My first reading in Holland, and an utterly unique place to give it – the island of Vlieland, a poetry reading on the Stortemelk holiday camp. All thanks to Tsead Bruinja and Bas Kwakman, and Poetry International, for letting this beautifully idiosyncratic mini-festival tradition – poetry readings for those on holiday on the camp, in the dying days of the summer season, nearing its tenth year of happening – be my debut in Holland. More than that, I had a really wonderful experience meeting some remarkably hospitable, intelligent and generous people.
Another grand result of Tsead and Bas’ invitation was the chance to have Tsead translate a dozen or so of my poems. We spent some hours working on this, one of the most comprehensive and rewarding translation processes I’ve been through, and Dutch is the 20th language my poetry has been translated into. So Tsead and I had chatted plenty before I arrived in Amsterdam to begin the journey north, to the sea. I had a night in the city, amidst rainstorms, in an Airbnb not conducive to rest, before I met Tsead early and we began catching busses across country. Friends from the first, the sensibilities Dutch and British people share, the dry, barbed humour most of all, we chatted for hours until we caught the ferry from Haarlingen to Vlieland. The island has a tiny population, it is a well known holiday destination but genuinely removed from the mainland, a culture unto itself. And as part of the reading’s tradition, the poets contributing get to stay in tents as part of the sprawling Stortemelk complex. I was led to my tent, the first time for a poetry event, and got to reunite with Bas, who I’d spent time with in China, Germany, Scotland, and meet the wonderful Saskia Stehouwer, Ries de Vuyst and the others in what became a temporary, extended family/friendship group to which I was immediately included. Just beyond the tents, over one large, lengthy dune, was the expansive white beaches and the north sea. I had a chance to ramble, and be cooked for, before hitting my tent, exhausted.
visit stevenjfowler.com/vlieland to read the complete travelogue