Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 31 March 2014

  • I Know


    You want to go away.
    Because they kill all the rabbits here.
    But you're not a rabbit.
    Try explaining that to them.

    It's the rabbits that make it impossible.
    No, it's you.
    Why me?
    Why the rabbits?

    If charged by a savage rabbit,
    act like you're dead.
    I know that, you know that,
    but does the rabbit know it?

    And then the sun stops shining.
    After how long?
    After four days.
    Thank you, I thought for a moment you said three days.

    Was that it or did it get dark?
    What did you think I wanted?
    The same story over and over.
    I wouldn't exchange you for anyone else.

    by Nachoem M. Wijnberg, translated by David Colmer

    The Poetry Centre recently recruited its first ever cohort of interns! Ten students, drawn from across the undergraduate year groups, have already begun work on a variety of projects. Much of their attention will be focussed upon this year's National Poetry Day (2 October), for which they will be co-ordinating a series of events such as 'pop-up poetry' around the city of Oxford. There is more information about the interns on the Centre's website.

    One of the interns' first events, the Brookes Poetry Slam, takes place this Wednesday 2 April, from 6.45 at Union Hall (in the new John Henry Brookes Building). All Brookes students are invited to take part, and everyone is invited to be part of the audience. It's free! If you'd like to read, please contact Wolf Hounsome on brookesslam@gmail.com You can find more details on the Poetry Centre's Facebook page.

    'I Know' is copyright © Nachoem M. Wijnberg, 2013, and translated by David Colmer. It is reprinted by permission of Anvil Press from Advance Payment, Selected Poems (Anvil Press, 2013).

    Notes from Anvil Press:

    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.' The book from which this poem is taken, Advance Payment, Selected Poems, was a Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation in 2013.

    Nachoem M. Wijnberg, born in Amsterdam in 1961, has published fourteen volumes of poetry. 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 Prize, the Ida Gerhardt Prize and the most prestigious Dutch prize for poetry, the VSB Poetry Prize. Nachoem Wijnberg will be appearing with Arjen Duniker and Anne Vegter, the current Poet Laureate for the Netherlands, at the Wenlock Poetry Festival on Sunday 27 April from 4.30-5.30pm. You can find out more about this event from the festival website.

    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 and selections from Ramsey Nasr, Cees Nooteboom and Hugo Claus.


    Anvil Press, founded in 1968, is based in Greenwich, south-east London, in a building off Royal Hill that has been used at various points in its 150-year history as a dance-hall and a printing works. Anvil grew out of a poetry magazine which Peter Jay ran as a student in Oxford and retains its small company ethos. Visit Anvil's website here, where you can sign up to their mailing list to find out about new publications and events.

    Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.