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Beautiful Things by Menno Wigman, trans. David Colmer

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The Dutch poet, anthologist and translator Menno Wigman died in 2018 at just fifty-one, several years after being diagnosed with a rare heart condition likely caused by an allergic reaction suffered in his adolescence.

This memorial pamphlet is intended as a tribute to the poet and as a companion to Window-cleaner Sees Paintings, my selection of Wigman's poetry published by Arc in 2016.

While still young, Wigman had made a conscious decision to dedicate himself to literature. Later, in poems like 'Misunderstanding' and 'Rien ne va plus' he described poetry as "a sickness that afflicts a coterie of fools" and a blight that estranges the poet from everything around, leaving them skulking inside a poem until they've "seen some dismal beauty"... There is a certain incongruity to his expressing this negativity in beautiful, moving poems, subsuming it within his work as a whole, but the flood of obituaries and appreciations and renewed attention for his life and work have made it very clear just how much the two were of a piece.

Although the future development of a poetic reputation is impossible to predict, the interest in and appreciation of Wigman's work have only grown since his death, with the publication of a very well-received Collected Poems and the commissioning of a biography by the Dutch novelist Rob van Essen. For now, at least, Menno Wigman's position as one of the most loved and admired of modern Dutch poets seems more secure than ever.

David Colmer



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