An artist of many talents, Iris Penning, exudes enthusiasm. The new City Poet of Eindhoven comes across as a breath of fresh air. Read on to know more about this Eindhoven girl’s love of the language and how she plans to share her stage with other artists. A perfect antidote to drive away those corona blues…
Iris Penning comes across as a young, vibrant and creative person. She is a poet, singer-songwriter and a performer. I was instantly drawn by her sunny, animated and refreshingly down-to-earth attitude. Just like the wonderful city she is representing!
We had a delightful tête-à-tête (albeit virtual) where she opened up about her varied interests and her big dreams for the city she loves. She has a positive attitude and seems to find a happy medium wherever she happens to be. When she heard that the Eindhoven News readers were mostly international, she took time out of her busy schedule to pen down an English version of her latest creation! She wants to turn the spotlight on the Eindhoven art scene and wants to involve all artists (Dutch and international) to make that happen.
What struck me most was the quiet determination with which this smiling artist achieves so many things. Her optimistic outlook and laughter were contagious! Now that is something worth catching at this time…
Seems like the ideal poet for this great city. Eindhoven News wishes Iris Penning the very best in her new role.
Q: How does it feel to be the new ‘Voice of Eindhoven’?
Iris: (Smiling) It feels really good. I was born and raised in Eindhoven. I love this city and have always wanted to do something for the city. As a City Poet, I have the opportunity to do just that. I could reach so many people and capture their stories through my poems.
Q: What are you looking forward to accomplishing in this new role? Your plans as the City Poet of Eindhoven.
Iris: I am a poet and a singer-songwriter. The music industry is much bigger than the poetic industry. There is room to make the poetic scene better. There are so many great poets in Eindhoven – both Dutch and international. I want to create a medium for all of them to showcase their creations. The idea is to make Eindhoven better known for its artists and their work.
Q: You have been like a poetical prodigy. You started writing poems at the age of six. Do you come from a literary background?
Iris: My Mom and Dad are both creative people. They pursued different careers like working in politics, improving education and rehabilitating ex-convicts. I get the love of words from my mother, who has a really large vocabulary. She used to teach me words as a kid, and I grew up with a lot of words. This love for the language and talking got me writing poems right from pre-school Group 3.
Q: You are a singer-songwriter, poet and seem to have multiple projects running all the time. Always cheerful and a total enthusiast! Where do you find the inspiration to do so many things successfully?
Iris: (The bubbly laughter rings out). Let me think. I feel like I always have ideas and I have to decide which one I really do. I am always thinking – even when I am almost asleep. My brain is busy saying I could do this project, do that and so on. Sometimes it’s even annoying that I cannot have complete peace and quiet. But I cannot sit still and I do whatever comes to my mind that feels urgent. So that is how I am suddenly taking up painting or doing something totally new.
Q: Do you capture these ideas into pen and paper or are you more of a laptop and keyboard kind of person?
Iris: (Spontaneously) Pen and paper definitely. But there are times when I feel an extreme amount of inspiration and the poem is almost here; I have to write it down quickly before it fades. Such times, I do use the laptop because it is much faster. I prefer to sit down in a park, look around, get inspired by something happening around me and then put it down on paper. That is more romantic, but then not all poems are like that.
Q: Love the fancy titles that you give to your creations. ‘Dreampaint’ and ‘Prefer Dirty Feet’, for example. How do you come up with such original and catchy names?
Iris: I always give the names last. I think it is very important because the title is the identity of the poem, just like the name of a person. It is always hard to decide what this is actually about the most. I try to keep it to a maximum of three words. Sometimes, there is a sentence from the poem that I like the most. I pick a short part from there like the ‘Prefer Dirty Feet’ (Liever Vieze Voeten dan altijd schoenen aan). Other times, I give something that is totally not in the song as in the case of ‘Dreampaint’. I wanted to say something that would feel like I create a world that I want or paint my own dreams. But there was no such ready-made word and so I had to make this one up. It is a different process every time but it is really important. I normally spend a lot of time and effort in making the title relevant and interesting. Sometimes I have spent more time making the title than the full song!
Q: If not a poet or singer-songwriter, what else would you have liked to be?
Iris: That is a fun question! Well, something to do with talking because I like to talk a lot. So maybe a journalist and I would have been writing about others rather than about myself. I do love gathering stories and listening to people’s perspective on different things. Maybe, I would have been interviewing the City Poet right now!
Q: How have you been keeping yourself busy during the pandemic? Any new projects?
Iris: During the COVID time, I had the inspiration to write about this special time. And I decided to do an urgent project and make a quick little book with poems that sums up what is going on. I also did a podcast with the Dutch writers from Eindhoven and interviewed them. It was a very good medium to share the stage with other artists from Eindhoven. That is exactly what I want to do since I have this opportunity. I also made a song with a video clip that was filmed in the empty venues of Eindhoven. It is called ‘Zaternacht‘ (Saturnight). I would love everyone to see and listen to it. It is in Dutch, but I feel music has no language and it speaks for itself. I do not know what I will do next as times are changing and I will do what inspires me next…
Q: Any poems you would like to share with our international readers?
Iris: Of course! I picked one from the book on COVID times and this is about a day from the time when we were all locked in our houses. As a City Poet, I have to write about a place I know so well. That is not always easy because everything is so familiar. But at this time, the streets were empty and I thought it was really special because I saw a drastic change. And I observed these details that struck me the most. I saw a trash bin with no trash, streets usually filled with teenagers looking lonely and deserted. And I wondered what does the street feel, the grass and perhaps the trash cans too? A pack of cigarettes waiting to be smoked. So it’s all about how the city felt about the lockdown. A time capsule to look back to (March 2020) and it is already gone. I found beauty in those difficult times, but it is enough and let us hope to get back to normal. I write in Dutch and so this one I have made in English, especially for the readers of Eindhoven News.
Listen to more of her poems and songs at her official website
For Eindhoven News, Muktha Kartik Iyer
Muktha is a Process Consultant by profession and is passionate about books, languages and animals. She is working on her dream of publishing a rack full of books of her own.