De dichter is een gedicht (1977)

Jotie T'Hooft

Shortly before his self-inflicted death, Jotie T’Hooft penned his final poems as his farewell. As his motto, he provided his definition of a poet.

illustratie: lees in nederlands

I don’t have any reasons
I left them all behind
I’m in a New York state of mind

De dichter is een gedicht, 24 uur per dag.
De dichter is een alchemist die van het lood
des dagelijksen leven het goud weet te maken.
Zijn gedichten spreken voor zichzelf.



Listen to this poem in Flemish.
Voiced by: Els Bogaerts

illustratie: ontdek dit gedicht in 1 minuut

This poem in 60 seconds

Flemish poet Jotie T’Hooft lived a short, but intense life. His 21 years of life were filled with drugs, sex, music, a fascination for death and, particularly, writing a lot of poetry. Before he committed suicide, he wrote down how he viewed a poet: someone who can turn the smallest, silliest subjects into gold.

Want to know more? On this website you can listen to the poem, discover its origins and its author and find out what the poem means to the people of Leiden.

Jotie T'Hooft

Jotie T’Hooft

Oudenaarde 1956 – Brugge 1977

Jotie T’Hooft’s life was dominated by a few major themes: death, drugs, poems, sex and music.


When Johan, commonly known as Jotie, was only three years old, it was clear that he had a flair for language. He corrected his school teacher, who spoke about a kitchen on a boat, by saying this was called a galley. Many small and big conflicts with teachers would follow, T’Hooft was expelled several times, because he had a lot of trouble complying with the rules. He took refuge in writing poetry and in books by authors such as Franz Kafka and Herman Hesse and in music. He also used drugs such as weed, LSD and speed from a very young age and he was already addicted at the age of 14.

Drugs, sex and poetry

T’Hooft paid for his drug addiction by working many jobs, including pop journalist, and writing many poems on the side. After a failed suicide attempt at the age of 17, he ended up in a reform school. Afterwards, he got married to the daughter of a publisher, who published his first collection of poems. However, T’Hooft relapsed into old habits and added a fascination for magic and the occult.


T’Hooft was fascinated by death. When he was ten years old, he collected animal skulls and shells, he fittingly called them the houses of dead animals. During the night of 5 to 6 October 1977, T’Hooft committed suicide at the age of 21, by taking a cocaine overdose.

illustratie: over dit gedicht

What's this poem about?

In this poem, the author reflects upon his own life as a poet. The first line clarifies that the poet never stops writing poetry. It is not a nine-to-five job, it is a calling. In the second line it becomes clear what a poet does exactly, transforming everyday experiences into something special. This is also the essence of a good poem: through the words of a poet, an everyday experience becomes a piece of art. The final line of the poem explains what a good poem should always be: self-explanatory, so that the poet’s explanation is not necessary.


The added motto from the song New York State Of Mind by Billy Joel could be a reflection of the idea of Jotie’s suicide: he did not have a specific reason, but it also more or less suited his image that was connected with dark romanticism, in which death played a central role.

illustratie: ontstaan van dit gedicht

Origin story

During the night of 5 to 6 October 1977 in a room in Brugge, Jotie T’Hooft died at the age of 21 of a cocaine overdose. He had written a few words of farewell on the walls, and he had played the song The End by The Doors. In his house, which was painted entirely black, twelve farewell poems lay on the mantelpiece, together with the permission to publish them posthumously. The farewell message started with the poem that can now be found on one of Leiden’s walls.

illustratie: ik heb een verhaal bij dit gedicht

Share your story

Does this poem hold a special place in your heart? For example, do you remember when you first read the poem? Or did you come across it someplace unexpected? Let us know at muurgedichten@taalmuseum.nl! We would love to add your story to our website.

illustratie: gedicht in leiden

Jotie T'Hooft in Leiden

Photo Inge Harsten

This poem can be seen at Rapenburg 91 in Leiden since 1993 . It was the fourth poem realized by TEGEN-BEELD Foundation. It was painted after the opening page of the collection of poems De laatste gedichten (The final poems). The motto is depicted, just as it is on this page, consisting of a few lines of Billy Joel’s New York State Of Mind. The collection wrongfully attributes the motto to ‘Krafwerk’, probably a reference to the German band Kraftwerk. The reason for this is unclear.

The poem itself is also a motto, preceding the final poems. Jotie T’Hooft’s signature is placed underneath.

illustratie: citaten


It is not about existing
But about what we make of it

Jotie T’Hooft.

... and also draw your own conclusions; after all, I’m not the maid

Jotie T’Hooft in Het einde van de wereld nabij (‘Near the end of the world’), part 1.

illustratie: wist je dat

Fun facts

  • A Belgian poetry prize is named after Jotie T’Hooft.
  • Only two collections have been published while Jotie T’Hooft was still alive: Schreeuwlandschap (‘Scream landscape’) and Junkieverdriet (‘Junkie sadness’). The collections Poezebeest (‘Kitty beast’) and De laatste gedichten (‘The final poems’) were published posthumously.
  • This is not the only wall poem that contains the signature of the poet. The poems Spelende meisjes (Playing girls) by Willem Wilmink and Goede reis (Travel safely) by Mohammad-Reza Shafiei Kadkani are also signed. For the latter poem, the signature was placed by the poet himself.
illustratie: lees dit gedicht in het engels

I don’t have any reasons
I left them all behind
I’m in a New York state of mind

The poet is a poem 24 hours a day.
The poet is an alchemist who knows
how to turn the lead of everyday life into gold.
His poems speak for themselves.

Translation: James Brockway

illustratie: meer weten

Learn more

This entry was written by Het Taalmuseum in collaboration with Chris Flinterman. The translation into English is by Jasmijn van Dongen. The following sources were consulted: