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Selected Poems

Nachoem M. Wijnberg

Translated by David Colmer

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This title is available for academic inspection (paperback only).
ISBN: 978 0 856464 50 8
Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Published: March 2013
216 x 138 x 13 mm
112 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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    Politics as a Profession, Says Max Weber

    Poems are useless for governing the world,
    says Huang Tingjian, whose poems are miraculous when they succeed.
    If doing one thing is better than doing another, if they are both done well,
    is doing something like that one better than doing something like that other?
    Can’t I say that in fewer words?
    After all a poem shouldn’t be wasteful.
    But now I come to the more important problem:
    settling for something that is like that better one because it is like that better one?
    Now and then I act as if I can do something well, says Su Dongpo,
    like something I need to start over again at once.


    First This, Then That

                  Both shoes?
    You take off a shoe
                  when a woman comes to visit
    and you don’t want to marry her.

                  First silence, then explanation;
    first clear, then surprising;
                  first the right shoe, then the left shoe,
    then the left sock, then the right sock.

    Is there anyone who wouldn’t want to write a poem about that?
    There is something else I mustn’t forget to do, but I don’t need to think about it now.

    ‘A poem must say something that is true, in the same way that a scientific article makes true assertions. And, similarly, these assertions must not be trivial, they should appeal to the emotions of the reader.’
    – Nachoem M. Wijnberg in an interview

    This selection introduces a major poet who is also a business studies professor, a combination which may explain his vigorous questioning of human values in poetry which asks ‘What is worthwhile?’ His poems are characterized by simplicity and clarity, narrative and reasoning: he claims they ‘at least promise to be about the important things in everyone’s life.’

    Nachoem M. Wijnberg has said of his collection The Life Of (strongly represented in this selection) that ‘many of the poems have a surface layer with a narrative structure and in the ones that don’t, there’s a structure in the form of a line of reasoning. Of course, some connections are made by association (name a poem that doesn’t do that), but in these poems those links are completely subordinate to the stories and reasoning. There’s no “post-modern” cut and paste and alienation is the last thing I’m trying to achieve – the world is strange enough as it is and my poems aim to help in dealing with that strangeness by bringing it closer and, as far as that’s possible, understanding it.’

    Nachoem M. Wijnberg
    Nachoem M. Wijnberg, born in Amsterdam in 1961, has published fourteen volumes of poetry and four novels. A Law and Economics graduate, he became in 2005 the first Professor of Cultural Entrepreneurship and Management at the University of Amsterdam Business School. His poetry has won many prizes, including the Jan Campert ... read more
    David Colmer
    David Colmer is an Australian writer and translator based in Holland. He was awarded the New South Wales Premier’s Translation Prize and PEN Medallion and is a two-time winner of the David Reid Poetry Translation Prize. His translations include Martinus Nijhoff’s ‘Awater’ for Anvil's edition of the poem (2010) and collections ... read more
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