An epic poem about youth
by Herman Gorter
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Pub Date 26 May 2021 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2022
"The spring is new and new the sound it brings."
May describes the magical journey of adolescence against the background of Holland's flowery dunescapes. In brush strokes of wonder-filled impressions a stunningly unspoiled girl, May, explores the promise of springtime and the intense spiritual life of youth. However, the cycle of life always moves on, and as May matures and returns to earth, she finds it readying for summer.
When Herman Gorter published Mei (May) in 1889, this spontaneous and vibrant epic poem was immediately recognized by his peers as a landmark of Dutch literature. Inspired in part by John Keats' Endymion (1818), the poem touches upon a wide range of themes, including the innocence and wonder of childhood, the hubris and disillusionment of adolescence, unattainable divine love and the inevitability of transience, The work suggests that poetry itself may be the only way to preserve for eternity the essence of nature and of music.
Mei was perhaps an inevitable product of the artistically revolutionary and highly lucid spirit in The Netherlands of the 1880s. While Gorter's contemporary, Vincent van Gogh, had just completed the groundbreaking Sunflowers series of paintings, Gorter succeeded with Mei in composing his own artistic monument of innovative and colourful power.
The reader is drawn almost breathlessly onward through magnificent word-groups ... The result is a gripping story full of surprising turns of phrase ... Before you know it, you'll be reading it out loud! - Lloyd Haft, prizewinning poet and translator
This thoughtful, lyrical translation will stir the imagination and invite consideration of what makes the heart sing, even if the joy, like May, is only temporary. The poem, though, will endure. - Editor's Pick, BookLife
The translation has been done meticulously ... with an intensity of language which reveals intuitive clarity of vision and profound empathy ... I recommend that you begin this journey without loss of time. - Anne Walter, editor, ex. Birmingham University
Translating Mei, the epic poem by Herman Gorter, requires musicality ... A great achievement by [translator] Kruijff, with lots of inventive rhyme. It is possible! - Arjan Peters, Dutch literary critic
May has been published in illustrated, bilingual and annotated hardcover edition in The Netherlands and Belgium on 24 March 2021, and has been advertised locally through a press release, mailings to bookstores, freecards and Facebook ad campaigns,
It has been pre-published in the United States as ebook and paperback in English-only, revised edition as of 26 May 2021. Marketing is through reviews, mailings to bookstores and Facebook ad campaigns.
May will be published in illustrated edition in the UK with Stour Valley Publishing, autumn 2021. At the same time, we hope to publish an exciting new translation of Selected Poems of Herman Gorter.
A reading of May and some Selected Poems as an audiobook by performance artist Simon Mulder is under preparation, and readings of Gorter's work in the UK are in the works for 2022. See https://bit.ly/3BHRmgv
Please contact us for venue offerings.
Average rating from 21 members
You might expect that to read a poem over 150 pages long would be a grueling undertaking. I suppose if you hate poetry and clever wordplay and beautiful symbolism and gentle syllables, it would be a terrible experience. However, if you enjoy even one of these things and are committed to reading the entirety of section 2 in one sitting, you'll likely be delighted by this book. I was continually surprised and delighted by the intricate word choices and the foamy imagery. I'll never think of the month of May quite the same way again.
This story envelopes you in a cocoon of May. You get lost in her tale and of the tale of the one who loves her most. Vivid sceneries transport you across the springtime and beyond, telling the tale of the rise and fall of "May". A most enjoyable tale in verse.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for approving me for this arc!
I really enjoyed this book, the writing technique was fabulous. The way it was written was beautiful.
I would really recommend this book if you want to feel fully immersed into something
AD // Gifted • Thank you very much to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
As a translator myself, I know the struggle of translating poetry, and keeping the same tone and message as the original. Although I do not speak Dutch, so have not read “May” in its original language, this edition is well crafted, delicate and full of life.
Strong visual imagery is used throughout the poem, alongside an AABB rhyme scheme and an iambic pentameter. I do not know the original poem’s internal meter, but I do know that it had the same AABB rhyme scheme, and transferring a poem’s initial rhyme scheme into a translation is a feat extremely hard to accomplish.
The world of “May” is so intricately interwoven with Norse mythology. I adore mythology, so it was a welcome appearance! This is the first of Gorter’s work I have read or heard of, and his allegorical choices really demonstrated his skill level. I may explore more of his work, if translations are available.
My least favourite thing about this poem is it’s usage of enjambment. Instead of achieving a flowly effect (the usual goal of enjambment), at times it felt jagged and unnatural.
In conclusion, this poem is a beautiful epic of grief, life, death and youth. I am very pleased at the inclusion of an introduction and a synopsis, as it helped me appreciate the poem and understand certain elements of it. I think complex novels or poems sometimes need a synopsis, as to make them more accessible, which assists the reader’s own interpretations.
I would rate this 4 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Herman Gorter’s epic poem May is truly a hidden treasure for the English-speaking world. The writing style reflects a youthful vision of the world. There is an innocence that flows as smoothly as the waves on the beach. I am reminded of Whitman and getting peacefully lost in The Leaves of Grass. Here the flow is equally hypnotic. The reader will be drawn into the world of the poet, and time will pass without notice. As Monet painted, Gorter wrote.
Gorter poetry is on par with any poetry of the past. An equal amount of credit is due to the translation by Michiel Kruijff. Dutch is a complex language to translate into English and nearly impossible to translate into poetry while keeping both the original rhythm and meaning. Reading May, the typical English reader will not suspect this is a translated work. That truly reflects on the translator. A masterwork of poetry and translation.
Such a beautiful story wrote entirely in a poetic way. This prose is not to be missed. This wonderful story about a lady called may. It follows her birth, meeting a poet to her final days. I just love the poetry by this Danish poet and im so thankful that it has been translated into English for the first Time. The words of this story contains so much passion and so many wonderful feelings flowing through this words. It is so rare that you get to read the life of a woman through the delights of such emotive poetry. It is truly stunning and well worth reading. Im sure you will love it just as much as I did. I can't recommend it enough. I adored the 3 pictures that start each section. I would of loved to see more of these pictures throughout the book to give it that extra sense.
So much praise goes out to the author, translater and publishers for bringing us this magnificent piece of poetic work. I just can't wait to read more from this author and publishers.
The above review has already been placed on goodreads, waterstones, Google books, Barnes&noble, kobo, amazon UK where found and my blog https://ladyreading365.wixsite.com/website/post/may-by-herman-gorter-arimei-books-4-star under my name or ladyreading365 or lady Reading365 or ladyc reading
his book is everything poetry should be: beautiful, immersive, symbolic and a joy to the heart. It uses language like a paintbrush.
Gorter is arguably the Netherlands' greatest poet and despite this book being originally published in 1899, it is still the case. It's easy to see why.
The story is about a girl called May, the daughter of the sun and moon, as she moves through her life, particularly at the bloom of youth. The imagery is tied to the month of May with the vibrancy and newness of the summer season. It reads like a novel but in an elevated style, focusing on all of the senses but mostly sound and song. You can almost hear it, too.
Tying it altogether is nature and the landscape of flowers. To further enhance the experience are delicate images in the same style as the cover that are truly evocative. Absolutely stunning.
Written in three sections of rhyming couplets. the translation has not taken the feel of the poem away. All credit to M. Kruijff, the translator. A rich, stunning work that should be read by everyone who appreciates language.