Pressletter 2024


14 May goes abroad

(10e commemoration)

Since 2015, I organize an annual commemoration in which Rotterdam residents recite a poem on streetcorners along the Brandgrens (fire boundary) Rotterdam to commemorate the victims of the bombing and keep their memories alive. This year, we organize it in four different countries and call it Four Days In May! 


At May 14, I organise the 10th May 14 commemoration of the Nazi bombardement of Rotterdam. At day 4 during the Nazi German - Netherlands war in 1940, Rotterdam suffered a devastating blow. In just fifteen minutes, the heart of the historic city center was reduced to rubble by the Nazi bombing. Widespread fires compounded the destruction, leaving behind a scar that still echoes today. This scar is marked by a 12 km-long fire boundary called the Brandgrens. 

The Annual Tradition 

Every year on May 14, Rotterdammers from diverse backgrounds - entrepreneurs, scientist, harbor workers, cleaners, artist, politicians, poets, and more - gather to participate in a unique commemoration. They stand at streetcorners along the Brandgrens, reciting each year one poem. The tradition began in 2015 with 75 streetcorners, and this year, it extends to 84 streetcorners and in 2040 to 100 streetcorners. The goal is to continue untill people join hands along the Brandgrens while reading our selected poem. 

American Poem

To raise awareness about the horrors of bombings worldwide, this year's commemoration extends beyond Rotterdam's borders. For the first time, May 14th is also commemorated abroad. The organizer, Erik van Loon, have chosen the renowed poem "Vision Of Rotterdam" by Gregory Corso. Translated into 10 different languages, this powerfull poem aims to help people in the Netherlands and beyond understand the poem, the impact of bombings and to prevent that bombings get normalized in our collective consciousness.

Vision Of Rotterdam
door Gregory Corso
(1930 New York City - 2001 Robbinsdale)

       September 1957 summoned by my vision-agent

via ventriloquial telegram

delivered by the dumb mouths stoned upon Notre Dame 

       given golden fare & 17th Century diagram

I left the gargoyle city


Two suitcases filled with despair

            arrived in Rotterdam

Rotterdam is dying again

                  steamers & tankers

            unload an awful sight.

May 1940 stevedores lead forth a platoon of leukemia.

Pleasure ships send metalvoiced rats teeheeing a propaganda

        of ruin

A cargo of scream deafens the tinhorn of feeble War

Bombers overhead

            Young blond children in white blouses

            crawl in the streets gnawing their houses

The old the sick the mad leave their wheelchairs & cells and

      kneel in adoration before the gentle torpedo of miracles

Bombers unanswerable to the heart

                 vitalize a Sunday afternoon dream

Bombs like jewels surprise

Explosion explosion explosion

Avalanche on medieval stilts brought down 1940

Mercy leans against her favorite bombardment                          

and forgives the bomb


Eyes on the antique diagram

      I wander down the ruin and see

           amid a madness of coughing bicycles

the scheme of a new Rotterdam humming in the vacancy

Gregory Corso : A Beat Poet

Gregory Corso, a prominent figure among the Beat Poets, gained international recognition through his poetry. His breakthrough came when Lawrence Ferlinghetti published “Vision Of Rotterdam” and 32 other Corso poems in the collection “Gasoline” in 1958. The same year, Ferlinghetti also published Corso’s calligram, “Bomb.” Two years later his other famous poems “The American Way” and “Marriage” appeared in “The Happy Birthday of Death”. His work resonated deeply, making him a world-famous poet whose legacy endures to this day.

Four Days In May

To truly grasp the essence of Gregory Corso’s poem, we decided to embark on a journey. Before the reading at the Brandgrens, we will visit Rome, Zurich and Paris at the following days:

Day 1 - May 11 Rome : where he lived and worked, and where he rests in the poets' cemetery. 

Day 2 - May 12 Zurich : 100 years after Robert Frank's birth in Zurich we watch his movies about Corso.

Day 3 - May 13 Paris : where he lived, worked and founded the Beat Hotel and he got married in Paris.

Day 4 - May 14 Rotterdam : where we will read "Vision of Rotterdam" and after that we talk about his work.

This pilgrimage ensures that the poem’s message transcends borders and resonates with all who encounter it.
Concept programm pdf

The Poetry Cab: A journey of verses

With my partner, Dario Bellini from Rome, I tried to organise the EU Poetry Train from Rome via Paris to Rotterdam, like the way I organise each year the US Poetry Train between NY and LA to bring poets from 64 different American big urban cities and small rural towns to LA Poetry Beach Festival. We envisioned a similar but smaller trip across Europe. However, we had to cancel the Poetry Train as traintickets in Europe are significantly more expensive then train tickets in America and European train travel involves frequent stopovers, intricate connections, and sometimes labyrinthine routes. The stress of navigating multiple transfers can dampen the poetic spirit. For instance: A 12 hour train trip from Rome to Paris would set us back 304 euro, with two stopovers (Milano, Zurich) while, our annual 76 hours train trip from New York to Los Angeles cost only 240 usd with just one stopover in Chicago. That's why, we've chosen the Poetry Cab as our vessel. It's not just a mode of transportation; it's a rolling sanctuary for verses, a canvas for inspiration, and a communal space where poets can share their musings. As we traverse the landscapes from Rome via Zurich to Paris and onward to Rotterdam, we'll weave our words in our mobile salon of creativity and poets along the route can hop on the Poetry Cab bridging languages, cultures, and hearts. 

Erik van Loon

06 3826 5666

More info about Erik van Loon
Erik van Loon is a Dutch artist known for ao his 10 "I will Win" paintings of 33 x 20 feet each for the New York City Marathon, as founder of LA Poetry Beach Festival, the Poetry Cab and many festivals in his hometown Rotterdam.