Poetry is the powerful expression of one’s emotions, fears, and hopes, and poetry lovers know it.
It is perhaps less well known, however, how challenging it can be to transpose one’s mind and soul – because poetry is more than just words – from one foreign culture to a native one and to introduce a new public to different rhythms, sounds and visions of the world. To support and promote poetry in translation, we are launching a weekly blog on poetry from around the world available in English, to make sure you don’t miss out on what is out there!
To start, we have chosen to spotlight authors and publications which are perhaps still less well known to the English-speaking public. Despite their great artistic and historic value, literatures from smaller languages often risk going unnoticed. Luckily, committed publishers and talented translators work hard to do them justice and widen our horizons.
An example is literature in Dutch, the language spoken in the Netherlands and Flanders, which is our weekly highlight. Recent publications not to miss include poems by the Dutch writer and translator Menno Wigman and by Flemish author Leonard Nolens.
Wigman is described as a contemporary poète maudit in the wake of Baudelaire, whom he also translated himself. He sadly passed away last year, and is remembered here through his work. In 2016, ARC Publications has published his first full-length collection in English Window-cleaner sees paintings, translated by David Colmer, with introduction by Francis R. Jones.
Nolens is an active poet, critically dealing with questions of identity in today’s Belgium. He was awarded the Prize of Dutch Letters in 2012. Carcanet’s selection An English anthology, translated by Paul Vincent, was published in 2018.
Slightly less recent reading suggestions for you are Hans Faverey’s Chrysanthemums, Rowers (Leon Works, 2011) and Martinus Nijhoff’s Awater (Carcanet, 2011). The former is the English translation, by Francis R. Jones, of Faverey’s third volume of lyrical and mysterious poems (1977). The latter is the masterpiece of one of the greatest Dutch poets of the last century: a narrative poem (1934) praised by T.S. Eliot and Brodsky. Carcanet’s edition features three English translations of this work (by Daan van der Vat, James S. Holmes and David Colmer) and the original text, excerpts from a lecture on the origin of the poem, and essays.
Finally, for an overview of Dutch poetry in translation and information on other influential and innovative authors, do not forget to check out The Enchanting Verses Literary Review of Poetry of the Netherlands (2017), edited by David Colmer.
If you’re interested in finding out more about poetry in translation why not become a Poetry Book Society translation member? Every quarter our expert poet selector George Szirtes chooses his favourite new poetry in translation book to deliver to our members alongside a full commentary in our Bulletin. It’s the perfect way to keep up to date with all the latest poetry in translation books, including dual language editions from a wide range of languages worldwide. Translation members also get 25% discount on all of the books above.