Kouwenaar's poetry is usually described as a kind of murder. In his poems Kouwenaar tries to cancel the denotative character of words. 'I cut the throat of a word.'
Gerrit Kouwenaar was first published in clandestine publications during World War Two. After the war he earned a living as a translator (a.o. Sartre, Dürrenmatt and Brecht) and journalist.
Together with a.o. Lucebert and Hugo Claus he was a leading member of the 50s Movement and edited the influential anthology Vijf 5tigers.
His volumes een geur van verbrande veren ('a smell of burnt feathers', 1991) and de tijd staat open ('time is wide open', 1996) have won his universal critical acclaim as well as the important VSB Poetry Prize.