After first making her mark as a compelling performer, Belgian poet Charlotte Van den Broeck was acclaimed as one of Europe’s most innovative and original new voices in poetry following the publication of her first collection Chameleon in 2015. Her first English translation combines her debut volume with her second book Nachtroer (2017), its untranslatable title the name of all-night shop in Antwerp where she lives.
Chameleon is a set of apparently naïve but knowingly ironic, playful and subversive poems which trace a girl’s search for a woman’s identity, a coming-of-age exploration of body and language drawing on memories, shapes and landscapes. In Nachtroer her poems take a nighttime journey through heartbreak, insomnia and the hectic flow of daily life, driven by a desire for disappearance, displacement and dissolution.
Chameleon ends with taking to the ocean. Nachtroer’s last poem is about building a boat for such a voyage. Chameleon | Nachtroer sets the two books afloat in English.
‘This poetry parades like the chameleon in various appearances…in streaming language and unlikely, striking images.’ – Humo, on Chameleon
‘This is carefully accurate poetry, eloquent and adventurous, and truly authentic. That someone’s second book can be so audacious and dauntless is remarkable.’ – VSB poëzieprijs 2018 jury, on Nachtroer
Charlotte Van den Broeck reads from Chameleon | Nachtroer
Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Charlotte Van den Broeck reading (or speaking) English translations of six of her poems, followed by the original poems in Dutch, at Letterenhuis in Antwerp in December 2018: first ‘Bucharest’ (‘Boekarest’); then ‘Bull's head’ (‘Stierenkop’), drawing on the opening of ‘Poultry specialists’ (Speciaalzaak poelier’) for its introduction; followed by ‘Laundromat de Netezon’ (‘Wasserette de Netezon’), ‘Groceries Soft Drinks Spirits & Tobacco’ (‘Algemene voeding fris drank sterk drank & tabac’), and ‘Hvannadalshnúkur’. Five of the poems are from Chameleon while ‘Groceries Soft Drinks Spirits & Tobacco’ is from Nachtroer. The English translations used here are by Astrid Alben and Michele Hutchison and were previously published by Versopolis, Poetry International and Banipal.