This is Frederike Luijten. Multidisciplinary maker, word artist, great human being and now the title City Poet of Tilburg may be added to that. This functional chaotic person meanders through then, now and later, from place to place, between people and stories, through dialects and languages and soaks up the world like a sponge. Not to be wrung empty, but to allow loving streams of words to seep through the world that enrich and rejoice. This is Frederike's story.
We begin this story with one of the world's most famous poems: The leaves are falling from the trees, autumn has come. The most colorful season is an ideal backdrop for a conversation with the brand new City Poet about multiplicity and changeability. "I love change," Frederike explains. "That's why I like the changes of seasons. I like not being pinned down and having room to move. I always got frustrated with hard choices: either you're a woman or you're a man, you're gay or you're straight. I want the freedom to be allowed to change my mind."
"For me, the changeability of Tilburg is the strength of the city. I find that inspiring."
Sticking a single definition on Frederike is impossible. Poet, performer, programmer at Tilt, Stadsdichter (City Poet) of Tilburg, writer, zine-maker, the labels all make sense, but never quite cover the whole load. "I am not a poet, as the name Stadsdichter might suggest. What I do touches on poetry, prose, graphic design, but I like to let the form emerge organically. From the story I want to tell, I look for the form that fits it. That could be a performance, a poster or a podcast. I have many different loves: theater, music, mangas, graphic novels, non-fiction about literature, novels. I like the fact that all of that can exist in one person, and that's what I want to convey as a writer."
There is a strength in not knowing, leaving something in the middle. This creates a fluid nature in which infinite possibilities lurk. This is true for Frederike, but also for Tilburg. "The city has a kind of pin-me-down mentality, but at the same time is very grounded. Some people say: Tilburg is just not everything. Yet it has a very distinctive identity. That that is allowed to coexist I find beautiful." Tilburg is changing rapidly. New buildings are popping up like mushrooms. Renewal can be scary, but for Frederike, the transformative nature of the city is an inspiration. "To me, the changeability of Tilburg is the strength of the city. I find that inspiring for my writing. The world changes and identity changes, but to see that reflected so literally in the city is a beautiful reflection of that feeling. That also gives space as a person to not be pinned down."
"I always feel that my making reflects Tilburg and vice versa."
As City Poet Frederike wants to bring people closer together. Or as was written in the pitch for the title: to be superglue for the city. "I like it when art and culture are presented in an approachable way that makes people feel comfortable with them quickly. Krakers and Ateliers Tilburg are organizations that do that in a nice way. Straat op Tilt also fits in with that, we make a barrier-free literary program so that people who normally don't come into contact with it can still be touched." In the role of City Poet, Frederike will write six poems over the next year, but the result here is a means, not an end. "Through my role as City Poet, I have become more aware of the places and people in the city that I care about. I want to connect with people who mean a lot to the city and give them a place through my city poems. I think it would be nice if I could weave together important stories and places from Tilburg through my poems and incorporate a piece of myself in them."
Tilburg is a breeding ground for new creators. Frederike also makes sure that pond stays alive with creative food. Each quarter, centered around the change of season, she and a team publish the Seasonalzine through which they spotlight writing talent. "Every season, people can submit work. We select the best submissions and eventually publish 11 writers. That editorial meeting always feels like a bloodbath, because a lot of people send in beautiful work, but you have to make choices. But I find it very valuable that we can help creators move forward this way. That they get published, learn from the process, that we can offer a platform." The Seasonzine fits perfectly into Frederike's picture as a creator. A connecting platform, born out of love for makerhood, published in the city where everything is constantly changing. "I have never chosen one form, but rather realize that this multiplicity can coexist and that that also creates focus in the end. I always feel that my makership reflects the city and vice versa."
ze zal de stad zijn
niet leren om keuzes te maken
om stil te zijn
om zich klein te houden
ze zal bouwen
de muren laten zingen
het laten weerklinken in verwaterd dialect
een geleend woordenboek in de hand
- Frederike Luijten, 2023