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Oare Wurden

2016-05-20 13:20 —

To be a poet on the Frisian island Vlieland
written by Réaltán Ní Leannáin


'You must visit the islands', many people told me. Tresoar organized for me  to travel to the island of Vlieland. It gave me the chance to talk to Gerda Posthumus, the community poet of Vlieland.

Vlieland is a larger island than the ones in Ireland. Once it was connected to the rest of the Netherlands and the other outer islands between the Waddenzee and the North Sea. There has only been a Waddenzee over the last few hundred years. Before that? Soft and moist earth, and reed, and the marsh. The people living in the area built dry platforms, called ‘terpen'. These can still be seen on the mainland. Over time the wetlands were swallowed by the sea, gradually, becoming the ' Waddenzee ' ( Wadden + sea = sea of mud ). Even today the ferryboat disturbs the mud on the sea floor.

On the southeast side of the Island there is a small town, Oost-Vlieland, East Vlieland. West Vlieland, a former village on the other side of the island, was swallowed by the sea a long time ago.

At the south side of the island there is a dike around the land. The rest of the island has low hills and trees and numerous sand dunes and a long long beach. The music of birds is everywhere, the waves roar behind the dunes, peace; a balm to the heart.

Gerda Posthumus was born in Groningen. She grew up in The Hague and Scheveningen, near the North Sea. After marrying a man from the island, she spent nineteen years on the island. A few years ago she was chosen to be the island's community poet. She started writing in 2006. She was previously a nurse. She uses poetry as a tool to explain the world around her. According to her, there is a connection between writing poetry and life on the island. Poetry is a small world itself, like an island. Nature is important for her poetry, she says.

Gerda was afraid of the sea when she was a child. The sea was too open, too big for the little girl. But now she is an island woman and she uses these feelings in her poetry, as well as the sea as metaphor -  it is a wild animal that is not controllable. The island helps her to reflect her poetry. She often walks through the woods and down the beach. 'You are seen all the time', Gerda says. There is no place to go on the island for you to hide. She thinks that the island life makes her poetry sharper and smarter. It must be so. She tells of how she wrote a poem metaphorically based on an incident between herself and the local professional.This caused a furore among the 'white collar' class of the island, but because the person in the poem was anonymous and based on metaphor, there was nothing they could do. The poem stood. I don't know how she gets along with the professional class on the island now, though ...

The sea, the woods and the roar of the long sandy beach create music in me, I must say . It reminds me of home. It showed me I found joy in the elements, and in the environment.

After a few days inside the island, I had to go back to Leeuwarden. The boat comes into the Frisian city of Harns/Harlingen. Ships' masts on the sea, ships' masts in the canals, woven throughout the fabric of the town and nestled in among the houses.