that can be visited at .......
What sets Bart and Jan apart from other Dutch poets is their bizarre stage performance. These stand- up poets, sometimes alone and sometimes together recite their work a very wild, virile and completely mad, seemingly psychotic way, while Jan uses a selection of unusual instruments, including his hands, voice, mouth, etc. to enhance the theatrical performance. And as a 'soundscape-creator' should, always making sure not to distract the
audience's attention from the depth of the words, that are often about misery, violence, war, the fringe of society, black surrealism.
One thing is for sure, they are definitely the poets with the highest performance score in the world (over 200 performances a year), not only in Holland, but also in Belgium, Germany and the UK
(Jeannine Lafèbre, Fringecore #8 January/February 1999)


Poets in town for return fixture

Entertainment goes Dutch in Newcastle tonight - and the action won't be all at St James's Park.

While Newcastle United locks horns with PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League, a tight squad of poets - and a musician - will be engaged in the return leg of a poetry exchange between Newcastle and its Dutch twin city of Groningen.Whitley Bay poet Keith Armstrong captained the team which performed the away leg, a winning series of readings in Holland coinciding with the soccer players' disapponting clash in Eindhoven (they lost 1-0).Now the boot is on the other foot. As the PSV stars prepared for action on the pitch, the literary visitors met the Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Belle Nixon, and got their act together for tonight's performance at the Bridge Hotel, and tomorrow's at Cramlington High School and the Marsden Grotto pub, South Shields.They also launched a joint anthology, Beyond! (Northern Voices and Rottend Staal Publicaties, £2).

None of the poets - or the musician, Jan Klug, have performed in Britain before although they have been to other European countries.

They promised to perform in English as well as Dutch. "We do a lot of work with musicians and what is important is that emotions come through," said Bart FM Droog.
"It is the same with words. The rhythms are very important so it isn't always necessary to have a translation. Sometimes you can still understand the story."
"we are lookingf forward to reading here," said Tjitse Hofman. "In Holland we have performed in parks, in squats, in prisons, in some of the most ridiculoyus places."

The result of tonight's performance is likely to be a good time had by all.
"We'll announce the soccer score after every alternate poem," promised Keith. "Unless Newcastle are loosing."
But who would score the goal? "Ah, Beresford, I think ... or maybe the goalie."

(David Whetstone, The Journal (Newcastle, UK), 5-11-1997)


Julia Hankin: `...but tonight sees a bit of rematch. Poets from Newcastle and Holland will be teaming up for a friendly, with both sides reading extracts from their new poetry anthology. The poetry exchange is a brainchild of Tyneside poet Keith Armstrong, and is be designed to coincide with this week's big game. But who will come first in this battle of words? Well, I'm joined in the studio this afternoon by - well, it feels like fifty thousand people, but in fact it's Keith Armstrong and three poets. And they're all standing up for the lack of chairs, so - hé! I am doing the same. We're all having a bit of a stand-about in the studio this afternoon, and Keith, you're standing comfortabely there, aren't you?'

Armstrong: `Yes, thanks.'

Julia: `This was your idea. Where did the idea spring from?'

Armstrong: `Well, I'll be involved with cultural exchanges for quite a few years now. And discovered that Newcastle was twinned with Groningen in the North of Holland, so about four or five years ago I went across there as a sort of a poetry pioneer with a woman called Julia Darling. Another poet, from a group called `The Poetry Virgins'. We made links there and just kept them going. and we probably go across to Groningen once a year now to perform our poetry. And we invited for the return match this bunch here.

Julia: `Perhaps you all like to introduce yourselfs. I'd like to do it on your behalf, but I'll just make a complete fool of myself, because I haven't practiced your names. So around the table who do we have?'

Droog: `I'm Bart FM Droog.'

Julia: `See what I mean?'

Droog: `That means `Dry'.'

Julia: `Dry?'

Droog: `Dry, yeah.'

Julia: `Dry?! Thank you.'

Droog: `My forefathers made polders and dykes, you know.'

Julia: `Okay.'

Droog: `Just to make a living out of it.'

Julia: `Allright. You don't have to give such a detailed response, if you don't want to. Just do what you like.'

Groenewegen: `My name is Willem Groenewegen. Got a lovely guttural sound in it. And it's not Wilhelm but Willem, which is a sort of a German problem.'

Droog: `Wilhelm von Groenewegen.'

Julia: `You sound like you're from Yorkshire, though. Where did you get your accent from?'

Groenewegen: `I live in Sheffield now. That must be it.'

Julia: `Aah, it's all coming out now, isn't it? And finally...'

Zevenbergen: `I'm Harry Zevenbergen - Sevenmountains - and I'm the only one not from the North. I'm from the West of Holland, The Hague.'

Julia: `And how long are you here for? Just a few days?'

Zevenbergen: `In Newcastle for a few days. In England for twelve days.'

Julia: `Now the football is obviously very important to the people in the North east of England and a lot of Newcastle United fans are feeling a littlebit tender today. We're you feeling very happy after last night's result?'

Droog: `No, we were so miserable. We hate people from Eindhoven, so we are really sorry that Newcastle lost. We want to apologize for that. We tried to sink the ferry on which the Eindhoven supporters came, but we didn't succeed. Sorry.'

Julia: `Let's have some poetry. I think we should have some poetry now. And who is to go first?'

Groenewegen: `I think I'll like to go first. I've got a poem where the red team loses. So this might be like a consolation-price. It's called `The vested interests.' (volgt gedicht, uit de bloemlezing Beyond!)

Julia: `Thank you very much. I feel much better for that. Keith, would you like...'

Armstrong: `This poem is about football. But it is also about Newcastle pubs. And in particular about a barmaid called Kerry, who serves in `The Newcastle Arms', and also mentions Sir John Hall. It's called `To Kerry from the isle of Woman', and it's from our joint Anglo-Dutch anthology, just published, called Beyond!, which features Willem, Bart, me and some other Dutch poets and one English poet.'

(volgt gedicht)

Julia: `A poem of that... it's got a lot of very clever puns and a lot of jokes about the language. Do you think that you need to be English or need to have English as your first language in order to appreciate a poem like that? Or maybe it's best asked to one of the Dutch poets here?'

Zevenbergen: `I don't think so. I think when you're a bit familiar with English culture, which most people in Holland are, because of television and we're overwhelmed by English and American culture, so you know a bit of the humour and what's going on here. I think you can understand it quite easily.'

Julia: `Good answer, so you can give us your poem now.'

Zevenbergen: `Okay. I want to dedicate it to the Egyptian lawyer. He wants to sue the queen for killing Lady Di. And it's a `Protocol to Di'. (volgt gedicht)

Julia: `And finally...'

Droog: `I want to do a Dutch poem. But I keep it very short. So people can concentrate better. And maybe it's wise for you to undress ... your headset.

Julia: `Hahaha.'

Droog: `Because it is quite loud.'

Julia: `That's my concern. Well, okay. Maybe it's wise for you to stand back a bit from that microphone, so we don't deafen the Newcastle listeners.'

Droog: `You can undress more if you like to... It's called `Totaalgedicht', which means `Total Poem', something like that. It's about the Netherlands and the world affairs in general.' (volgt `Totaalgedicht')

Julia: `Are you still there? Hahaha.

Droog: `It's from the anthology called `Het Hogere Noorden', `The Higher North', which is for sale only in the Low Countries. So if you want to buy it you would have to swim across the North Sea.

Julia: `But it is a small price to pay for a book of poems like that, aye? Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us this afternoon. It's a nice warming up for tonight's event, Keith. Remind us where you'll be this evening.'

Armstrong: `Tonight we're at the unique pub in South Shields on the coast: The Marsden Grotto, just by the Marsden Rock, and it starts at 7.30. Marsden Grotto Pub on the Coast Road, Marsden, South Shields.

Droog: `And every twentieth visitor gets a free copy of Beyond!. It's a coproduction of Northern Voices and Rottend Staal.

Julia: `There's a reason to go then. It's 2.20 on Radio Newcastle. A little later than usual, the latest traffic and travel...

NN-announcer: `We've some big problems I'm afraid on the A1 Western Bypass this afternoon. There's a vehicle fire on the South Bank Carriage Way, a mile south of the Coalhouse roundabout...'

(Julia Hankin Show, BBC Radio Newcastle (UK), 6-11-97)


Verse too: while most Newcastle fans will no doubt go drinking after Wednesdays's Champions League tie at PSV Eindhoven, Keith Armstrong, will go to a poetry reading.

The 51-year-old poet and Toon nut will be performing his own works in an allnight cafe in Eindhoven, with topics ranging from Jackie Millburn to Hughie Gallacher. Goodness knows how they will go down if Newcastle win.

Keith was invited to perform by the Dutch poet Bart FM Droog, whom he met while visiting the Cuckoo Club in Groningen, Newcastle's twin town. So, when PSV play in Newcastle on November 5, Keith has invited Bart and three other performers, including a didgeridoo player, to do their stuff at a poetry reading in Newcastle.

Hopefully Bart will find a quiet place to stay. For when Keith and his fellow poet Ian Horn slept on the floor of Bart's squat, the avid Magpie got in a flap during the night. Recalls Keith: "We were woken up by three budgies mating in a cage in a corner."

(Martin Thorpe, The Guardian, (UK), 18-10-97)

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(The band that Jan Klug is touring with)

Arling & Cameron are preparing for their second ever live-tour... So what
can we expect? As they put it themselves: "An even finer job then last
year." But to grasp a fuller picture, we have decided to visit their secret
rehearsal-space/headquarters in their hometown of Amsterdam.

For those of you who missed their '99 show, let us first say that an Arling
& Cameron show has some distinct features that sets it apart from 'your
average run-of-the-(wind)mill Rock/Pop show. Not content with mere
entertainment, they were obviously out to educate with their show-opening
proclamation: "Everybody, although brought up in different countries and
cultures, is basically longing for the same things in life...". This was
then followed with an illustrative slide-show of native European birds
complete with accompanying birdcalls by German ornithologist Herr Doctor Jan
Klug (who also doubled on flute for that tour). Hmmm... perhaps there are
some fundamental differences between North Americans and Europeans after
all. But this is not to say we didn't enjoy their show...

Extensive research and some subtle exchanges of hard cash gave us the
following information on Arling & Cameron's new (and improved?) live-show:

1. The theme for this year’s show will be 'Communication'

2. Guest musicians for the shows will be, the back-by-popular-demand Herr
Doctor Jan Klug on flute and 'effects', and the new and freshly graduated
guitar-wonderboy Hendrik-Jan Vermeulen who combines the skills of Eddy Van
Halen and the soul of Jimi Hendrix with the wardrobe of a mathematics

3. There will be a 'synchronized video' (whatever that means...).

4. A new stage wardrobe courtesy of Lacoste and Fred Perry will be gracing
the bodies of Mr. Arling and Mr. Cameron to match up with their sporty new
image (when did that happen?).

That's it so far. But expect more information to be posted on their website
as the dates of the first shows approach - and they would be: the European
release party for "Music For Imaginary Films" at Paradiso, Amsterdam on June
30, and an appearance at the Roskilde Festival, Denmark on July 2.


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The hours of sleep that I got the last ten days are 4, 7, 6, 5, 0, 5, 5, 2, 5 and 3; I sat in a too small car for about 50 hours and drove more than 3000 kilometres through 5 countries in order to give 7 concerts with 4 different bands for about 4000 people with approximately 15 different nationalities.
This means, in the average of the last 10 days I gave 0.7 concerts a day with my 0.4 bands, which all have been visited by 400 people, who came from 1.5 different countries, while I myself being in just half a country, whereto I had to drive 300 kilometers within 5 hours in 1/10th of a much too small car, while the night before I just slept 4 hours and 12 minutes...
This means that for every visitor I moved 750 meters at the speed of 12 km/h, while I was asleep for more than 16%, and.... À? (Jan Klug, August, the 28th, 2000).


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Translations of Poetry
Click on the title to listen to the Dutch performance in RealAudio, if available!


Snakes are sliding
down my legs
from my groin
slithering down
chilly longish
slippery snakes
without hissing
slithering down

I know that it
isn't real
for I'm lying in bed
and want to get up
but I'm not able
my whole body's
paralyzed fused
with the mattress
the sissy sheets

I know that it
isn't real
I know that it
isn't real
outside the sun
is grabbing at the clouds
but they wont get out
the way and so
there is darkness
in the darkness uproar
reigns I cant put up
with uproar then
the stars begin
to fall I donut
like that

I know that it
isn't real
I know that it
isn't real
it comes from
the heat with a heat
like this a person
cant breathe normally
fish feel the same too
I'm well aware
that roots are sprouting
from my back because
I cannot move
a body needs nurture
and a body feels thirst
its good
to have roots
they will find
find moisture.

Tjitse Hofman (Translation by John Irons)


This floating hotel
with garage parking
beneath the waterline
drifts above clouds
beneath us, deep
beneath us the wrecks
of centuries of travel
from North, sea and yet more weather
a Swedish clown
Philippine crew
Danish officers
a Bulgarian band
play bingo for the game
no way of hurrying
the production platforms
light up our path.

Once the sea was
without form and void
in the night sky
only stars spoke
Now the ship quivers
the coastline’s a clearance sale
the moon hides itself
in the waves.

And at the bar
the soldier from
the royal marine corps
that was blameless
you'll never hurt us
don't believe him
throw glass of gin
enthralled down the hatch
listen to endless stories
from the Gulf War and Cambodia
to his family in Den Helder
for him Bosnia was
the survival of the fittest.

Break life into episodes
on the heaving of the boat
Brits are reeling, lowlanders lying
completely stoned we intone a song
on the poop deck sea gulls saunter.

Bart FM Droog (Translation by John Irons)

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De Rottend Staal Nieuwsbrief Online

If you're interested in poetry from the Netherlands, hit the Rottend Staal button on the left. By doing so you can visit the online poetry magazine 'De Rottend Staal Nieuwsbrief Online', which is Dutch for 'The Rotting Steel Newsletter Online. The pages are mainly in Dutch, but English speaking visitors are automatically guided to the English pieces.

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