by Aida Loy, a Spanish archaeologist living in the Netherlands
Leiden, a small university city in the Netherlands. Between the well-known Amsterdam and the institutionalized The Hague. This city is not big in size, but holds a lot of cultural heritage within its limits. Home of the oldest university in the Netherlands, Leiden receives every year more than 1000 new students coming from everywhere in the world. Also, it counts with 13 museums of the most various topics. Knowing this who wouldn’t like to visit it: a nice small city, in the middle of the touristic region of the Netherlands, with a lot of activities to offer and the charm of the Dutch old cities. But, this is not all you can find in this picturesque city. Look to the walls, as all around the city you can find poems in almost 40 languages…
In 1992 Ben Walenkamp and Jan Willem Bruins started a project of writing poems on some walls of the city as a tribute for the anniversary of a cultural magazine in the Netherlands. The project was so well welcomed around the city that for the next year they created an association to be in charge of the poems, the Tegen-Beeld. Their aim was to paint 101 poems in the walls of Leiden, now the count is in 116 and counting.
The poems are painted in the walls by Jan Willem Bruins, he gives a different character to each one. They are wrote in more than 35 languages and represent poems and poets from all times with special representation of the poets of the 20th century. There is no special requirements for a house or building to host a poem. If the wall is big and visible enough, it will be fine.
In 2015, and because the importance Leiden University has had in the sciences world, the physicists Sense Jan van der Molen and Ivo van Vulpen reached out to the association to add formulas to the wall-poems collection. The idea, was well received and since then some formulas had been painted in different walls of the city (6 in June 2018).
There is a lot of information related to the poems and their poets and to the history of the association, and more and more people interested in this nice city gallery, the association, in collaboration with the Taal Language school have developed a website.
Poetry is a tool used by humankind to express their more deep wishes, secrets and feelings. And not only the writer feels attached to it. The reader can feel the words as powerful as they were their own. Being able to walk through a city and read poems and poems of people all around the world and from all the times allows you to travel and share their worlds. In the moment you find a poem you already knew or in your language, it makes you feel home, makes you feel safe.
We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry