Ted van Lieshout responded to the question »why poetry?« by saying: »The great thing about poetry is that, of course, I determine what poetry is.« Among the most wilful authors of literature for children and young people in the Netherlands, the graphic artist, poet and prose writer was born in Eindhoven in 1955. He studied illustration and graphic design at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, worked for various publishing houses and began making illustrations for the children’s newspaper »De Blauw Geruite Kiel« in 1982. In 1986 van Lieshout’s first books were published, including the collection of poems for children »Van verdriet kun je grappige hoedjes vouwen« (t: You can fold sorrow into funny hats), which won the Vlag en Wimpel in 1987. His poetry collections, short stories and novels, plays, song lyrics, radio plays and screenplays soon followed.
Van Lieshout has a remarkable palette of modes of expression in his command. By designating his works as »literature and art galleries«, he turns them into uncompromisingly unique objects in concept and execution. »There is not much of a difference between a poem and a drawing. One starts with a blank sheet of paper on which something has to come into existence. One draws words with lines or one writes with lines a drawing«. His provocative poetry for young readers, which does not make use of any familiar poetic forms beyond lines and stanzas, revolve around the conflicting emotions of becoming an adult and searching for security and identity. His picture book of poetry, »Mama! Waar heb jij het geluk gelaten?« (2005; t: Mum! Where have you put the happiness?), is representative of his claim to a »synthesis of the arts«. It was awarded the Silver Brush in 2006. In it van Lieshout collects poems in the form of crossword puzzles about the loss of the father and the heartfelt relationship between mother and son, as well as poems about parrotfish, about night time and happiness, and even a sonnet composed of triangles, squares, circles and rectangles. He uses photographs, computer graphics and pen and ink drawings as illustrations, whose background and development he explains at the end of the book. The young adult novel »Gebr.« (1996; Eng. »Brothers«, 2001) is one of van Lieshout’s most popular prose works. It has been published in several languages and was awarded the German Youth Literature Prize in 1999. With emotional density and melancholic humour it tells of love, death and the fear of admitting to being different.
With book projects spanning the genres, such as the essay »Stil leven: een tetoonstelling« (1998; t: Still life: an exhibition), the series of art books »Papieren museum« (2002 et seq; t: Paper museums) or the counting book »3« (2007), which he created for the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, van Lieshout continues pushing the boundaries of literature for children and young people. His multi-faceted work has received the Premio Pier Paolo Vergerio (1993), the Golden Brush (1995) and the Nienke van Hichtumprijs (2001). Van Lieshout lives in Amsterdam.
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