Nederland Vertaalt - translation competition

On 19 March I attended the Nederland Vertaalt event in Amsterdam. My translation of 'Tot besluit' by Menno Wigman had been shortlisted in the Dutch to English category. To my surprise and delight, I won!

Here's my effort:


I know the cheerlessness of copy shops,

of hollow men with yellowing papers,

bespectacled mums with redirection labels,

the smell of payment slips, utility bills,

tax returns and tenancy agreements,

those wisps of ink that tell us we exist.

And I’ve seen suburban sprawl, green and bleak,

where people are dying to be seen as people,

the street a flawless facsimile of a street.

Who are they copying? Who is it I’m copying?

Mother, father, world, DNA,

look at you, basking in your given name,

your head full of cleverly borrowed dreams

of promotion, sprogs and wads of money.

And I, yapping in my home of verse,

if only I had something new, something new to say.

Light. Heaven. Love. Disease. Death.

I know the cheerlessness of copy shops.

To read the original poem and all five shortlisted translations (as well as the jury report - in Dutch), go to