Ria Westerhuis has become a prominent poet for Dutch culture

Dwaalstroom is a gem of a collection of poems for Frits, her husband, who is always there for her. Wandering current is a non-existent word. On Wikipedia I find Dwarsstroom, a current perpendicular to the waterway, on the set course. Everyone also knows Wanderlust, a series of arrows to tempt you in the wrong direction. These are not poet Ria Westerhuis’ intentions.

She is preoccupied with “wandering,” perhaps getting lost, in feelings and emotions arising from what she sees, touches, observes, feels. Because after four previous collections, this gifted elocution artist can: express his feelings, both in Dutch and in his mother tongue from along the Reest.

Her first poem in the collection, in the local language, is called stray current so the title will have to explain. In it, as I interpret it, the spirits of the White Women, Wise Women, dance over the marshes that “shot,” in her words, the lunging fire that blazes through the marshes on full moon nights. There flows the blood of fools who wander.” It is an ancient memory, but… I think of the rural chain where young people get drunk night and night, or of the aggressive and menacing monsters that irrational peasants today take out on public roads to strengthen their arguments against the government’s plans to stop harmful ammonia emissions. It rages in Drenthe and Westerhuis touches on an image of the times; as if man does not change.

This country

She touches on “the enigma of the bound” in the active present tense she writes in because, she writes, “there is the noise of broken deer on the zuuk…”. Yes, what are the broken hearts looking for? Read it yourself in the package. I leaf through her collection, published by Stichting het Drentseboek, with poems in Dutch and Drents. With a sensitive, modestly designed cover by Saskia Dingelstad.

The second poem, “Dit Laand”, connects her physically with her roots – “Jeg tisser vildt” – and very creatively leads me via QR code to a YouTube video where she describes her best-known, cheeky poem, Peerdesmoken. , nominates. As a result, you can also see and hear her: amazing.

Sitting in the moonlight, looking at clouds, memory, the cemetery, one reads a kaleidoscope of impressions as she wanders through the local past. In “Mien Opa”, which you can hear her read again via the QR code on Youtube, she interprets as a farmer’s daughter the deep layer that farmers are connected to their “land”, their land, their property. Then you will better understand the peasant uprising in June 2022.

As I read on, I come across short observational sketches about dying, the swaying willows in the countryside, and a descriptive, melancholic poem about a painting of a girl by the painter Dineke Kraaijeveld, who is also responsible for several other drawings in the collection. There is a weight about it, even in the following bits like On Strangely Paid Love and Winter, but then finally, on page 25, the observation turns to longing. She writes: “I want spring lust, blooming forsythias” ~ “with bare hands in the black earth”.

The Drents block: suffering and life first dives deep into time with an impression of what Vincent van Gogh saw in his time in Drenthe. In the autumn of 1883, the then 30-year-old painter spent three months in Drenthe. As in Hollandsche Veld and Aalden. Westerhuis attributes to Van Gogh that he saw poverty and pain “lurking through that door where Death kidnaps the youngest child on dark days”. She writes it very beautifully, poetically. But again, the image is heavy, while when she recites, with her clear voice, you don’t feel the burden of the drenched life.


In the thin block of the Dutch language: what was and is, there are poems in Dutch, and it is more accessible to me than the Drentian variety of the regional language, Lower Saxon, in which Westerhuis writes. Will she express herself differently in Dutch? Choose other themes? Well, “Extinguishing Fire” does not start optimistically, the poem that first wants to breathe its fire does not come to life due to lack of fuel. More abstract is her impression of an impressionistic painting by Kraaijeveld, where Westerhuis wants to capture deeper layers of our soul life with words. Here there is no longer any relationship with Drenthe, and the uncertainty in the strange world outside Drenthe can prove to be greater than in the security of her mother tongue: “but my eyes flee to what is left”. As if she wants to return to Drenthe. She seems to be less able to express her feelings in standardized Dutch.

“Waden” is a mystical poem about floating away from what is, cover poem, based on a painting by Saskia Dingelstad, visual artist from Dalen, who draws us humans in our often alienated habitat, anywhere in the world. In this they leave Drenthe together and go out into the wide, contemporary world. Or are they referring to the wise women I just talked about? Is the wide world too big? In “De Stad” – the poem that probably refers to Meppel, where her “purple cap opened doors that the innkeeper closed long after midnight” – she says mournfully goodbye to a time: “it is over, the city has left me”, she cries that outline a life phase of contemplative transition that may have strengthened the corona era.

This fifth collection by Ria Westerhuis (Oud Avereest 1959) was published by Stichting Het Drentse Boek with a grant from the province of Drenthe. Ria Westerhuis has thus grown into a prominent poet who observes and feels through Drenthe’s pristine nature like no one else. She is also a talented recitalist and a feast for the eyes and ears when she reads from her work, which makes her an important bearer of the Drennese culture. The base costs €13.50 and can be purchased at the Riemer Barth bookstore in Meppel and elsewhere.

Leave a Comment