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Mirle Wittekoek in Spot on Young Poets

'Kleur bij kleur' - video poem (Dutch spoken)


Writers Unlimited asked eight young people to write a poem on the theme of the online Winternachten festival 2021: It's up to us. All of them previously participated in the Spot on Young Poets programme for secondary school pupils in The Hague and reached the finals of the Young Campert Prize.

Mirle Wittekoek is a young poet from The Hague won the Young Campert Prize during the Winternachten festival 2019. She participated Fall 2018 in Spot on Young Poets, the education project of Writers Unlimited, poet and poetry teacher Diann van Faassen and Museum Meermanno | House of the Book.

During poetry workshops at secondary schools in The Hague, pupils are taught poetry writing and recitation. Mirle recited her poem during Winternachten festival 2019 and as one of the three finalists won the Young Campert Prize. At the time, she was a student of Dalton Den Haag; she now studies Social Work at The Hague University of Applied Sciences.

This year it was not possible to organize the poetry workshops, but Diann van Faassen walked with eight former participants through the parks and streets of The Hague and explored the theme with them. The result is an extraordinary series of video poems created by the young poets themselves. It is a poignant testimony of a generation, full of desire to express their perspective and outlook on life, but hardly able to do so due to the Covid-19 measures. With their imagination, they give a voice to their contemporaries that is usually under-represented in the public debate.

About the walk with Mirle, Diann wrote, "You can't always tell by looking at someone if they are doing well. There is so much hidden behind appearances. Mirle Wittekoek looks cheerful and energetic and her 'How are you?' asks for more than a standard answer. We walk close to her house through the dunes to the beach, it is raining softly.

"I want to make a difference, for people who are left out, for whatever reason. When I think of 'It's up to us' I think of groups that are discriminated against, what is this 'us' if not everyone can participate? I am very concerned about this and almost feel the pain of those who are excluded. If I manage to convey something in my poem that can help others, I am happy."

Mirle is in the second year of Social Work at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, through the internships she sees new opportunities. "I would like to work on a care farm, I believe that animals contribute to our well-being. An animal gives a kind of safe place, a handhold, you can always go there to cuddle or talk. I start every day with my rabbit next to me on the couch, it makes me happy and gives me peace."

A great empathy underlies Mirle's words when she talks about people who are having a hard time. When I ask where it comes from that she understands others so well, she replies, "I've been depressed and suffer from an anxiety disorder." She doesn't hesitate when I ask if I can write that down. "It's so important that more attention is paid to this, so many people struggle with this, don't dare or can't talk about it. It can even cost lives."

I can only agree, my decades long search for a way to live with anxiety attacks and depression, would have been less lonely and probably shorter with more openness. Mirle already knows, "Depression and anxiety can come back if you are prone to them. All the stimuli come in harder, the trick is to learn to deal with that."

What we both cherish is that feeling so much means that also the beautiful things come in stronger and we can enjoy life when things are going well. And today it is going well!"