Saturday, 28 February 2015

The longest poem in the world and the longest 3-word poem in the world

Let's pretend this is a section of a job interview. Currently my greatest weakness is that I don't know the Dutch language well enough to fully appreciate Dutch poetry. This is a most critical gap in my daily human experience. When I see a street name I cannot recognize its poetic qualities. When I hear people's conversation on trains or buses I cannot convert these lines into songwriting or cabaret, I wouldn't know where to start. I don't recognize puns. I don't know what is an inherently funny word and what is a sad one and what is both.

It is with this weakness in mind that I come to approach the longest poem in the world, situated right here in Rotterdam. That is, funnily enough, not a poetic metaphor for a unique relationship between the city and space-time. The single longest piece of poetry in the entire world is literally, physically, situated in Rotterdam. It is about 900 metres long. 

The poem is "Voor Ari" by Rotterdam's Jules Deelder. It was written for his then-new-born daughter, Ari,  in 1985. The poem is placed along tiled walls of the pedestrian/biking path of the Beneluxtunnel that crosses the Maas from underneath, between Vijfsluizen and Pernis. Today I have walked through the tunnel and back. The above photo is what it looks like on the inside. These following photos were taken at its entrance. The full text of the poem, together with translations from A View From the Cycle Path, is also posted below.


Lieve Ari   
Wees niet bang   

De wereld is rond   
en dat istie al lang

De mensen zijn goed   
de mensen zijn slecht   

Maar ze gaan allen   
dezelfde weg   

Hoe langer je leeft   
hoe korter het duurt   

Je komt uit het water          
en gaat door het vuur   

Daarom lieve Ari   
Wees niet bang   

De wereld draait rond
en dat doettie nog lang 
Dear Ari
Don’t be afraid

The world is round
and it has been for long

The people are good
the people are bad

But they all go
the same road

The longer you live
the shorter it takes

You come from the water
and go through the fire

Therefore dear Ari
Don’t be afraid

The world turns around
 and it will do for long

If we are being critically precise, I must mention that I've seen some internet sources claimed this poem to be the world's longest poem, but there is not a Guinness World Record or anything like that so it's not a status approved by an international authority. Anyhow it is not a very meaningful title (internationally approved or otherwise) because there's no definitive measurement when it comes to anything poetic. I can write a 3-word poem, for example, and physically place one word in the Netherlands, one in Belgium and one in Luxembourg. When I connect the 3 words in an imaginary straight line, that will probably be a pretty long line, thus making it physically a very long poem. But I don't suppose this imaginary long line should be very meaningful for me or the poem's readers (unless the 3 locations where the words are placed have specific meanings in themselves!) (wow jesus christ i think I just came up with a geo-poetic smartphone app idea).

Forget the app idea for now. I liked the 3-word poem idea. The poetic urban experience is supposed to be playful-constructive, and when I go somewhere I also want to make something. I have, therefore, written the world's longest 3-word poem, placed alongside the world's longest poem, spanning across the Beneluxtunnel. One word I've placed at the beginning of the tunnel, one word in the middle and one near the end. You may be glad to find that these are not 3 words of a specific psycho-emo-romcom selection (I should stop milking this sensitivity before it tires me out) My poem is as follows:

I decided not to leave this poem at the location but to bring it home. I'm keeping it on the map on my door for now. This is, at the moment, a regular 3-word poem that was once the longest 3 word poem in the world. It is also in this practice that I present my second-greatest weakness: When I don't have an emotional grasp of the situation (notice how I didn't comment on Deelder's actual poem due to language barrier etc) I often choose to distract myself by making my own (mostly irrelevant) poetry and/or other creative work. I think this habitual evasive action does not build a sustainable relationship between my emotions and the environment. But it does produce art that I feel okay about. 

Does this answer your question?

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