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Foto: Elsie Vermeer

‘Translating poetry into Frisian is not just a hobby. It’s a necessity’

Elsie Vermeer,
1 februari 2019 - 13:41

When Klaas van der Hoek isn’t working as a curator at the Allard Pierson of the UvA, he’s at his desk translating American poetry into Frisian.

With 150 poems by Emily Dickinson, a handful by E. E. Cummings, Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Frost already translated, Klaas van de Hoek’s oeuvre is considerable. ‘I think in Frisian, I dream in Frisian and I talk Frisian to my cats,’ he tells Folia. ‘And I’m devoted to poetry. [This is] so much more than a hobby, it’s become a necessity in my life’. 


Klaas uploads the poems onto his website and has plans to publish a book on Emily Dickinson’s poems later this year. ‘[Dickinson] lived in Amherst near Boston in a very puritan environment. How someone could write what she has in such an environment is a mystery to me. That’s why I find her work so fascinating. To me, she’s the greatest poet of all times.’


Frisian is listed as a ‘vulnerable’ language according to the United Nations, and is in danger of being forgotten. Last month Folia wrote an article on the risks of the world forgetting more than half of all languages.  You can read it here.


You can listen to Klaas recite his favourite poem for Folia below.