A word often used to characterise the work of Menno Wigman is ‘classic’. In the 1980s he was a drummer in various punk bands but 1997 saw his debut publication, ’s Zomers stinken alle steden [All Cities Stink in Summer]. This established him as a poet deeply rooted in the ‘accursed’ romantic tradition of the French poètes maudits. His use of meter and rhyme gives his poetry drive. Readers also respond enthusiastically to the lucid, apt wording, so Wigman’s collections sell extremely well. In 2015 he received the A. Roland Holst Medal, a poetry prize awarded every three years. In 2016, after a period of poor health, his new collection Slordig met geluk [Careless about happiness] was published. It has already been reprinted several times and received wonderful reviews. Wigman has translated many other poets, for example German poets such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Else Laske-Schüler and Thomas Bernard.
All Cities Stink in Summer
Translated by Gregor Seferens
Original title: 's Zomers stinken alle steden (Bert Bakker, 1997)
‘Poetry is not dynamite, it is diamond,’ Hendrik Marsman claimed at some point. All Cities Stink in Summer, the poetry debut of poet, translator and musician Menno Wigman, proves that poetry can be explosive as well as touching. Apart from all the obligatory irony and noncommittal ambiguity, we hear a poet who attacks modern life and the ancient suffering with harsh, clear and sometimes unmistakable musical language. The result is a collection of enchanting poems in which ecstasy and alienation, youth and disappointment, love and disgust go hand in hand. The poems from All Cities Stink in Summer are rarely dark and are characterised through hidden classical elements and a sharp-tongued, almost military rhythm.