Wall poems in Leiden

A wall poem in Russian by Alexander Blok

Wall Poems (Dutch: Muurgedichten, alternatively Gedichten op muren or Dicht op de Muur) is a project in which 101 poems in many different languages were painted on the exterior walls of buildings in the city of Leiden, The Netherlands.[1][2][3]

History and description

The Wall Poems project was funded by the private Tegen-Beeld foundation of Ben Walenkamp and Jan-Willem Bruins, the project's two artists, with additional funding from several corporations and the city of Leiden.[2][4] It began in 1992 with a poem in Russian by Marina Tsvetaeva and (temporarily) finished in 2005 with the Spanish poem De Profundis by Federico García Lorca.[4] Other poets included in the set include E. E. Cummings, Langston Hughes, Jan Hanlo, Du Fu, Louis Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Rainer Maria Rilke, William Shakespeare, and W. B. Yeats,[3][5] as well as local writers Piet Paaltjens and J. C. Bloem.[4] One of the more obscure poems in the collection is written in the Buginese language on a canal wall near the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies; it and many of the other poems are accompanied by plaques with translations into Dutch and English.[2]


A guide available on the web describes a walking tour for visitors to Leiden that takes in 25 of the 101 poems.[6] The first 43 poems have been collected in a book by Marleen van der Weij, Dicht op de muur: gedichten in Leiden, and the rest are described in a second volume, published in 2005.[7]


The poem Le bateau ivre on a wall in Paris

Based on the success of the Leiden poetry project, wall poems have also been painted in several other Dutch cities.[8][9] In 2004 the Dutch embassy to Bulgaria launched a similar project in Sofia,[10] and in 2012 the Tegen-Beeld foundation collaborated with the International Society of Friends of Rimbaud to paint a poem by Arthur Rimbaud, "Le Bateau ivre", on a government building in the 6th arrondissement of Paris.[11] In 2012 a poem by Marsman was painted on a wall in Berlin.


See also


  1. Beatley, Timothy (2004), Native to Nowhere: Sustaining Home And Community In A Global Age, Island Press, pp. 193–194, ISBN 9781559634533.
  2. 1 2 3 Khouw, Ida Indawati (July 15, 2001), "Leiden, the Dutch city of poems", Jakarta Post.
  3. 1 2 Fihn, Stephan (2005), "Poetry on the Wall", in Garg, Anu, Another Word A Day: An All-new Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words In English, John Wiley & Sons, p. 59, ISBN 9780471718451.
  4. 1 2 3 The Wall Poems of Leiden, retrieved 2012-06-04.
  5. Crerand, Patrick J. (2008), The Land of Good Deeds, Ph.D. thesis, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, p. 5.
  6. Wandeling langs de Muurgedichten van Leiden (in Dutch), retrieved 2012-06-04.
  7. Dienst Bouwen en Wonen, Leiden, 1996, reprinted 2000 and 2005 by Burgersdijk & Niermans, Leiden; see worldcat. A second volume, published in 2005, (Dicht op de muur 2) describes the poems 44-101.
  8. "Gedichten op murenroute Veenendaal van start", VeenendalseKrant (in Dutch), December 14, 2009.
  9. Wall-to-Wall Poetry in A&W, Archipel Willemspark, retrieved 2012-06-04.
  10. Dikov, Ivan (January 27, 2010), Wall-to-Wall Poetry: How the Dutch Bring European 'Unity in Diversity' to Sofia, Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency).
  11. Le bateau ivre bien ancré dans le 6e (in French), City Hall of the 6th arrondissement, retrieved 2012-06-04.
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