A book? From cover to cover? I lack the strength. Even poetry – just thinking about it – exhausts me now. I’ve overdosed on poems, stare blindly at the pages of my books. For many months I’ve had a reader’s block, I’ve grown allergic to the alphabet. And this poem that refuses to be a poem, flat on its back and dying for some light, for god’s sake, what do I want with it? Admit it to yourself, your lines won’t run, your mind a thing too delicate for words. and you pitied the reader in the end. Tuesday. A city eyeing itself. Not doing a thing, not wanting to. Death of a boyhood dream. Ambition, desire, all burnt out, done in. Something to do with hubris, meagre fame and a divine trauma I refuse to name.
By Menno Wigman
Translated by Judith Wilkinson
From THE WORLD BY EVENING
Published by Shearsman Books (2020)
By permission of Shearsman Books. Copyright for the original poem: Menno Wigman’s estate. Copyright for the translation: Judith Wilkinson.
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Menno Wigman was a Dutch poet, anthologist and translator, who became one of the most celebrated poets in the Netherlands. During his lifetime he published five poetry collections, compiled several anthologies and translated a large number of European poets, including Baudelaire, Rilke and Laske-Schüler. In 2013, he won the Awater Poetry Prize for the collection My Name is Legion, and was posthumously awarded the Ida Gerhardt Poëzieprijs in 2018.
Judith Wilkinson is a British poet and translator living in the Netherlands. She has won many awards, including the Popescu Prize for European poetry in translation (for Toon Tellegen’s Raptors) and the Brockway Prize. She has also translated Miriam Van hee, Hagar Peeters and Menno Wigman.