If the city of Rotterdam would be a person, it would be Jules Deelder. Mysterious, raw and always unapologetically authentic. Jules Deelder is a Dutch poet from Rotterdam known by many people. The city of Rotterdam is deeply woven into his identity, from the way he talks to the way he writes! In Rotterdam there are several little poems and phrases of his made into public art pieces, here are my favorite three (and the rest you can go discover yourself)!
If you ever spot him, you’ll know it’s him. He’s known for sporting an all-black suit, black slicked-back hair and snazzy glasses. Fitting with his dark and gloomy appearance he’s also known to be the night mayor of Rotterdam, I’m not sure what this position means, but it sounds cool. Next to writing poetry, he also writes theater plays and prose (and a comic book!). And he’s a musician.
A neon gem
This short poem can be found at Nieuwe Binnenweg, and is especially beautiful at night as the words are written in blue neon lights. I bike on the Nieuwe Binnenweg very often, and I love looking up to see this pretty poem when passing by. It roughly translates to the environment of mankind if fellow mankind, which I think is a beautiful sentence. However it’s better in Dutch, as poetry is often too specific to its native language to properly translate. Even if you don’t know what it means the Dutch language can still be nice to look at, and this poem is a great example of the simplicity and straightforwardness of the Dutch language.
The next poem is called Rotown Magic and comes from the poetry collection ‘Vrijwel alle gedichten’ written by Deelder. The poem is about the character of the city of Rotterdam, and how it’s a no bullshit, take it as it is kind of city. To me this is so true to the nature of the city, as I feel it’s so confident in its own identity, and never tries to be any prettier than it is. There’s beauty in its ugly, and this poem celebrates this characteristic of Rotterdam. The poem, fittingly, can be found on an ordinary green fence at the Proveniersstraat, no bells and whistles needed.
This last poem is my all time favorite. I see this poem nearly every day since Coolhaven is the metro station closest to me (and I’m often too lazy to bike, especially when it’s raining). The poem is a brilliant play on the name Coolhaven, turning it into Coolheaven and stating that for the first time heaven is accessible by metro for everyone. To me having a clever and uplifting poem like this on my way is such a nice little surprise to start or end your day with.
These are my favorites, but there are some more of his poems to be found in Rotterdam. And there are probably some that I don’t even know of! So don’t be shy to visit these, but also go on your own adventure and try to find them all. Honestly I’m very smitten by Jules Deelder, as I love Rotterdam and he is the personification of the city. He always knows how to beautifully capture the city’s spirit in the most truthful way.
For more spots in Rotterdam, check out our Rotterdam city blog.