Menno Wigman

The poetry of Menno Wigman

A ‘poète maudit’ in a 21th century jacket

As a poet, and also as a translator, Wigman is steeped in the tradition of nineteenth-century ‘black’ romanticism, including that period’s mix of posture and authenticity. The existence he describes has all the hallmarks of a lost generation in the style of the French Poètes maudits. There is also a link with certain trends in pop music; Wigman has played in punk rock bands. His poetry is on the whole melancholy, sombre, in tone. He is, in fact, a modern-day practitioner of Weltschmerz and Spleen: love is consummated but doomed to fail; paradise is forever sought but never found, young people indulge in loose and licentious living, but gloom persists.

After Wigman’s first collection ’s Zomers stinken alle steden (In the Summer All Cities Stink; 1997), his next one, Zwart als kaviaar (Black as Caviar; 2001), though retaining some of his illusionless outlook, sounded somewhat less bitter. As Dutch critic Rob Schouten put it:

‘The ugliness of the world and the failures of life continue to set the mood, but there may be some merit in this (…). With increasing subtlety and effectiveness Wigman succeeds in translating personal and up-to-date impressions into universal and timeless terms and images. A punk rocker on his way to becoming a classic.’

The word ‘classic’ also comes to mind when one tries to describe Wigman’s style and formal technique, which show a conscious and masterful use of (half)rhymes, metre and rhythm. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he remains loyal to classical verse forms, or creates poems that at least have the looks and sound of timeless pieces by long diseased ancestors. But he manages to revitalize these forms, give them an unmistakably personal and modern touch and thus write poems that are both transparent and edgy. This certainly goes for his most recent collections, Dit is mijn dag (This is my Day; 2004) and De wereld bij avond (The World at Night; 2006), which confirmed Wigman’s status as one of the most talented and popular poets among his generation.

When you notice that you’re constantly about to quote, you know you’re in the right spot: you’re reading poetry that sounds great and really has something to say at the same time.

Alfred Schaffer in Het Parool

Decadent-romantic, dark therefore, or light-footed. […] Or an amazing combination of those two.

Arie van den Berg in NRC Handelsblad

Menno Wigman is the best poet of our generation.

Ingmar Heytze in Passionate

ROOM 421

My mother’s falling apart. She lives in a closet,
not quite a coffin, where she wets her chair
and sits the same day out each day. A view
of trees as well and in those trees are birds
and none of them know who they’re from.

I’ve been her son for more than forty years
and visit her and don’t know who I see.
She read to me and tucked me in at night.
She stammers, falters, stalls. She’s falling apart.

Animals never think about their mothers.
I spoon some quivering mush into her mouth,
and tell myself she still knows who I am.

Blackbirds, probably. They keep on singing.
The call of the earth. From curse to curse, it’s heard.

(Translation by David Colmer)

Menno Wigman

Menno Wigman (1966-2018) published five poetry collections, compiled several anthologies, and translated a large number of European poets, including Baudelaire, Rilke and Laske-Schüler. In 2006, Wigman was the youngest poet to write the ‘Gedichtendagbundel’: a small collection with a print run…

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De poëzie van Menno Wigman . Poetry.



Herengracht 48
NL - 1015 BN Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 624 19 34

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