Paul van Ostajien, Bezette Stad (1922)

A book of poems in which the typographic layout, designed by the poet himself, is an expressive part of the poetry. Van Ostaijen (1896-1928) was a Dutch-speaking Belgian writer, active in the Flemish cultural revival of the 1920s. The ‘beseiged city’ of the book’s title is his native Antwerp, occupied by the Germans in the First World War. It is also an image for a wider sense of disintegration, both cultural and personal. The poem displayed, ‘Home City I’, expresses the anxiety of those waiting at home for letters from sons and brothers at the War. What the poet called his ‘rhythmic typography’ here makes the reader aware that consciousness is a fragmented collage rather than a tidy, coherent narrative, while also drawing on styles of visual text familiar in modern experience, such as graffiti, advertising and newspapers. Poetic influences include Futurism and the ‘Calligrammes’ of Guillaume Apollinaire.


Bezette Stad

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