Dr. Hagar Peeters, born in 1972, is one of Holland’s most celebrated poets and the recipient of many awards. Her poetry is passionate, with a strong physicality shaping her language, a language often marked by halting, almost stubborn rhythms and quick, playful shifts in perspective.Many of her poems examine the subtleties of human motivation, without ever losing their immediacy and concreteness. The earthy scrutiny of love and family relations in her earlier collections later evolves into broader historical explorations, in which she draws on ancient stories with assurance and ease. While knowing exactly where her focus must lie, Peeters always manages to retain a certain freshness.

Peeters grew up in the Amsterdam of the seventies as an only child. She lived with her mother, a nurse, who came from a large Catholic family in Limburg in the south of Holland. Her father, who is half Jewish, is the sociologist and journalist Herman Vuijsje. He was absent during her early youth and it was only later, from the age of eleven, that she was to have real contact with him. There were many writers in her father’s family.

Her father’s absence seems to have been one of the things that first triggered her desire to write. Later, when she was seventeen, she moved in with him for a while and he encouraged her writing. Another significant figure Hagar has mentioned in interviews is her teacher of Dutch at her secondary school. He ‘opened the floodgates of poetry’ when he gave her a poem by Cavafy, ‘September 1903’. Its first lines, ‘At least let me now deceive myself with illusions/so as not to feel my empty life’, struck a chord with her and awoke in her a sense of what poetry could achieve.

Before Peeters had published any poems she was already performing in youth clubs, and her early poems sound like songs, combining lyrical and comic elements. After secondary school she moved to Utrecht, where she studied Cultural History and Literature at the University of Utrecht. During this time she wrote for the satirical student weekly Propria Cures and was editor of the Historisch Nieuwsblad. Among the poets she befriended in Utrecht was Ingmar Heytze, who set up a ‘poetry circus’ where young poets could perform their work, often accompanied by music. Peeters enjoyed performing and soon began to be noticed: she was frequently invited to perform at venues and poetry festivals all over the country, such as Crossing Border, Double Talk and De Nacht van de Poëzie (‘The night of poetry’).

When her first collection appeared in 1999, Genoeg Gedicht over de Liefde Vandaag (‘Enough about love for today’), it immediately established her as a bold and distinctive new voice and the book was reprinted many times. After obtaining a first for her Master’s degree, Peeters reworked and extended her thesis, which had won a national award; it was published in 2002 under the title Gerrit de Stotteraar - Biografie van een Boef (‘Gerrit the Stammerer – biography of a scoundrel’). In it she examines the life of this notorious Dutch burglar and escape artist in the context of the changes in the Dutch criminal justice system in the first decades after the Second World War and she illustrates how the Dutch penal system changed from very mild to the harsh, pessimistic climate of today. Her subsequent collections – four books and a pamphlet – were well-received too and have seen many reprints.

In 2008 she was shortlisted for the position of Poet Laureate. She is also a critic and columnist and has written for several major Dutch newspapers. In addition she has worked as an editor and compiled and introduced numerous anthologies, including a selection of poems by Cavafy, in a Dutch translation, and a selection of poems by the well-known twentieth century Dutch poet Vasalis. In 2010 she began studying for a Master’s degree in International Criminology at the University of Amsterdam. More recently she has turned to novel-writing and her first novel, Malva, based on the life of the illegitimate daughter of Neruda, was published in 2015. The book won the prestigious Flemish Fintro prize (formerly De Gouden Boekenuil prize). Translations of Malva are already in the works: In the US DoppleHouse Press has bought the rights, and a French and a Spanish (South American) edition are also forthcoming.

Peeters continues to give readings of her poems in the Netherlands and abroad (from Surinam to Eastern Europe) and in recent years has performed her work at many international festivals, such as Poetry International and the Indonesian International Poetry Festival.

In 2008 Peeters became a parent and she lives in Amsterdam with her son, Abel.