Chapter 6 “The Rustling in the Trees Is / Not the Rustling in the Trees / It Is Your Voice”

Mystical Relationality and the Liquid Poetics of Postsecular Mourning in Joost Baars’s Binnenplaats [Enclosure] (2017)

In: Grief, Identity, and the Arts
Tijl Nuyts
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Confronted with the heart attack of his wife, the Dutch poet Joost Baars (°1975) noticed that he was furious. Although atheist at the time, he realized that he involuntarily directed his fury to a transcendent entity he did not believe in—and yet simultaneously called out to. Grief-stricken, he thereby established a connection with what he conceived of as the “unnameable nameable,” a relation that he would characterize in interviews as quintessentially “mystical.” The significance of this mystical relation not only manifested itself on a personal, but also on a lyrical level: in Baars’s first poetry collection, Binnenplaats [Enclosure] (2017), the poetic subject of the central cycle is equally confronted with the heart attack of its beloved and calls out to an elusive addressee. In public statements related to his debut, Baars has referred to this apostrophic relation between this You and the poetic subject as “mystical.” This contribution will study Baars’s mystical use of apostrophe in relation to the collective and participatory confrontation with grief in early 21st-century Dutch poetry, and to the uses of “liquid religion” in that context. To that end, I will study the apostrophic address in the first cycle of Binnenplaats in conjunction with the “mystical markers” it employs, while also looking into Baars’s self-presentation as a “mystical author.” These findings will be situated against recent “relational” concerns in contemporary Dutch literature, showing how Baars’ debut updates poetry for our postsecular times.

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Grief, Identity, and the Arts

A Multidisciplinary Perspective on Expressions of Grief

Series:  Death in History, Culture, and Society, Volume: 1


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