A lament for the loss of tradition and ties to the land, in the language of one of Europe’s most deeply rooted peoples, the Frisians. Richard van der Laan‘s description at Vimeo is worth quoting at length:
In Fryslân there is a cultural-historical competition to find the first lapwing egg of the year. This visual poem captures the spirit of a tradition, which is bound for extinction.
I made this film in admiration of my father. When I was a little boy he took me into the meadows to find eggs. I still remember the beauty of the landscape, the sound of the birds and the excitement when we found eggs. Sadly we never found the first egg. I also remember the cold of the wind and tired feelings in my small legs. Often asking my father to carry me on his back.
DISCLAIMER: No real eggs were harmed during the making of this film. We only used empty egg shells. My father stopped collecting eggs years ago.
Gathering lapwing eggs is prohibited by the European Union, but Fryslân (a northern province of the Netherlands) was granted an exception for cultural-historical reasons. The Frisian exception was removed in 2005 by a court, which determined that the Frisian executive councillors had not properly followed procedure. As of 2006 it is again allowed to look for lapwing eggs between 1 March and 9 April, though harvesting those eggs is now forbidden.
Lapwings belong in meadows. The name lapwing describes the sound its broad wings make when in flight. Lapwings are also known as peewits, thanks to their shrill call. They are very vocal during mating season and have glorious courting rituals in the air. In the spring, the male makes several simple hollows in the ground and the female chooses one to make brood her eggs in. Both males and females brood the eggs and care for the chicks. Should their nest with chicks be threatened, they will defend their young with all their might. Sometimes, you see them flying after a harrier, constantly attacking the raptor. If it really gets serious, they will pretend to have a broken wing, luring the predator away from the nest.
The Frisian languages are a closely related group of Germanic languages, spoken by about 500,000 members of Frisian ethnic groups, who live on the southern fringes of the North Sea in the Netherlands and Germany. The Frisian languages are the second closest living languages to English, after Scots.
Filmed at Vegelinsoord (West Frisian: Vegelinsoard) a small village in Skarsterlân in the province Fryslân of the Netherlands.
Camera / Production : Richard van der Laan
Egg collector : Hans van der Laan
Poem writer / reading : Siem de Vlas
Sound recording : Richard van der Laan
Sound design : Maarten Boogerman
Siem de Vlas, a landscape architect as well as a poet, also provided the reading in a previous Frisian-language poetry film by Richard van der Laan, It Noarderland (The Northern Land), for a poem by Durk van der Ploeg.
Richard van der Laan‘s “visual arrangement of Frisian poetry on moving canvas.” The reading is by Siem de Vlas, a Frisian landscape architect who also appears in the film, “working in his studio and visiting the grave of the famous dutch landscape architect Lucas Pieters Roodbaard (1782 – 1851),” as the description on Vimeo puts it. Here’s the original text of Durk van der Ploeg’s poem. As someone of (distant) Frisian ancestry, I was happy to find this videopoem.
A short documentary about contemporary Frisian poet Tsead Bruinja from the German broadcasting company Deutsche Welle.
A video of Bruinja reciting one of his poems, “Darling no one knows about the previous lives,” with English subtitles. This is from Wyld Hynder (Wild Horse) films, according to the info on YouTube.
Here’s Bruinja reading a poem called “‘Sy wennet yn in baarnend hûs” — “She lives in a burning house.” This was produced by the Omrop Fryslân broadcasting company. Bruinja includes an English translation by David Colmer on the YouTube page:
she lives in a burning house
every storm takes a tile from the roof
it’s cold her teeth chatter
someone outside thinks up new rules for traffic
an old man cycles on
newspapers stuffed under his clothes
she walks out with a basket full of washing
black sheets black blankets black
pillowcase she sees the fields are burning too
no point in going out
it’s better back inside the walls
flames dancing on his portrait
letters fall unasked through the door
rustling down not reaching the mat her cat
jumps onto her lap with a vegetable desire
to be stroked she pours more meths
over the photo albums wipes
the ash from her glasses and reads
and reads and reads
Some more English translations of Bruinja’s work may be found on Poetry International Web, though according to the translators’ notes, they were based on the author’s own translations into Dutch. (Bruinja also writes and has published poetry in Dutch.)