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Toon Tellegen

Translated by Judith Wilkinson

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Categories: 21st Century, Dutch, Translation
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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(Pub. Aug 2011)
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  • With the economy of proverbs and the psychological insight of a novel, Toon Tellegen’s acclaimed sequence Raptors depicts the dynamics of a family held hostage by the mood-swings and histrionics of a father, a figure both comic and terrifying, grotesque and pathetic. Tellegen’s mercurial imagination evokes the dark archetypes of European folklore and reanimates them with a sophisticated sense of the endless fluidity of relationships, the instability of interpretation. An improvisation on a theme, circling back to ‘my father’ at the start of each poem, Raptors builds to a story without narrative, its extravagant imaginative leaps into absurdity held within a framework of tender observation. Toon Tellegen’s translator Judith Wilkinson has worked closely with the poet to create English poems that capture the startling clarity and inventiveness of the original Dutch. Raptors has the rewarding intensity of a modern classic.

    Cover painting Mary Harman, Keeper. Reproduced by kind permission of the artist.


    Introduction by Judith Wilkinson    ix
    Preface by Toon Tellegen    3

    My father    moved heaven and earth    7
            searched for water    8
            bit the dust    9
            stuck to his guns    10
            picked bitter fruits    11
            applied a double standard    12
            got into deep water    13
            washed his hands in innocence    14
            was in the seventh heaven    15
            stewed in his own juice    16
            played with fire    17
            became down and out    18
            was on cloud nine    19
            knew how to live    20
            retraced his steps    21
            twisted the facts    22
            wanted to alleviate suffering    23
            was a book    24
            was in the air, like a rumour    25
            sat on a mountain    26
            created the world    27
            plucked up all his courage    28
            looked for injustice    29
            tied himself into a thousand knots    30
            abandoned all hope    31
            was speechless    32
            looked for a needle    33
            was wide of the mark    34
            poured salt in wounds    35
            stayed out of the picture    36
            who rose and sank in esteem    37
            screamed blue murder    38
            did not let sleeping dogs    39
            was in a terrible state    43
            threw dust about    44
            put on a show    45
            let a cup    46
            kicked down doors    47
            washed the dirty linen in public    48
            let the fire run its course    49
            had the last word    50
            blew such a big trumpet    51
            was a human being    52
            destroyed things    53
            was happy    54
            soft-soaped the guilty    55
            was every bit    56
            kept up appearances    57    
            acted in good faith and took the smooth    58
            looked for someone, just one person    59
            slept    60
            dragged things by the hair    61
            was in a tight corner    62
            who blows up rocks, blows away people, blows
                out peace    63
            looked in a mirror    64
            thanked my mother    65
            was immense and limitless    66
            made things hot for people    67
            how fathomless was the depth of his shame    68
            there was a gaping hole in him    69
            looked for love    70
            was a mistake    71    
            died a thousand deaths    72
            couldn’t comprehend himself any more    73

            and then for hours, days    77
            fished for answers    78
            was everywhere    79
            slept through headaches, hazards and
                uncontrollable    80
            was gone    81
            explained himself    82
            behold the tears of my father    83
            choked on his daily bread    84
            created pain    85
            bowed to the inevitable    86
            talked gibberish    87
            racked his brains    88
            was already himself    89
            promised everything, pledged everything    90
            was nobody    91
            is a tiny bit – one millionth – deader    92
            begot surprise    94
            didn’t waste his breath    95
            wanted to love my mother    96
            got under the skin    97
            was at his wits’ end    98
            buried his head    99
            found happiness    100
            saw ghosts    101
            was so small    102
            quite honestly, really wanted only one thing    103
            didn’t know that he was in despair    104
            smashed rocks, smashed mud    105
            was in safe hands, was extolled to the skies    106
            was coming to an end    107
            began to confuse things    108
            was something    109
    My mother    stood in the doorway    110    

    Toon Tellegen
    Toon Tellegen was born in 1941 on one of the islands in the south-west of the Netherlands. He is one of the best-known Dutch writers, with a long list of awards to his name. In 2007 he received two major prizes for his entire oeuvre. He considers himself in the first ... read more
    Judith Wilkinson
    Judith Wilkinson is a British poet and prize-winning translator living in the Netherlands. Her first two collections of translations, the Belgian poet Miriam Van hee’s Instead of Silence (a PBS Recommendation), and Toon Tellegen’s About Love and About Nothing Else, were published by Shoestring Press. A collection of her own ... read more
    Awards won by Toon Tellegen Winner, 2011 Poetry Society Popescu Prize for Translation (Raptors)
    Awards won by Judith Wilkinson Winner, 2011 Corneliu M Popescu Prize for Translation (Raptors)
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