The First Book Of Schmoll: Selected Poems 1920-1928

Ostaijen, Paul van

Green Integer, 2015
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Born in Antwerp, Belgium in 1896, the poet Paul van Ostaijen, one of the greatest innovators and experimenters in Dutch, died at the age of 32 in La Vallon Sanatorium in the Belgian Ardennes village of Miavoye-Anthee.

Van Ostaijen helped to introduce modernism into the Low Countries, bringing together works influenced by both French Cubism and German Expressionism. During the short period in which he wrote, his poetry underwent a rapid evolutionary process. His first collections of poetry, Music Hall (1916) and Het Sienjaal ("The Signal" of 1918) expressed some of the "unanimist" ideas of Jules Romains in which the "one soul" or common spirit of the community as opposed to the individual psychology was of great importance. His next two collections, De feesten van angst in pijn (Feasts of Fear and Agony, 1921) and Bezette Stad ("Occupied City" of 1921), reveal his loss of his former humanitarian ideas and he completely broke with any traditional forms.

After "Occupied City" van Ostaijen aimed at what he described as "pure lyricism," a poetry disengaged from the poet's personality. As van Ostaijen wrote: "Poetry is not: thought, spirit, well-tuned phrases, it is neither doctoral nor dad. It is only a game of words anchored in the metaphysical." "I play with words," he continued, "like a juggler with torches. My poems have no content, only a theme as in music. I only write a largo, an allegretto."

The poems written during these years were meant to be collected into a volume titled Het eerste boek van Schmoll, collected here as The First Book of Schmoll. Van Ostaijen died in 1928 before the book was printed.

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