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Poems by Emile Verhaeren | 20-Nov-14

Poems / Emile Verhaeren ; selected, translated & introduced by Will Stone ; with a preface by Patrick McGuinness -- Todmorden : Arc Publications, 2014.

This bilingual collection allows the English speaking and the French speaking reader to discover (or rediscover) one of Belgium's most highly regarded writers - Emile Verhaeren (1855-1916). A poet, playwright, short-story writer and art critic, Verhaeren was also a key founder of the Symbolist movement and had many admirers, including Mallarmé, Apollinaire and Rilke. He has been compared to Hugo and Whitman. Gide wrote to him in a letter from January 1896: "Vous êtes notre seul poète épique et je pense de vous ce que je ne pense de nul autre" (Poems - Emile Verhaeren, page 17). 

Verhaeren was prolific, so to mention just a few titles: Les Flamandes (his first collection, 1883, which his parents - we learn in the preface to Poems - wished to destroy); Les Moines (1886), a mystical celebration of Belgium and its béguinages; Les Heures Claires (1896), love poems to the watercolourist Marthe Massin; and - Verhaeren was a pacifist - Les Ailes Rouges de la Guerre, published shortly before he died.

'Aux Moines' (pages 36-38 in Poems) has, to me, both a timeless and an in the moment quality about it, and is therefore, right now, very zeitgeist. A positive take on plus ça change - as I read it. 

If while reading Verhaeren's Poems you find yourself wondering how he would have read them, it is possible to listen to a recording of Verhaeren reading 'Le passeur d'eau' (pages 80-82 of the Arc Publications edition) at:

Mia Farlane
Library Assistant

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