Portrait of poet F. Starik by Bianca Sistermans (2012) Portrait of poet F. Starik by Bianca Sistermans (2012)

Tot Zover

Poets of Service

A Poet of Service writes a poem for a lonely dead man. The poet reads the poem during the funeral. Bianca Sistermans (photographer) and Hester van Hasselt (writer) have summarized the phenomenon of the solitary funeral in the exhibition, Poets of Service.

About fifteen "solitary funerals" take place in Amsterdam every year. These are funerals for people who were so alone that there is no one to arrange or visit their funeral. On Wednesday 20 November 2002, F. Starik, after an idea by Bart FM Droog from Groningen, read a poem for the first time at a solitary funeral: a special salute. There is now a group of Amsterdam poets who alternate at funerals. Together they are called the Pool of Death. The poets write their own poem for each of the lonely deceased, which they recite at the funeral service. Sometimes they do this at the grave or in the auditorium of the crematorium.

Bianca Sistermans took photos of lonely funerals. Not digital, but analog in black and white, with a Hasselblad camera. In addition, she took portraits of three poets from the Group of Death: F. Starik, Maria Barnas and Menno Wigman. Hester van Hasselt interviewed them. Those conversations were about death in their lives, death in their work, and especially about writing for a lonely stranger. Poetry as a hatch to death.

The poets' special written lines of service contribute to a dignified farewell for people who had become cut off from society, for whatever reason. "Because every person is worth thinking about".

Sporen / Traces

The Funeral Team archive

People sometimes die in solitude. No family member, friend or acquaintance who cares about their passing, funeral or cremation. In such cases, the Funeral Team of the municipality of Amsterdam ensures a dignified funeral. The team also decides what to do with the deceased's property. To this end, the employees make an inventory with photos of what was left in the deceased's home. In the photos we see abandoned living rooms, empty beds and the souvenirs left behind. They form fragments of a story, a life story that can only be guessed.

Documentary maker Astrid Bussink dove into the archive of trace photos, in connection with her documentary Poule des Doods. It is about the Foundation De Eenzame Uitvaart, founded by the poet F. Starik.

F. Starik on Team Uitvaarten: “When I started the Lonely Funeral, I was struck by the respectful way in which the [then] Municipal Funeral Service dealt with the dead. The first thing I learned […] is: "But every person, and that's what matters here, every person deserves respect."

Poets of Service ends with a fragment of Astrid Bussink's documentary Poule des Doods (Pool of Death) (2012) .


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