Rod Jellema

Tjitte Piebenga

Rod Jellema Translates Tjitte Piebenga

Poetry in Translation Issue
Volume 16:3, Summer 2015

Autumn House

the rooms with music
are closed the copper path
has strangled shut
autumn is lying
on windowsills

the garden slowly
takes off its clothes
how red just then
was her skirt
at the windows
the nightfrost waits
the pond gets covered

stone-cold stairway
without a runner
looking glass which doesn’t
hang there

the back door sleeps
in its hinges
autumn drags itself
through spidersilk
and slowly
the gutter drips


Hjerstich hûs

de keamers mei muzyk
bin sletten it paad
it koperen waachst ticht
hjerst leit yn
de finsterbanken

de tún klaait har
stadich út
hoe read wie doe
har rôk
oan de ruten wachtet
de nachtfroast de
fiver berint

stienkâlde trep
sûnder loper
spegel dy’t
der net hinget

de efterdoar sliept
yn de skoattels hjerst
rint tige wurch oer
it reach
stadich dript
de goatte


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.


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

Tjitte Piebenga (1935-2007) was a school teacher who wrote poetry, prose, translations, polemics and criticism. In the fifties and sixties, he held an uneasy position between poets of tradition and poets of experiment, and this left him at the time as an outsider in literary circles. His early poetry was based on associative sound patterns ("poésie pure"), a style he dropped in his later work. In Myn sêftgrien famke ("My soft green girl," 1977) the poet's multi-faceted addresses to a girl weave stunning complexities. Piebenga's collected works appeared posthumously in 2011, signaling a renewed interest in his work and his place in Frisian literature.