An Interview With Poet Germain Droogenbroodt

Germain Droogenbroodt was born on September 11, 1944 in Rollegem, the Flemish part of Belgium. In 1987 he moved to the Mediterranean artist village of Altea and integrated in Spanish literary life. Germain Droogenbroodt is an internationally appreciated poet, invited yearly at the most prestigious international poetry festivals. He wrote short stories and literary reviews, but mainly poetry, so far fourteen poetry books, published in 30 countries. He is also translator, publisher, and promoter of modern international poetry. He translated – he speaks six languages – more than thirty collections of German, Italian, Spanish, Latin American, English and French poetry, including anthologies of Bertolt Brecht, Mahmud Darwish, Reiner Kunze, Miguel Hernández, José Ángel Valente, Francisco Brines and also rendered Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Persian and Korean poetry into Dutch. As founder and editor of the Belgian publishing house POINT Editions (POetry INTernational) he published more than eighty collections of mainly modern, international poetry.

IRMA KURTI: You were born in Rollegem, the Flemish part of Belgium and in 1987 you moved to the Mediterranean artist village of Altea in Spain. If you would describe yourself in a few words what would be your citizenship? Do you feel more a citizen of the world?

Germain Droogenbroodt: I am not at all a nationalist, on the contrary, when we look at the past, we see that nationalism has led to many wars. I always have been curious to discover other countries, other people, other cultures. At fifteen I drove by bicycle to Holland and Germany. Later, by car, all over Europe and finally by plane all over the world discovering people of other races, other cultures or religions, making friends with them, discovering that they are not different, that they have the same feelings as human being all over the world. Now, Chinese, Japanese or Indians have the face of a friend, they are less foreign than some of my countrymen. Although no Flemish speaks like a Dutchman, Dutch is one of the three official languages of Belgium, especially in other continents that leads to misunderstandings. Years ago, handing me an international poetry prize and having informed him that I do not write in Belgian as that language does not exist, but that I generally write in Dutch, the Bangladesh Minister of Culture started to introduce me as Dutch poet, being corrected by my translator, he probably got a bit confused and finally presented me as cosmopolitan poet. In fact, not only my poetry has never been typical Flemish or Dutch, but I rather feel being a cosmopolitan, a citizen of the world. The fact that I speak several languages also avoids feeling myself a foreigner in several countries.

IRMA KURTI: Can you describe the first moment when you met poetry? Did you understand then that it would become an integral part of your life?

Germain Droogenbroodt: I am a great lover of classical music. I guess that therefore already at primary school, when we had to learn by heart a few rhymed poems, I was fascinated by the musicality of romantic poetry. I still remember some verses by Guido Gezelle. In fact, the only Flemish poet I learned from: the musicality. As a young boy I wrote stories for myself, later travel stories, a dozen of short stories, initially some poems influenced by German romantic poets like Goethe, Schiller, Hölderlin I already had read at the age of eighteen. In Dutch we say it is a sign, a warning at the wall. Such a warning was for me my 40th anniversary. At 40 I decided to dedicate my life completely to poetry, published my first book of poetry entitled “Forty at the Wall”, set up the publishing house POINT (POetry INTernational) and planned to move to the South, initially to Italy, still my favorite country, but it finally was the – at that time – artist Mediterranean city of Altea, Spain.

IRMA KURTI: What does writing mean for you?

Germain Droogenbroodt: Paul Celan, one of my favorite poets wrote Wirklichkeit ist nicht. Wirklichkeit will gesucht und gewonnen sein. (Reality does not exist, reality wants to be searched for and gained) and the Spanish poet José Ángel Valente pretended that writing (poetry) is not reproducing an already existing experience, but to produce it. That is exactly what my – rather philosophical – poetry means for me.

IRMA KURTI: You are a translator of more than thirty collections of German, Italian, Spanish, Latin American, English and French poetry. How has this experience influenced or enriched your writing?

Germain Droogenbroodt: Contrary to the translation of prose, especially in short poems, many a time one cannot use a synonym. It must be the exact word. One wrong word can destroy the sense of the poem. So even if he knows the translation of the word, in some cases, a good translator will still check the dictionary to find out if there is no word expressing more precisely the original meaning. I sometimes check dictionaries in several languages. Due to the continuous search, I think that my poetry, especially in Dutch, is quite rich in language.

IRMA KURTI: As a founder and editor of the Belgian Point Editions Publishing House (POetry INTernational), may you tell us something more about its publications?

Germain Droogenbroodt: As Dutch is such a marginal language – who knows the name of a Flemish or Dutch poet – I found it important to translate and publish mainly poetry from poets whose poetry also hardly or not has been published. The goal of POINT Editions was to do something, however little, for a more human society by the translation and publication of poetry, as many poets write about the joys, but also about the misfortune of their countrymen. POINT not only published poetry from European countries but also modern poetry from Bosnia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, China, Greece, Haiti, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Poland, Servo Croatia, South Africa, in total over 80 books

IRMA KURTI: Poetry without Borders is a very interesting project, part of Spanish Ithaca Cultural Foundation directed also by you: it publishes weekly a beautiful poem in 35 languages in the Point Editions web site and in other magazines all over the world. What was your initial idea regarding it and today, with the passing of time, do you think that this project has been successful?

Germain Droogenbroodt: Poetry without Borders is in fact a continuation of the original goal of POINT, but instead of being limited to Flemish and Dutch readers, the poems are being read weekly by many thousands of people from all over the world. The poems are also published in more than a dozen of international literary magazines and websites, including in China, where, at the Chinese equivalent of face book, one of the poems was read by over 70.000 readers. Two of my poems about the war in Ukraine were published in CHINA and in India. I think that even as a humanistic project, Poetry without Borders is successful. I weekly receive mails with thanks from all over the world. A Flemish reader bought a computer to receive weekly the poems and – before dying – wrote me that receiving weekly a good poem from all over the world was one of the most beautiful things of his life.

IRMA KURTI: Your books of poetries have been published in 30 countries all over the world and this is the dream of any poet or writer. How do you feel about this? Happy, self – confident or fully responsible?

Germain Droogenbroodt: I am a rather modest person. When you blow up yourself, people might pull you down. When you are modest, people will pull you up. Nearly all my books have been published recommended to publishers by friends. As you know, poetry is one of the last remaining not commercial expressions of art. If a book is not self-published, it should be good. As one of my masters, Confucius, said: I will be a student all my life.

IRMA KURTI: You’ve published several books of poetries in Italian too. Were these verses inspired by your frequent visits to Italy and in particular to Como Lake?

Germain Droogenbroodt: Having read Goethe’s poem Do you know the country with lemon trees flourish I was already in love with Italy before visiting the country. The first time I went to Italy, by train, crossing the Swiss-Italian border, I saw Lake Como. It was love at the first sight. Silence has become rare in our noise loving society. As I need quietness to get inspiration for my rather philosophic poetry, I discovered that small village of Pognana, overlooking the lake, where I hear only the serenates of birds and the soft whispering of the waves and my thoughts can sail without borders.

IRMA KURTI: In the last months our thoughts and writings have been concentrated on the difficult situation caused by the war in Ukraine. Do you think that Poetry is a powerful means to disseminate Peace or it remains an impossible dream?

Germain Droogenbroodt: As a humanist and having in Ukraine a friend, still living in Kiev, the horrible images we see day by day left also traces in some of my recent poems. Unfortunately, the power of poetry is too weak to change the world, flooded by power-mad, brainwashing politicians and shamelessly rich capitalists. But as we never should give up longing, we neither should give up hope; as I wrote in one of my poems about the trees, although thirsting for rain, they are green, because without hope, they neither can live.

Interview Taken By Poet Irma Kurti

Irma Kurti is an Albanian poetess, writer, lyricist, journalist, and translator. She is a naturalized Italian. She has been writing since she was a child. In 1980, she was honored with the first national prize on the 35th anniversary of the Pionieri magazine for her poem “To my homeland”. In 1989, she won the second prize in the National Competition organized by Radio Tirana on the 45th anniversary of the Liberation of Albania. Kurti has won numerous literary prizes and awards in Italy and Italian Switzerland. She was awarded the “Universum Donna” International Prize IX Edition 2013 for Literature and the lifetime nomination of “Ambassador of Peace” by the University of Peace of Italian Switzerland. In 2020, she received the title of Honorary President of WikiPoesia, the Encyclopedia of Poetry. In 2021, she was awarded the title “Liria” (Freedom) by the Arbëreshë Community in Italy. Irma Kurti has published 26 books in Albanian, 18 in Italian, 9 in English and two in French. She has written about 150 lyrics for adults and children. She is also the translator of 11 books of different authors and of all her books in Italian and English. Her books have been published in the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Romania, Kosovo, Philippines, Cameroon and India. She lives in Bergamo, Italy.


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