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Green Integer Review

No. 10 (Nov-Dec 2007)
Poetry & Fiction, Interviews, Essays & Reviews, Bios, Links
Douglas Messerli, Editor

Nachoem M. Wijnberg [The Netherlands]


    Writing, then waiting;
Waiting, then writing;
    a poem, then a goodbye
then going to visit.

    Wanting, then choosing;
exams, then waking with a start from exams;
    going to visit,
then sending him out of his house.

    He’s run away frightened,
won’t be coming back.
    Waiting the night in his house,
in the morning doing what I would otherwise forget.

—Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer


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’re both done well,
is doing something like that one better than doing something like that other?
Can’t I say that in few words?
After all a poem shouldn’t be wasteful.
But now I come to the more important problem:
Settling for what is like that better one because it’s like that better one?
Now and then I ac as if I can do something well, says Su Dongpo
like something I need to start over again at once.

—Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer


A poem has to be about something; otherwise no one can say
whether the poem is superfluous if the poem is about him.

What he can say, what is in his heart: a poem if one is bigger than the other,
disappointed if it is not a good poem.

Someone else can forget the words that are too big and too small
like balls he has thrown in the air in quick succession,

but take away his poems and what does he have left?
He wants to write more poems, enough to fill half the world.

—Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer

Copyright ©2007 by Nachoem M. Wijberg and David Comer.

Wijnberg’s debut De simulatie van de schepping (The Simulation of Creation, 1989) was nominated for the Buddingh’ Prize, the most important prize for Dutch-language debut collections. He has won several other awards and was nominated for the VSB Poetry Prize, the greatest honor a Dutch-language poetry collection can receive. A major prize for his oeuvre is only a matter of time. The general public still has to discover Wijnberg. Until now, his work has mainly circulated among insiders. His most recent collection, Liedjes (Songs), could represent his commercial breakthrough, even if it were only due to the title..
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