One of Peter Erftemeijer's   "Three figures in the the street".

One of Peter Erftemeijer’s “Three figures in the street”.

A gentleman plucks at my sleeve as we’re leaving the excellent NeighbourFood market by the Westergasfabriek. ‘Excuse me, sir, I’m a poet.’

My companions move on quickly, but he has me trapped. He’s polite, well-dressed and well-spoken. Seems ok.

‘I’ve written a poem about that statue over there, and I’d like to recite it to you.’

I know the statue, pictured above. The poet continues, reciting his short poem to an audience of one. He’s not a beggar, he’s a real poet, one of forty taking part in Juni Gedicht (June Poetry), an event sponsored by the local council.

He finishes his poem, introduces himself (Frans Terken) and gives me a postcard, bearing a photo of the sculpture and the text of his poem. I’ve done my best to translate it below.*

I thank him, shake his hand, catch up to my friends, and we continue towards home, through the Vondelpark, where a number of new sculptures have recently appeared. I thought at first they were a little amateurish, until I read the explanatory notes.

They’re part of Artzuid Junior, in which school students were invited to submit designs for sculptures, which were then constructed in large scale and set in the park for a temporary exhibition.

What a great initiative! It creates, interest, raises a smile and must be wonderful encouragement to the young artists and their friends.

Artzuid Junior in the Vondelpark.

Artzuid Junior in the Vondelpark.

No need to take it too seriously. It's art for fun.

No need to take it too seriously. It’s art for fun.

Back to sculptor Peter Erftemeijer’s work. Here are the other two figures in the street, with Frans Terken’s poem below them.

Another of Eftermeijer's 'Drie figuren op straat' (The figures in the street)

Another of Erftemeijer’s ‘Drie figuren op straat’ (Three figures in the street), 2001.

...and another.

…and another.

*In Passing, by Frans Terken

Let me say hello to you
when I greet you, you surely won’t turn your back
that would be impolite, even uncomfortable
then I would no longer know what you were doing

where you’re going as you walk past me
with pleasure I’ll clear the way
so that you can find a passage further
for you I’ll step aside and wait

I wait and look forward to your return
as walkers on the road bring eyes
and ears, through street and park
you speak the voices of this neighbourhood

passing no judgement, you carry them in your coat of bronze
don’t keep your silence, tell me what you see and hear


Filed under Art, Holland


  1. What a brilliant idea, Richard. I love public art installations, particularly if they’re clever and playful.

    • There should be more of it, Reggie. And I love that public poetry idea too.

      • Yes – although, to be quite honest, I would be more than a little alarmed, if I was innocently walking along the street and someone caught hold of my arm and launched into a poem! Unless I knew it was part of a public art, poetry and performance exhibition, I would be hightailing it out of there. šŸ˜‰ It’s sad how suspicious of strangers we’ve (had to?) become when going about our daily lives.

  2. Sad but true, Reggie. I felt a little guilty about my first instinct to slink past him, then pleased that I’d stopped to listen.

  3. Nice sculptures and a very touching poem. The translation may be better than the original, of course.

    We saw some very clever sculptures on our travels in Europe this year, a number of them in rural Spain and Portugal, but each time we were reminded of that dreadful newish sculpture of Governor Macquarie at the end of Hyde Park, Sydney, facing the end of Macquarie Street. Does anyone actually like it?

  4. Reblogged this on 12 Degrees & Skiving and commented:
    June #poetry #Amsterdam
    Thank you , Angela šŸ™‚

  5. Angela Highstead

    Forwarded this to a poet friend in Santa Fiora Tuscany and she has now posted it for all that follow her poetry blog to read.

    • Thanks, Angela. The idea of sponsoring poets to take inspiration from local sculpture and present it in a public setting is terrific. There should be more of it, anywhere in the world.

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