Tsjêbbe Hettinga

Rod Jellema

Rod Jellema Translates Tsjêbbe Hettinga

Poetry in Translation Issue
Volume 16:3, Summer 2015

Song of Songs

may the third 19seventytwo
a gentle swirling of grass-smell
drives through my green-bleeding blood
wind and sea strutting through my senses

in light that’s hard to hold
I can take or leave the landscape
while trees jauntily
break the distances

therefore I retreat
among the little larks
and brush the strings
from space that i
play into sound
in my closet of silence
sounds which the tides & time at long last
let go



de tredde maeije 19twaënsawntich
twingt in twirre fan gêrsrook
troch myn grien-bliedend bloed
wyn en sinne túgjend troch myn sinnen

yn it amper to tillen ljocht
lapje ik it lânskip oan myn learzens
wylst beammen bylkjend
de fierten brekke

dêrom bijow ik my wer
ûnder de lytste ljurken
en span ik de snaren
fan de romte dy’t ik
ta klank spylje
yn myn kast fan stilte
dy’t de tiid lang om let
los lit


Original text of poem in the Frisian language is copyrighted in the Netherlands,© 1985 and 1989, Fryske Akademy, Ljouwert. Used by permission. English translation is from Rod Jellema, bilingual books Country Fair, Poems from Friesland Since 1945 and The Sound that Remains: a Historical Collection of Frisian Poetry ©Rod Jellema, 1985, 1990.


Tsjêbbe Hettinga (1949-2013) is probably Fryslân's most famous present-day poet. His sonorous performances as a reader have attracted numerous audiences abroad, even those with no knowledge of the Frisian language, reminding them of Dylan Thomas. Hettinga, since his debut in 1970 as a romantic poet of love and death, creates wide-spun metaphors from seas and winds and coastlands—the coasts of Fryslân, but also those of Wales, Greece, the Caribbean and America. A performance at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1993 and his fifth volume of poetry marked his international breakthrough, assuring him of Dutch and English translations which included CD-recordings of his readings. In 2001 he was awarded the Gysbert Japicxpriis for Fan oer see en fierder.

Rod Jellema is Professor Emeritus at the University of Maryland, where he was the founding director of the Creative Writing Program. He is the author of five books of poems, most recently Incarnality: The Collected Poems (Eerdmans, 2010). He met and studied the language of his forbears by editing and translating two Frisian-English bilingual books, The Sound that Remains (Eerdmans, 1990), and Country Fair (Eerdmans, 1985). He is the only American to have been awarded Fryslân's highest literary award, the Pieter Jelles Prize. Jellema has been twice awarded writer's fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. To read more by this author: Audio Issue, Memorial Issue, Jellema on Ezra Pound, Five Poems, Volume 3:1, Winter 2002