Ode to all street poets

With well-chosen words, they sketch a city’s soul. Is there anyone who doesn’t look at wall poems? Or who can’t be charmed by a poetic motto on the street? Urban poets bring a splash of colour to the day, give depth and reflection to fast-paced city life.

Passion for the Zaan

Bas Husslage has been the Zaanstad city poet since January 2011. He enjoys using poetry to brighten up public space. “As city poet you are a kind of chronicler. Poems capture the spirit of the age and add a sense of contemplation to the city. As soon as poems appear in public space, they bring something extra to it. Especially when it’s only temporary. One of my first poems is about Hemmes, an undeveloped island in the Zaan. Thanks to sponsorship I was able to get the ‘Gotcha!’ poem printed on canvas. I then mounted it on a metal frame and placed it on the island. The poem was a call for temporary use of the space, and it’s great that in the meantime the city council has looked at even more initiatives which could take place on Hemmes. As city poet, I’ve also written a poem for the first anniversary of the famous Inntel Hotel Amsterdam Zaandam. It’s already been very favourably received. It’s good to hear that my poems resonate with people in the Zaan.”

Crying at
Rotterdams station

Work on the new Rotterdam Central Station is well underway. It’s hard to believe that there was once another building there. Peter Hopman Peter Hopman of Bureau Lakenvelder paid tribute to the old station. “It was lovely and wide and had a magnificent hall with a large glass facade. It was designed by Sybold van Ravesteyn. I must say I was a bit sad about the demolition plans. Many of Van Ravesteyn’s buildings have perished. He is Holland’s most-demolished architect. Fortunately, his ‘Blijdorp’ [Rotterdam zoo] is still standing. All of a sudden one day I saw poetry in the letters that form the words ‘Centraal Station’. You could, as a farewell to the station, also make the words ‘Traan laten’ (‘Crying’) out of them. It took two years before I could get the project done, but in 2007 – the year that work began on the new building – the letter change took place. And the great thing is: the old letters will be returned to the new station. I’m now working on a new project. I want to post a quote by Benjamin Franklin on the HIWA building in Benjamin Franklin Street. That building will bear the slogan ‘Well done is better than well said.’”