Campus poet Thijs Kersten wants to write poetry everybody understands

23 Jun 2023

The new campus poet Thijs Kersten wants to show what is happening on campus in a language that everyone can understand. He plans to translate his work into English and to write poems that do not just appeal to literature fans. ‘I want people to listen to my poetry and understand what I mean.’

Creative jack-of-all-trades Thijs Kersten is co-founder of the Radboud Creative Collective, published a book, was the village poet of Heumen, and performed on a variety of poetry nights. And now, the job of campus poet of Radboud University has been added to that list. Kersten will supply the university and its students with poems and recitals for the upcoming academic year.

You have an impressive CV. Have you always been so into writing?

‘I have enjoyed writing since I was young, but I haven’t focused on poetry for that long. That changed when a friend took me to an open stage in my fifth year of high school. It did not go very smoothly; I forgot my lines and I was the only minor at an event where you need to have had at least three beers to have fun. But my poems were received very well nonetheless, and I was immediately asked for events like Stukafest and activities from Cultuur op de Campus.’

You were more focused on prose at first; you even published a book. Why did you make that change?

‘Writing always takes a lot of time. I started to focus more on poetry because it did not take as much time. I actually do too much – that is a confession, not an attempt to brag. A poem sometimes takes a couple of hours, a story takes a couple of months. I enjoyed writing poetry and I stuck to it because it is more dynamic. In poetry, you can explore heavy subjects in a light-hearted fashion. You have more freedom and can play more with language.’

‘I absolutely loathe rhyme schemes and metres’

Do you like to play with language and grammar because of your study in Classical Languages and Cultures?

‘Let me make myself clear in that I absolutely loathe rhyme schemes and metres. I know a lot about them, but they are not for me. I like to play more with sound and rhythm. My goal is to draw people into my poetry. I can do that because I know how to play with language and words to grasp the listener’s attention.’

What do you want to provide to the campus this upcoming year?

‘Campus poets often take a stance; either the campus is amazing, or it isn’t at all. I want to combine those perspectives. I do not want to provide unnuanced and oversimplified commentary on everything that bothers me about the university, for example its corporate culture, but I do want to voice the student perspective.

Besides that, I want to write poetry for everybody on campus. I plan to translate everything I write into English so internationals can read my work too. I think it is important that my poetry is accessible. As a campus poet, I write for the entire campus and not just for the literature freaks. I want people to listen to my poetry and understand what I mean.’

Translated by Milou Aluy-van der Meij

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