Vroman, Leo

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VROMAN, LEO (1915– ), Dutch poet and biologist. Born in Gouda, Vroman fled to England when the Germans invaded Holland and then spent the war years in the Dutch East Indies. In 1945 he went to the U.S., where he worked as an animal physiologist until he retired. After a stay in New Jersey he settled in New York. In 1938 he became engaged to Tineke Sanders. Separated during wwii, they married in 1947, one day after their reunion. She played a colorful role in his poetry and prose ever since. Vroman has a unique place in Dutch experimental poetry, his language – a mixture of colloquial and extremely sophisticated speech – being notable for a biological terminology that creates surrealistic effects. His best-known works are Gedichten (1946), written between 1942 and 1945, and Gedichten, vroegere en latere (1949), poetry of the years 1935–40 in Holland, of 1940–41 in the Dutch East Indies, and of 1946–48 in the U.S. Memories of his youth were expressed in the epic poem Inleiding tot een leegte (1955); war experiences in De adem van Mars (1956); and the secret of life and death in De Ontvachting (1960). Much of Vroman's verse is included chronologically in the prize-winning collection 126 Gedichten (1964). Vroman also composed English verse, collected in Poems in English (1953). His prose works include the short story Tineke (1948), and the collection Snippers van Leo Vroman (1958). He further published diary notes under the title Vroeger donker dan gisteren. Herfstdagboek (Amsterdam 2004). Of particular note are his letters from the U.S.: Brieven uit Brooklyn (1975). His collected poetry appeared in 1985, Gedichten 1948–1984 (Amsterdam), a feat that by no means signified the end of his activity as a poet. He published new volumes almost every year, such as Psalmen en andere gedichten (Amsterdam 1995). Leo Vroman's gifts were not confined to literature – he was a fine artist, and throughout his work his poems were regularly accompanied by subtle drawings.


J. Kuijper, Het Vroman-effect: over leven en werk van Leo Vroman (1990); B.J. Peperkamp, Over de dichtkunst: een lezing met demonstraties (1995); H.U. Jessurun d'Oliveira, Het gedicht als wereld. Essays over Lucebert, Leo Vroman en Rutger Kopland (2003).

[Gerda Alster-Thau /

Maritha Mathijsen (2nd ed.)]