Flemish literature. – The turbulent climate of the 1960s has manifested itself in the literature with a plethora of small magazines, each more aggressive than the other. There has been a polarization between an idea of literature as a political, ideological and social commitment and an aesthetic aimed at the autonomy of the work of art. The small magazines did not produce big names, but they triggered new trends, new realism in poetry and writing-reflection in prose. This has had the upper hand, while, compared to the previous decade, poetry has played a secondary role.
Poetry. – According to directoryaah, two poets have achieved widespread popularity: A. van Wilderode and H. de Coninck. The first, which began in 1943, is inscribed in the traditional line: after the war it had launched a message that supported a synthesis between Greek wisdom and Christian charity (Najaar van Hellas, 1947, “Autumn of Hellas”).
Without going further on the path of philosophical poetry, he created a limpid and communicative poetry, which places the destiny of man between fragility and eternity, in the midst of delicate and subtly melancholic Flemish and Mediterranean landscapes (Dorp zonder ouders, 1978, “Paese senza avi “; De overoever, 1981,” The shore of the afterlife “); translator of Virgil’s entire work, he is at the same time a renewal of the poetry of actuality, of circumstance, of struggle. In the traditional context we should mention H. van Herreweghen, Chr. D’Haen, L. Rens, W. Haesaert, Gwij Mandelinck, A. van Assche, who are however not insensitive to the contemporary research of new languages.
The other poet in vogue, H. de Coninck, is linked to the new realism, which he was among the first to triumph with De lenige liefde (1969, “L’amore mild”). The first signs of this movement can be seen in the magazine Ruimten (“Spazi”, 1961-73) and was later supported by others such as Yang (1963-), Kreatief (1966-) and Revolver (1968-). It originates from American pop art, from the new realism in the plastic arts and from the protest atmosphere of the 1960s.
Disdaining experimentalism, this movement turns to everyday reality seen with an astonished eye and expressed in an accessible language although not devoid of poetic appeal, in an attempt to build a bridge to the reader in society. Some poets, like St. van den Bremt, move on to political commitment or, like E. van Vliet, to humanistic commitment; instead R. Jooris reduces words and things to the essential, while P. Lasoen cannot give up a pinch of imagination. As for de Coninck, of a tender and melancholy nature, he distances himself from his feelings and problems with a facetious tone and a stylized speech, which seeks the unexpected, well-situated word. It is curious how his works, while aiming at the rehabilitation of reality, end up building, thanks to a versification that certainly does not appear refined, a reality of its own. In Met een klank van hobo (1980, “To the sound of the oboe”) and De hectaren van het geheugen (1985, “The hectares of memory”) emotion is barely held back.
At its peak, around 1975, the new realism is attacked by an opposite trend, neo-experimentalism: the revenge of poetics based on linguistic data and on the exploratory character of poetry is supported by the magazines Morgen (1967-72, “Domani”) and Impuls (“Impulso”, 1969-79, manifesto launched in 1975) and is represented, among others, by L. van den Brande, L. Nolens, D. Christiaens, R. de Neef, A. Reniers, W Adams, M. Bartosik and the poet of metaphor and avid anti-realist theorist H. Speliers. At the extreme of the avant-garde, concrete poetry, visual or auditory, loses its power of attraction after the closure of the magazine De Tafelronde (“The round table”) and the death (1982) of its animator, P. de Vree. Instead, a neo-romantic current is making its way, first with the dandy aesthetes N. van Bruggen, P. Conrad, H. Fl. Jespers, then with some young people struck by the nostalgia released by the climate of failure following the revolutionary start of 1968: the the former cultivate a decadent spirit and a mannered style, the others flee reality in the absolute, in the dream, in the ego and delight in tenderness, sadness, the inaccessible, like J. T’Hooft, L. Gruwez, E Verpale. In the Eighties, neo-romanticism no longer attempts the very remarkable beginnings of St. Hertmans, E. Spinoy and Ch. Ducal, representatives of the new generation.