Critical reception

Some concise summaries of reviews that have appeared here and there over the years about my work. After ‘nachtefteling’, I stopped collecting, because the whole review culture appals me now, to be honest, but for those of you who are interested in such things, here are the archives. I published about six books since that aren’t collected here, and a dark band of Jezus-loving replacements does its utter best to keep things as conservative as it can in my country, which means no room for the weirdo. 


Who knows, maybe the real Nachtefteling will one day actually happen. But in any case, we have been left with a masterly book by Benders’ flirtation with madness, a rich book that conceals much more meaning and coherence than you can grasp at first reading; but where there is also an enormous amount to experience and enjoy, a haunted house, roller coaster, war museum, fairytale forest, human garden, biography and planetarium all in one. A dizzying Nightmare.

Alexis de Roode, Goodreads 

Anyone who wants to experience how far language can be stretched in an artistic sense should read the poetry of Martijn Benders (1971). Each poem makes you reset your reading habits, each of the many subjects tests the constancy of your own principles. Benders mainly experiments with imagery and form (e.g. italic turns, unfinished sentences and surprising formatting). In one case, he even resorts to a different alphabet! This raises questions about the clarity of the transmission. Often, however, form and content coincide, the language play is the message and vice versa. “The steroid of cluster love // stirs up its coincidences // And if it is not love then it is // DEBOM // DEBOM // DEBOM // DEBOM // DEBOM // Which will bring us together.” And then suddenly Benders sacrifices you to traditional lyrical elements again and allows presumably autobiographical notes, such as about a grandfather and grandmother. This jumpy poetry pays tribute to transformation, uniqueness, freedom, in short, to life in its broadest and deepest manifestations!

Albert Hagenaars – NDB Biblion

The poems are written in a playful, fluent manner. Nowhere do you have the feeling that it falters or that something is not right. The poems sometimes seem simply thought up, which makes them genius. Other poems surprise and move you, but you can also feel the sadness. Sometimes a poem makes you laugh.

Anneke van Dijken – Hebban

(‘kagi / dana / mage / shavi’) That looks like it comes from a real grimoire and whether it means anything remains a mystery. Write it on the stripped skin of a toad caught in a full moon, then burn the skin and stir the ashes into a glass of cheap whiskey to be drunk in one gulp. Describe the vision this produces and Nightmare will come. Until then, the reader will have to make do with this collection, which stimulates the senses and tortures the brain as good poetry should.

Lauran Toorians, Brabant Literair 

And so we stand for a few seconds outside of time. Through the meticulously directed ‘clutter of words’ that makes our stay in Martijn Benders’ Nachtefteling very pleasant, as the cover designed by the poet presents it. Nowhere is there the slightest inclination to throw the bundle into the mouth of Holle Bolle Gijs. If this is the prelude, I am very curious to see how the poetry theme park itself will turn out.

Ernst Jan Peters, Meander Magazine 

Fliermans Passage

“Benders provides an admirably high density of jokes, on every page there is something to chuckle at.” – The girlfriend of Thierry Baudet, Volkskrant 

Dizzying. That’s a good word to describe Martijn Benders’ first (or only, but I hope first) novel. In this day and age, it is becoming increasingly difficult for all sorts of people to read entire books. Such people should read Flierman’s passage, because because everything happens all the time, and never anything you expect, you will read it in one go, or two at the most.

Marc van Oostendorp, weblog 

“God Martijn, somewhere halfway through the book I thought I was going to lose it. But still I read on and everything seems to end up on its own. I have had a few very crazy, absurd chapters, and I have laughed. Only 2 or 3 more chapters to go and I won’t be drunk. Which cannot be said of the characters in your book.

I just finished the book and it feels strange. Such a weird ending. I don’t have to re-read the damn book to know what really happened, do I? The epilogue was strong, by the way.

There are two possibilities: either I’ve been tricked in a most ingenious way and Benders is a genius, or life has no meaning and Benders is a charlatan. 

Freek Rupert, facebook

“Very different from that Ikea group of writing school fanatics. A peculiar combination of bravura and modesty, not at all Dutch either. what a party that must have been, to think it all up and let loose”

Emma Burns, facebook

“Like any right-minded person, when reading Flierman’s Passage I regularly felt the need to forcefully put the book aside. I would rather spend my time reading a better book. But there is no better book than Flierman’s Passage, so you put your trousers back on and try a few more chapters. Not because it would be nice to be there in the no man’s land between Cremer and Camus where the author has parked his thinking head, but first and foremost because you don’t want to be known.

By the way, he probably can’t even really write, this Martijn Benders (Mierlo, 1971). The striking sentences that make up every page of Flierman’s Passage all give the impression of being lucky shots. If you let a monkey ram a typewriter long enough, sooner or later something public will roll out of it, publisher Van Gennep must have thought, and this pessimistic vision has indeed resulted in a masterpiece in this case.
But to make such a fuss about it.

The recent broadcast of De Wereld Draait Door, in which Benders was applauded by half of the Dutch cultural establishment, was deplorable, and he did not really come into his own during Zomergasten (Summer guests). It seemed as if the interviewer didn’t really dare ask any more questions. Oh well, tomorrow the fish will be packed in again and then we’ll talk about other things. 4 stars out of 5. Did you find this review useful? [Yes] [Definitely]”.

Bart van der Pligt, facebook

“Hi Martijn, I enjoyed Fliermans, especially the out of the box writing; it gave me air. The hilarity, the hypothermia, made me happy. I was reminded of Kamagurka and David Lynch. Just keep on writing (as if you cared). The use of the Dante oracle was a nice touch” 

Rutger Van Wel, facebook

“I have read quite a lot in my life and not only kitchen novels and such. I get the same feeling as with Tom Lanoye, I also put it away at a certain point because I really couldn’t get through it anymore. Little story, a lot of filth and derogatory language…”. 

Mieke Robben, facebook

“Read like a train. Like no other, Benders seeks out the limits, only to cross them mercilessly. And he does this with one goal in mind: to put authorship into perspective and to rid it of all the fuss. Very refreshing. And I also had to laugh out loud. Now and then I thought of The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole and you can take that as a compliment. “

Rob Zeeman, Facebook

“Actually just enviably good.
I really have nothing to say about it, and to be honest: that’s the first time in a long time and I get quite a lot of laughs from it.
first time in a long time and I get quite a lot of writing done.
Your humour is completely mine.
I really laughed out loud at one scene.
The sex scene is also magnificent.
You have a wonderful writing style with lots of good metaphors and other
inventions. I was immediately into it.”

Iris Houx, email

Projecting Dante into the eyes of a dog. It brings tears
in the eyes. Chapeau also for all the connections, how true and nonsensical at the same time.

Flierman’s Passage evokes emotions, and not immediately cathartic emotion or processed grief, so those wishing to write a review are challenged to come up with highly personal associations or opt for a form of socially accepted criticism. That’s a positive reading sign, and a no-holds-barred reading warning…:-) A review is also emotionally a plurality of contradictions, I get a bit anxious when I am more or less asked to write one ;-). What struck me is that I have no way of finishing a Netflix series, and I finish this book in two reads and suspect that I now understand something (of the timeless topicality) that I would miss by avoiding the Netflix series… Yes, now I have to figure out what this “something” is… (Since when is that important when reading a book?) Emotions can get in the way of reviewing comprehension (when they turn into maxims and standard phrases, it’s visible to the reader, a kind of narrow escape from feelings, at least that’s how I understand it, projecting), so first let some highly personal associations go around :-).

The style of Flierman’s Passage is snappy, but the connections are not as obvious as the references in the book. Chew, chew…fortunately, the repetition of themes in the book is first meditative and then, after elaborating on the primary reading process, provides a glimpse of what the story has to say. So…this was a hodgepodge of associations that probably won’t be reviewed as a review (that’s the funny thing about reviews…they immediately evoke an emotional need for a ‘review of the review’, and so that quickly ends up in bickering, literary or not.

You can’t call it a ‘reaction’, because that would be beneath the author of the book and of the review, but if you call it an ‘interaction’ you are extremely post-modern and if you choose ‘review’ you can get away with a few stars. A self-respecting reader reviews in person because the voice of the reader is always involved after all, one of the postmodern lessons to be appreciated:-)).

Lotte van Lith, facebook


Benders makes fun of poems, of the poetics and of himself. He kicks against sacred cows of established opinions about what poetry should be, but also pulls the chair from under his own ass: “When I’m on stage I always think: what am I doing here? / I belong under a pool table in a dingy bar.” He presents himself as the ultimate anti-poet (“I never cured anyone with poems”), but proves to be more of a poet than dozens of others who call themselves that. He is utterly original, both in the way he looks at things (“Have you ever noticed / how much chemical formulas look like an orgy?”) and in the way he expresses his keen observations: “The moonlight hung like a greasy mop between the trees” / On the grass lay a lazy, inedible turd / green dreaming of flies.” Many of his poems rant and rave, curse and bite, but there are also some that are intriguingly incomprehensible absurdist or make you burst out laughing out loud (“Have such a hard time with title vegetables.”). Some are perhaps unintentionally but inescapably tender.

The whole range of human emotions passes in review in this surprising and delightful collection. No matter which poem you save, each one is worth reading and reflecting on and getting something different out of each one. And above all to enjoy it. Benders is an extraordinary and utterly unique talent.

Hettie Marzak in ‘Sword Magazine’, 2016

This is not poetry that cares about a review in a magazine like ‘Awater’, where colleagues discuss each other from an often different background and poetics. This is poetry that keeps you in suspense as a reader because you have no idea what the next page will bring.’

Pim te Bokkel in ‘Awater’ about Lippenspook

Time and again he manages to confuse and captivate the reader, by an unexpected turn in his use of language or in the situational. In short, poetry brimming with plot twists. The clever thing about it is that his poems stick, convince, continue to resonate and form a coherent whole, while that elusiveness remains intact. Benders takes the language by the scruff of the neck, shakes it up and then rearranges the words in his own unique way. He does so very carefully and yet never does it come across as artificial. It is rather almost careless. With “Lippenspook” Benders has delivered a real gem of a collection of poems.

Sander Meij on ‘Passionate Platform’ about Lippenspook

Wôld Wôld Wôld

I can already tell it will be a masterpiece. A hallucinogenic, possibly explosive mixture of rock-solid poems, bizarre discoveries and clownish attacks on the entire Dutch literary landscape.

Alexis de Roode about WWW

Martijn Benders reveals himself as a masterly satirist. It is, through all the layers, an extraordinarily witty book.

Willem Thies about WWW

In a few crude strokes, Benders manages to put down a whole history, which you can hear, see and smell. As only the greats can. You’re a focking good poet, Martijn.

Ton van ‘t Hof about WWW

In between, he is lyrical, satirical, ecstatic and funny. The collection is an explosion of language, the reader (Marc) is not bored for a moment. But what is most interesting is the way in which Benders shows how strange is the ‘own culture’ that now rules the poetry world, and also the slightly larger world called The Netherlands.

Marc van Oostendorp about WWW on Neder-L

I think of the collection ‘Wôld, Wôld, Wôld!’ by Martinus Benders as everything you could possibly think of something. Including, but not limited to: childish, exuberant, surly, sublime, down-to-earth, heavenly, vindictive, classic, contemporaneous, rebellious, misguided, garish, genius, original, vulgar, contemplative, hushed, riotous, humorous, contrary, daring, failed, populist, instinctive, loutish + all the other adjectives recommended by the Onze Taal Society. In short, a completely unique collection in the Dutch-language poetry landscape.

Olaf Risee, facebook

Wat koop ik voor jouw donkerwilde machten, Willem (What do I buy for your dark-willed powers, William)

“An excellent collection. Benders is a poet who likes to ridicule his craft, but does so with a panache that shows what poetry is all about: the right words in the right place, a strong rhythm, often stunning images, and a voice that constantly creates an annoyed and desperate impression, as if what needs to be said has again just not been caught.”

“I’m sorry, Benders, but ‘you belong, just like criticism'”

Piet Gerbrandy, De Groene Amsterdammer, Aug 2014,

After six years, his second collection is published by Van Gennep, Wat koop ik voor uw donkerwilde machten, Willem. He has not compromised on originality.’

De Volkskrant, 23 August 2014

Martijn Benders made his debut in 2008 with the collection Karavanserai. His second collection was entitled Wat koop ik voorjouw donkerwilde machten, Willem and was published in 2011 by a publisher he had set up himself. It became an even more extensive collection. Martijn Benders is one of the few poets in the Netherlands who is not afraid of anyone. He was therefore ignored almost everywhere. Dutch poets are cowards; they keep an eye on each other, at least if they are not too busy looking at themselves. A poet who takes no notice of this ritual is a priori not appreciated. You don’t even need to read something by someone like that. Anyone who takes the trouble to read something by Martijn Benders, and judges him purely on his poetry, will be pleasantly surprised. Benders is one of the most extraordinary talents of recent times, although the supervisors who hand out the talent cards, and thus have no time left to read anything from outside their own playground, think otherwise.

Gerrit Komrij, Poetry Calendar 2012

Benders convinces, and he does so with wayward, highly expressive poems, which seem to have a breeding ground in a remarkable mixture of cheekiness, gaiety and almost provocative indifference, although there is clearly aeven sensitive side.
Regularly the poems show such unexpected, even bizarre leaps of the imagination that they acquire something absurd, while never being detached from reality.

Joop Leibbrand on ‘What do I buy for your dark-wild powers, Willem’, Meander

How it is possible that one disordered, continuous stream of poems, seemingly written without plan or goal, structure or direction, can be so fascinating is hard to explain. “A promising poet, drawing from a horn of plenty”, Rob Schouten wrote about Karavanserai in Awater. Whether this second collection will fulfil that promise in the eyes of Schouten I do not know; I have a sneaking suspicion that Martijn Benders has no intention of fulfilling any promises. He writes himself, and then this second abundance is certainly more than good enough.

Abe de Vries  Studio Oude Bildtzijl

Each poem has something fresh, such a sparkling moment, even if it only sparks for a moment and disappears when you look at it too closely. The result is a collection that sustains and does not disappoint. Fantastic, in other words.

Samuel Vriezen on his weblog


With Karavanserai, Martijn Benders is the language devil of the chosen quartet’.

Arie van den Berg, NRC, 2009

Benders’ poems are metaphorical in a visual sense. For him, ears are ‘a pair of shrunken wings / next to our heads’. He elaborates on these metaphors persistently. Thus, music exists so that our ears do not collapse, now that we can no longer spread those wings anyway. Such twists betray a solid poetic capacity. Martijn Benders has something few poets have: guts. (…) At times, he is truly humorous, when he expertly blows up a gospel or lets Cupid dip his arrows in the moss while all the girls swarm around in bulletproof vests. At a certain point, he sounds like a somewhat less refined Oosterhoff, a reference that I have not noticed in any other poet.

Erik Linder, Groene Amsterdammer

A promising poet, drawing from a horn of plenty

Rob Schouten, Awater

Karavanserai by Martijn Benders is one of the most remarkable collections of poems I have seen published in Dutch in recent years. Whether Benders is a dervish in his poetry, I would not venture to say. But sometimes he did remind me of Borges’s poetry: strongly narrative, full of striking observations that arouse wonder, curiosity and a melancholy mood. But Borges is more visual. When he takes you by the hand, it walks down the street in Buenos Aires with you, to the end. With Benders, you always have to cross over, walk backwards, stumble, allow a smell to enter your nose. And when you fall on your face while reading, the poem is turned upside down. Perhaps a dervish after all? In any case – despite the jumpiness in images – I would like Benders to proudly stick the epithets I stuck on Borges on his poems. Hopefully this will continue to grow, so that in ten years’ time children will be beating each other over the head with his sentences.

Jo Willems on Karavanserai on his weblog

Don’t make the mistake I once did, / leave the writing of poems to the poets. It is in ‘The Moon’ and it is, of course, a pose. Benders rightly claims to be a poet. In his first cycle he lets the language. In his first cycle he makes language clatter, the concepts collide with the meanings we usually give them – and thus he takes us to an unsuspected world where we see things differently.

Pascal Cornet about Karavanserai in the Poeziekrant

Here is a poet who knows what he wants in his poetry, and how he is going to achieve it. And he achieves it. His strong and accurate images make a lasting impression, and they pass the reader by in such numbers that they have a dizzying effect. You could almost say that Benders overloads his poems with images, all the more so because they are capricious, surprising images – but the poems are brought to a good conclusion every time, seemingly effortlessly.

Edwin Fagel on Karavanserai, Recensent

In that sense comparable to De encyclopedie van de grote woorden (The Encyclopaedia of Big Words) by Mark Boog, which also condenses big themes. Boog does that well, Benders does it better. More sparkling. More vital.

Olaf Risee on Karavanserai at In Letterland


Martijn Benders has published twenty-six books, eighteen of which are in Dutch. He has been named one of the greatest talents of his time by critics like Komrij and Gerbrandy. He has also written three philosophical works, one of which is in English about the Amanita Muscaria, the Fly Agaric. Publishing on the international stage of The Philosophical Salon, he has also gained international recognition as one of the most remarkable thinkers from the Netherlands.