interview by Lieke van den Brink
Menno de Block, 4th year student of International Economics and Business will be the University Poet of this academic year. The 21 year old student is very excited about this challenge and wants to make the most of it. He would like to reach a large audience with his poetry. "My poetry is accessible for everyone, but it's not supposed to be simple."
Inspired by the love for his Canadian girlfriend, he wrote 146 poems, one each day. Now FEB-student Menno de Block has the honor to be the University Poet of the RUG during this academic year. The jury praised him for his "no-nonsense use of language" in the winning poem 'De onderwijsfabriek.' He will publish several poems in the University Journal (UK), both in Dutch and English. "English is a big part of our lives, especially at the RUG." Menno has enjoyed his first weeks as University Poet very much. "I knew about it since June, but I couldn't tell anyone until the official announcement at the opening of the academic year." On this occassion, he recited his poem for an audience. "I wasn't nervous at first, but once I was standing before all those people, I felt quite tense." After his performance, a boy came up to him and complimented him on his style. "He said that my poetry was different from that of the other University Poets, who usually have a woolly, ponderous style."
The fourth year student of international economics and business wants to unlock his poetry to a large audience. Some of his fellow students at the FEB do not really understand his poetic talent. "They're not used to it. But it isn't wrong to have a wide range of interests, is it?" He also wants to reach international students with his poems by writing in English. "Most of them don't even know there is something like a University Poet. That's a shame." Menno assumes that all the students at the RUG understand English. "It's a language that is a big part of our lives, and it plays an important role at the RUG. For me, it's like a second mother language." He is planning to write a few of his poems for UK in English. "Of course it's a little harder to play with words and find double meanings in expressions. I know my way around the Dutch language better, but still, English has a lot to offer."
For Menno, inspiration is everywhere. "The real bursts come from emotional experiences, like love and sadness. But it's in more common things as well. I can sit in my flat, at the seventh floor and look at the sun set for a long time. Then words come up naturally." He tries to put into words what he sees or feels. "I would like people to read my poems and not take the words for granted. My poetry is accessible for everyone, but it's not supposed to be simple. It should trigger your thoughts and make you go: hey, you have point there." And what about that Canadian girlfriend...? "The relationship didn't work out. But I did have the chance to write a lot of poems. And I know what it's like to work with a deadline." The idea came from the film The Notebook, where someone writes a love letter every day for 365 days. "I didn't make it to that point, but 146 poems is quite a lot too. There comes a point you run out of words."
And what does Ruth Koops van 't Jagt, former University Poet, have to say?
Ruth Koops van 't Jagt was last year's University Poet. She was part of the jury that has chosen Menno as the new University Poet. She describes Menno's work as "no-nonsense poetry," because of his direct and clear use of words. "Besides, he has a feel for beautiful images,"she says. "In one of his poems about a winter morning, he compares fresh snow with an 'unwritten page.'"
She likes the fact that Menno's poetry is so different from hers. "For the readers it's nice that his poems are written in a completely different style. And it makes me look at the world in a different way. I learn from his style." She is looking forward to reading his poems every month in the University Journal (UK): "I am very curious!"
Although their styles differ from each other, Ruth also sees a similarity. "For both of us poetry is a way of looking at the world in a slightly different manner and looking for the words to describe it." As a member of the jury, Ruth was mainly impressed by Menno's poems because of his development. "He was the most promising of all participants."
She says he can look forward to a year full of great experiences. "And he will learn what it is like to write poems under a deadline." And last, she has a piece of advice for Menno: "Enjoy to the fullest! Take it all in."
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