Poet or poetess – since the young non-binary Dutch girl does not choose between Marieke and Lucas – she had already published a poem to explain why she gave up translating the one that Amanda Gorman had read during Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, in the face of the controversy sparked in the Netherlands by a black journalist and activist over the choice of a white translator. For every weapon (miraculous, as Aimé Césaire wrote), Marieke Lucas Rijvaled wields her writing.

Thus, following the Texas school shooting and the debate over the American arms lobby, she wrote the poem “Self Defense”: the Dutch-speaking author (who signs it in the masculine) believes that voices must be raised, as many as possible, in the hope that everyone opposes this powerful lobby: in order for history to stop repeating itself, “it is necessary for us, humanity, to be his conscience, “says the one whose second novel, My beautiful animal, will be published in September by Buchet-Chastel, just like the first, Qui sème le vent, translated in 39 countries and which received the prestigious International Booker Prize. Both were translated into French by Daniel Cunin, who also signed the translation of the poem below.V.M.L.M.


What are the rules, the ten commandments and Thou shalt not kill,

all those presidents with promises like bulletproof vests?

what is the use of the law of self-defense when we know that in certain cases

the Self pushes askew and pursues not an animal but old evils?

Someone wrote: Let’s start by sweetening life rather than death.

The reverse also applies, because how to live more gently if

death keeps waiting for us, like a clown with a chainsaw,

worse: like the first comer who, with a detonation, shatters our world.

One day, with my fingers, I formed a gun, pressed the barrel

behind a classmate’s back shouting bang! bang ! what he did

laugh and say do you think a Thumper can scare a shooter? I knew

that he was right, I should have picked up the song and said beng! well!

So I dreaded the beginning of things more than the end, what happens to us through

surprise: a party, the first rays of the sun, letters from the taxman, blows

of distant friends; I know now that this is a privilege, I believed in

wrong, patient death, like a guest who waits all evening for the promised beer.

Sometimes it is said to fight evil with evil,

blow for blow, blade for blade, but no culprit would be as soon as

when brought to justice, no massacre averted, for I am certain:

the president who knows how to dry a parent’s tears is not yet born.

After getting the gun out of my fingers, I learned in high school,

in botany class, that it is necessary to attack the bad

weeds by the germ to eradicate them once and for all,

that the seed is inevitably at the beginning of every life, at the root.

What good are we to rules, what good is it to love if someone can with a gesture

turn off the light, what are all the historical chronicles and

we-will-never-be-like-this, what good are we to each other if

we forget (yes, we forget!) that our greatest weapon is speech?

Translated from Dutch by Daniel Cunin