Begin with that first word ‘Zie’. Strictly speaking it's an imperative but in this context it's more of an invitation for the beloved to look in the direction of the rueful, comically woebegone suitor, so should it be translated ‘see’ or is there another word that will convey the ‘look at me’ message? After that first hurdle and the colloquialisms that follow, we see in the third verse a sober plaint that the lover can't merge with the beloved because she is so deeply her own woman. Then, having sown the doubt that this might after all be a poem with a serious core, in the 4th and last verse we go back to the lovey-dovey speak of the inarticulate lover.
He's playing with us, isn't he? Everything from the light, tripping rhythm, to the rhyme scheme that isn't a formal rhyme scheme at all but relies on same-word and sound replication (which works beautifully in Dutch but can it be done in English?) is play - and as the best kind of play always does, it carries an intrinsic message. At the heart of Gorter's light, lyrical charm is the painful ‘ouch!’ of love, rejection and inarticulacy.
Of all the entries struggling to convey this amalgam of charm, froth and authentic sadness, we felt that those of the 1st prize winner Susan de Sola and runner-up Erik Honders came closest to the balancing act required to keep all these elements in the air — ‘light enfolds’ the beloved in de Sola's version where the lover simply ‘still cannot say it’ and Honders never loses simplicity and pace. Congratulations to both and to those others who made such honourable attempts at this difficult task.Kate Foley