Jacques Perk (1859-1881)

Jacques Perk died young, but gained a lasting reputation as a poet through the authoritative editor of De Spectator Carel Vosmaer, and the poet Kloos. Willem Kloos edited Perk's poems only a year after his death, with an introduction that has become known in Dutch literary history as ‘the poetic programme of the Eighties Movement’. Perk introduced himself to Kloos on 15 May 1880 in Kalverstraat, Amsterdam. Kloos, being slightly older, had been one year above him at the same secondary school, and had already published his poems. Perk told him that he was also writing poems, and Kloos's request to see them marks the beginning of a poetic friendship. However, in April 1881 they broke off relations.

Of Perk's last poem Iris as many as seven states have been preserved. The first version, ‘a folded, creased, torn and glued-together rough draft’ (Stuiveling) is reproduced here on the opposite page, showing Perk's changes in the opening lines of Iris. The oldest version is written at the top left: ‘I was begotten by sunbeams hot and a sigh from the surging sea’. The second line was then changed into: ‘and a vaporous sigh of the sea.'

Iris is a poem on the unattainableness of one's beloved. Whenever Iris (the rainbow) wants to kiss Zephyr (the west wind) he disappears. Perk based his poem on Shelley's *The Cloud *for its form and metric structure, but the contents was based on his own emotions and his (unrequited) love.

After Perk's death Kloos tried to obtain the poetic legacy of his lost friend. It has been said that the torn rough draft of Iris was due to Kloos's outburst of anger when the rift with Perk took place. However that may be, we owe the preservation of the Perk manuscripts that are now in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek to Kloos. After his death they became state property in 1939, under a financial arrangement made with Kloos when he was living in utterly sad and destitute circumstances.

Iris. Jacques Perk (1859-1881). [Amsterdam], 1881. Paper, 205 x 164 mm. 69 F 6

Iris. Jacques Perk (1859-1881). [Amsterdam], 1881. Paper, 205 x 164 mm. 69 F 6


G. Stuiveling. De wording van Perks 'Iris'. Zwolle 1963.