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This review is taken from PN Review 257, Volume 47 Number 3, January - February 2021.

Cover of The World by Evening
Ian SeedMenno Wigman, The World by Evening, translated by Judith Wilkinson (Shearsman Books) £12.95,
Judita Vaičiūnaitė, Vagabond Sun (Selected Poems), translated by Rimas Uzgiris (Shearsman Books) £9.95,
Mario Martín Gijón, Sur(rendering), translated by Terence Dooley (Shearsman Books) £10.95
Although his name is relatively un­familiar to the English-speaking world, Menno Wigman is one of Holland’s most-acclaimed poets. He was born in 1966 in Beverwijk, and spent his childhood in the village of Santpoort. Nearby was a psychiatric institution, and, as Judith Wilkinson’s compell­ing introduction informs us, the young Menno was fascinated by the patients who at times wandered about in the local woods. Throughout his life, Wigman expressed concern for people who live on the margins of society and who die forgotten and abandoned precisely by those who should be protecting them. Many of his poems feature such protagonists, such as the chillingly poignant ‘Although We Know the Streets’:
That’s where the man had lain, day in, day out –
they found him, darkened, eighty newspapers late,
with on his chest the remnants of a cat.

The irony here is that ‘in that very same street you’ll find a church / where cameras were installed the other week’ – since all-seeing God cannot spot thieves.

Wigman’s first collection to draw critical and popular attention was In Summer All Cities Stink (1997). In all, he published six full-length­collections, including a Selected Poems: The Melancholy of Copy Centres. He was active as an editor and translator from French and German, including the work of Baudelaire and Thomas Bernhard. As the poet wanders the streets of Amsterdam, his observations, bleak yet also full of yearning, can read like a those of a modern Baudelaire or Bernhard. The earlier work, especially, is haunted by a kind ...


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