Three poems from Dutch by Herman De Coninck, Translated by Laure-Anne Bosselaar


Choose me.  Choose me out of the whole population
of the world.  You can hesitate a little
about other guys,

but then choose me.

Worldly wisdom no one really wants,
old uncle Louie’s jokes, rumors,
put your arms around this,

it’s yours.  You can have it all.

I’ll have you, get to have you every day,
and may even love your daughter.
Let’s marry—all of us.


She bravely holds
her happiness up—
and her breasts.  Her temper’s

wired like a bra.

He’s composed of joyful
ha-ha’s, but for years
he’s locked his passion behind bars:
the stripes of his pajamas.


See how Melinda sleeps holding
her breasts in her arms like two blond
children, and not far away
sleeps her oldest—with the black
curls. Why would Melinda
want children, her body
is a whole family.


Kijk hoe Melinda slaapt met d’r
borsten in d’r armen als twee blonde
kinderen.  En even verderop
slaapt haar oudste met de zwarte
krullen.  Waarom zou Melinda
kinderen willen,  d’r lichaam

is een heel gezin. 

—Herman de Coninck
from The Plural of Happiness (Oberlin College Press)
(transl. L.A. Bosselaar & Kurt Brown)
1994-02-15 Antwerpen portret van Herman de Coninck (1944-1997)

Herman De Coninck (1944–1997), poet, essayist, and critic, was editor of the Flemish weekly magazine Humo and the literary magazine Nieuw Wereld Tijdschrift. The author of many collections of poetry, his work includes Onbegonnen werk (Hopeless Task, 1984), Enkelvoud (Singular, 1991), Schoolslag (Breaststroke, 1994), and the posthumously published Vingerafdrukken (Fingerprints). Kurt Brown and Laure-Anne Bosselaar translated a selection of his poems entitled The Plural of Happiness,  with a foreword by Charles Simic — Oberlin College Press, Field Translation Series (2006)  

(Permissions granted by Herman de Coninck’s spouse,  Kristien Hemmerechts, 2005 as well as from the publisher Arbeidspers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Laure-Anne Bosselaar is the author of The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, Small Gods of Grief, winner of the Isabella Gardner Prize for Poetry for 2001, and of A New Hunger, an ALA Notable Book. Four Way Books published her latest collection: These Many Rooms. Her poetry was featured on Poetry Daily, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day and in reviews such as Orion, Georgia Review, Five Points, Ploughshares, and Harvard Review. A Pushcart Prize recipient, she was awarded the James Dickey Poetry Prize for 2020.  She is the editor of five anthologies, and taught at Emerson College,  Sarah Lawrence College, UCSB, and is a member of the founding faculty at the Solstice Low Residency MFA.  She served as Santa Barbara’s Poet Laureate from 2019 to 2021.

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