- Belgium -
Maarten Inghels (1988) is the official City Poet of Antwerp until 2018 and Artist in Residence at the Middelheim Sculpture Museum.
He coördinates The Lonely Funeral in Belgium, a social and literary project which provides poets to speak at funerals of those without relatives and friends to attend. The eponymous book was published in 2013 and received wide critical acclaim—a German anthology was published in October 2016.
He was a guest at various literature festivals in Europe (Berlin, Mantova, Hay-On-Wye, Paris, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Zagreb …). Selections of his poetry have been translated to English, German, French, Croatian, Romanian, Estonian and published by various international anthologies and magazines (Poetry London, Lyrikline.org, Die Horen, La Traductière, Poésie/Première, Edit, 3:AM Magazine, Poetry International Web…).
Maarten Inghels writes poetry and prose. He made his debut in 2008 at the age of 20 with the collection Tumult. The volume appeared in the so-called Sandwich Series which was set up and edited by Gerrit Komrij (1944-2012), a poet and critic famous in the Low Countries. Because of this, but also because of the earlier publications in journals and stage performances, this debut immediately received a lot of attention. In Tumult, the poet explores his own life: the confusion and turmoil, but above all the love and desire. Inghels writes accessible poems and with them also wants to reach people who don’t usually read poetry. He believes very strongly in the power of the word on stage and its influence and impact on a wider audience.
A year later, the bibliophile volume Het abattoir van het afscheid (The slaughterhouse of leaving) was published by Dick Wessels/Het Gonst. The collector’s item was set by hand and 125 copies printed, of which 100 were intended for the trade.
In January 2009, Maarten Inghels started the literary and social project ‘De Eenzame Uitvaart’ (The Lonely Funeral), following the example of De Eenzame Uitvaart in Amsterdam and Groningen. Here poets write a personal poem for lonely deceased and recite it at the funeral. It is a last salute to people who mostly went their own way during their lives and then are buried without the presence of family or friends. All that remains is the short ritual: the coffin on trestles, the flowers and the poem. In October 2013, the book of reports entitled The lonely funeral, 40 stories and poems for forgotten lives was published. Writer and coordinator Maarten Inghels looks back on the five years during which he carried the vulnerable of society to the grave. He wrote a report on each deceased.
The commitment displayed by the young poet seeps through in his next collection Waakzaam (Vigilant), which was published in 2011 by De Bezige Bij Antwerp. In his poems, Inghels captures the Zeitgeist of today, and urges the reader to be alert. ‘Maarten Inghels is a vigilant poet. Not only does he have an eye for the dynamics of society and for his fellow man. He combines his youthful enthusiasm with tenderness, a feel for language and cardboard balls that throb like an outboard motor.’ (Fleur De Meyer in Poëziekrant)
His latest collection Nieuwe Rituelen (New Rituals) appeared in 2015 (De Bezige Bij Antwerp). In it, Inghels explores the desire to be seen and the art of disappearing. With this volume, he was nominated for the prestigious Flemish poetry award, the ‘Herman de Coninck Prize’ 2016. ‘With Nieuwe Rituelen (New Rituals), Maarten Inghels has written a surprising and varied collection, which is committed without being preachy. The multicultural city, the theatre of social media, but also love and death are captured by Inghels in strong lines and haunting images. New rituals is a collection that stands with two feet in today’s world.’
Besides poetry, Inghels published a novel De handel in emotionele goederen (The trade in emotional goods) (2012, De Bezige Bij Antwerp) and a collection of short stories Een landloper op batterijen (A vagrant on batteries) (2012, Uitgeverij Voetnoot).
From 2016 to 2018, Martin Inghels is the seventh city poet of Antwerp. His task is to write a minimum of 12 poems in 24 months about goings on in Antwerp. About grand events or small occurrences. About what affects him in the daily life of Antwerp. The city council chose him because he ‘has his finger on the pulse of this complex time and society’ and is also very socially involved. He is a board member of PEN-Flanders (an association of authors that works for freedom of speech and dedicates its efforts to the cause of persecuted writers) and he coordinates the Antwerp section of ‘The Lonely Funeral’ project.
Visit no. 12 619 / Bezoek nr. 12 618
To make it go more quiet in the room than in her blood:
hammer the beating beetle from the whitened walls,
nudge the receding curtains back to sleep,
the coffee slowly runs to a dead end. Quietude
outlines itself across the wall in darkened shapes,
first camels, weasels, a sluggish whale, then
we become the hares in tall grass. We play dirty
beasts. And there in the room her brain assumes
a voice the way her blood speaks: from the stem
her love disseminates itself. Trampling on the spot,
because I am a dead blackfish, shoulders shaking
and trembling I lie on the bed. My hands are folded
in straits. Because what blindly knows its way through me;
one’s own rigorous love as retort, scares me the most.Translation by Willem Groenewegen
Visit / Bezoek
A visit to the furniture store
And the radio announces a bomb attack
Resulting in at least ten dead
We’re interested in a modern sofa
A three-seater in apple-blue-sea-green
There is debate about the colour, the death toll
Increases, dozens injured
The more expensive models stand toward the back of the store
The prime minister urges people to stay indoors
The few people in the furniture store
Stand around like chairs and listen to the radio
Threat level 4 initiated
An 8-week delivery period
We fantasize over the three-seater:
How well it would fit the living-room
And which books we would read there
And what kind of sex we would have there
Two bombs were detonated
The extent is still under discussion
How many people do we invite on an annual basis
And how many at the same moment?
The war grows ever closer
Perhaps we’ll make a baby there
On the three-seater where the guests have made little dents
Is this a suitable occasion for a minute’s silence?
Yes, we can always hold a minute’s silence
Between the grey corner settees at the furniture store
I have attended a minute’s silence quite often in my life
But this was the most impressive minute
All the furniture shut up tooTranslation by Willem Groenewegen
Ars Poetica / Ars Poetica
The weight of the world? Poetry.
The dripping tap in my throat? Poetry. Poetry. Poetry.
When I choke in my sleep and wake up coughing? Poetry.
The paper cut in my middle finger? Poetry dammit.
My lover knows where we’re going on holiday for the next ten years: to poetry.
What chases her into my arms? The poetry – or lack of it.
I visit the fish when it’s raining. Poetry?
My mum asks what my income amounts to? From necessity: poetry.
What did they sell to the circus for next to nothing? Poetry.
Lapus lazuli? Poetry.
The moon wanes, stands straight, goes back to sleep? Blindfolded poetry.
The century yawns and I am free. Poetry.
Who are you?, you ask. The poetry – I’m gone more often than not.
You lift a stone and it slips out from under in droves. Poetry.
What does the audience shout out loud and clear whenever I stumble? Poetry! Poetry!Translation by Willem Groenewegen
THE DARK SIDE OF THOUGHT / DE SCHADUW VAN HET DENKEN
I put my ghosts in a row and take a group shot. They don’t react to what I say.
There’s my fear of being discovered.
The fear of dark crevices in which my body is a puzzle. Stick my hand into an unknown hole. The echo fails to answer.
There’s my fear of heights – the depths are tugging at my clothes – the call of emptiness an invitation to jump. Only the tower block is listening, my words a hollow reverb off the entry hall.
The other way round there’s the upward abyss when I gaze at clouds too long. I’m being sucked into the cosmos.
To be bitten by domesticated dogs, or see myself in their wounded eyes.
Clowns. Hollow needles. Pension schemes. My elevator allergy. The thought of my head in a shoulder grip in a screaming playground.
I’m worried that I’m not destroying enough memories. Scared I’m swallowing other people’s illnesses.
Falling on my teeth. The lonely sound of breaking blood.
I want to know why sometimes I lie in bed like a snapped branch. Gasp for breath for seconds on end between two worlds.
Softly, I speak of the fear of losing someone. Maybe only the moon knows what it’s like to be seen in another’s light.
The answer sounds like the revolving grind of planets.Translation by Willem Groenewegen
A House of Air / Een huis van lucht
This is the air in which we live.
We are lodged in the air
of musty tent-cloth
and misty morning grass.
The air of a worn mattress
or damp cardboard (and our dog is wet).
We smell concrete air, herbal air,
nursing home air filled with farts and cabbage,
We stumble through
thunder air and rainy air.
And the air of midges, right! Air of midges!
Whirlwinds, fog banks, smoke screens.
Grey air of old iron and fine dust.
And dark air massed together.
Air of the rage of windy days,
it blows us apart like autumn leaves.
We were bored to silence
in the talkative air among passers-by,
their perfumed airs,
their lamented sighs.
Air that two lovers
breathed in and out of each other’s mouths or
the sticky air between the lovemaking bodies of two or more people.
The embracing air.
car tyre air,
exhaust fume air,
Sometimes the air catches fire in our lungs.
Then we become
air in the head
of imagined air,
Our final breath of air
is groaning air.
Our roaming wander air.
With our coat full of holes we catch the melancholy air
from air balloons breathing out
imported from a desolate homeland,
mail order air,
We wait like chicks in the air
of hot air blowers over shop doors.
The air of stovepipes and cooker hoods.
Ventilator air in stinky summers.
Air from metro vents on which we grill ourselves like sausages.
Begged air in paper cups.
Stale-smelling second-hand air.
Discarded air is what we possess.
Our nose is our dog.
We wait for cooking air.
Cooking air! O, cooking air!
With knife and fork drawn
we stand guard
by cellar holes and doors ajar.
We sniffle, slobber, smack our lips:
The early bakery’s dough air brings water to our mouths!
The air of beef butchers and Chinese duck lacquers!
Screechy funfair air,
icing-sugared donut air,
warm candy waffle air.
We fill our bellies
with roasted air and fried air.
Together with a cup of hot coffee air.
Long live reheated air!
Our cheeks glow with so much aroma.
“We are so skinny, madam, sir.”
the air like wet newspaper,
the adamantly lying air,
blue-teared air. Perforated air.
We are the true measurers of clouds.
The air in which we live
is free air,
the air of nothingness.
Air is what we will become.Translation by Willem Groenewegen
THE ART OF DISAPPEARING / De kunst van het verdwijnen
Walking in the crowded market square
someone screamed into a megaphone
to be forgotten in the name of peace.
I followed the one-man protest for a bit.
The moment came to be both caught, forbidden
and combatted. In pieces, I strolled round
with a pair of kitchen scissors in my mouth.
If only I could be invisible
and like a handful of sand just bury myself.
No longer fit in with the picture
in the foreground with the clamorous hours.
I trained myself in the art of disappearance.
I snuck round the corner,
put up posters everywhere to focus
attention on my rehearsed finale.
Some people are lost all their lives,
are hidden in the depths of a shell
or lie beneath a weathered stone already.
But now I’ve gone forever
I regret nobody saw
how well I disappeared.Translation by Willem Groenewegen
The evening after my death / De avond na mijn dood
The evening after my death
My doppelgängers gather to drink
The extra chairs are put away
The bottle goes ‘round a few times counterclockwise
My doppelgängers grow cocky in their roles
They recreate my gait and the half-flaccid handshake
Experimenting with my dubious sexuality
Playfully permitting my accent to roll across their tongues
I am alive in each of them a bit
A doppelgänger I haven’t seen in years pipes up
That time I’d gone and moved my mouth and lied
Behind me doppelgänger no. 5 patters away
Doppelgänger no. 7 already thought I was so thin
Recommended I eat hamburger after hamburger after hamburger
The ones who still pay membership fees to the International Society for the Official Doppelgängers of Inghels hold their tongues
It’s reassuring to see they’ve all put on brave faces
Mimicking each other’s feelings
A single teardrop falls
But it’s clearly from a speck of dust
The handkerchief goes ‘round a few times counterclockwise
The sun sets painfully slow
My doppelgängers put my house on like a glove
Doppelgänger no. 2 steals a favorite book and hides it under her sweater
No one sees me through the hole in the box
They’ve thrown together for a cheap coffin
It’s clear my doppelgängers are just as mean and poor as I
The last doppelgänger closes the door
To my house which now breathes to a different pulseTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
The second evening after my death / De tweede avond na mijn dood
The second evening after my death
The International Society for the Official Doppelgängers of Inghels is called together
This dubious coalition of the doppelgängers of Maarten Inghels has already existed for some time
Their mission is to have an exemplar ready any time
In case there’s an absence due to death sickness holiday
One or more doppelgängers can step in
The International Society for the Official Doppelgängers of Inghels has at least nine members
Each doppelgänger represents only part of my person
A fifty-year-old aerospace engineer has been my stunt-butt as long as anyone can remember
A 38-year-old woman accounts for my selective memory
A brocade-tabby cat bears my peculiar agility at night
This emergency meeting of the International Society for the Official Doppelgängers of Inghels is particularly chaotic
Not for any lack of enthusiasm
The last newspaper ad has drawn another crowd
But there are some concerns about one of the new candidates at the entry exam
A woman of 76 is in the running for my substitute nose
After the house is called back to order she’s allowed in after all
The doppelgängers are made uniform by
A specially-equipped hairdresser
From the costume division of the International Society and
Our glasses sponsor
On the evening after my death the membership list is verified and the work schedule filled out
Besides the original, no one is missing
The necessary certificates for doppelgängers are issued
Then the celebratory gathering is set in motion
That’s why there are only smiling faces in the group photoTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
The third evening after my death / De derde avond na mijn dood
The third evening after my death
My doppelgängers remove my clothes
Rabidly tearing at my trousers, the jacket, my underpants
My doppelgängers wash me thoroughly from top to bottom
Polishing my marbled skin with a sponge
Combing a strange part into my hair
They shave me slick as an eel
Doppelgänger No. 4 clips my twenty nails
Doppelgänger No. 6 picks my ears meticulously clean
The doppelgängers peek beneath my white loin cloth
I’m cold as stone I’m unmoving I taste like soap
They lance the vein in my left arm
I bleed out like a pig grow ever paler
Lying like a candle on the table
No one lights me
I see a suit of mine hung on a hook
“No,” I cry, “not that suit!”
No one listens
They cut open the back of a white shirt
My doppelgängers dress me from the front
Now no one can tell I was cut open there to prove I’m really dead
Gawdy as a clown I lie in my cheap casket
My mouth is dry, my tongue is cork
The doppelgängers sew my openings shut
They glue my eyes together
It gets pitch black in meTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
The fourth evening after my death / De vierde avond na mijn dood
The fourth evening after my death
My doppelgängers discuss
What they should do with all my poems
Poems about fears and shame
Poems about a death which laughs in people’s faces
Poems of burning cities
There remains an extensive selection of poems about poems
My poems are the sum of many borrowed thoughts
My poems are the textual evidence from a club of quasi-kindred spirits
To no avail
The International Society for the Official Doppelgängers of Inghels determines
By means of an anonymous vote
To seal my many poems up in a metal drum
To weigh them down with rubbish
To nail the barrel shut
And let it sink into the sea
10,000 meters deep under the sea
From now on my doppelgängers will take turns writing my poetry
Poems about new illnesses
Poems about loneliness
Poems about metamorphosis
The poems will be marketed cleverly
The public will hardly notice the change in scenery
While my doppelgängers enjoy print after print
And squander the profitTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
The fifth evening after my death / De vijfde avond na mijn dood
The fifth evening after my death
I watch doppelgänger no. 3’s riveting performance of me on TV
He answers the questions of his conversation partner eloquently
Laughing merrily in the right moments no one notices the switch-up
At the same time doppelgänger no. 8 paces the aisles of the supermarket
Her knee-length skirt rustling past the wares
I’m stocking shelves with canned tomatoes
No one sees me through the hole in the shelf
They all stare at my second pair of legs
The cashier addresses her with a “Good evening Mr. Inghels”
And hands her loyalty points with the receipt
The International Society for the Official Doppelgängers of Inghels saves up for an admissions pass for two to the amusement park (not combinable with other special offers)
Some of my doppelgängers play me better than I play myself
I’ve managed to clone myself with the utmost sophistication
Without the help of machines
Without the loss of genetic energy
I find myself in ten places at once
I’m active on different fronts never pressed for time
Visually and economically provocative
Appearing in different media
My doppelgängers obviously don’t lack in stage fright
Meanwhile doppelgänger no. 4 is driving home
To penetrate my lover tenderly
While doppelgängers no. 6 and no. 7 watch
They caress each other softly
Having a doppelgänger is nothing to be ashamed ofTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
The sixth evening after my death / De zesde avond na mijn dood
The sixth evening after my death
I realize that this all began with a desire to be bald
My desire for baldness commenced as suddenly as a storm
My desire for baldness is a desire to dissolve myself like a cloud with a razorblade in hand
The Turkish barber tilts my head back
I’m as vulnerable as his fingers
Juggling a good ten trimming machines
My glistening head shows in the mirror
How the barber mows my greasy locks
Like shaving bits of lamb kebab from a döner spit
I peel away onto the floor
And quite unexpectedly remain apparently unchangeable
The desire for baldness remains too
I walk the crowded streets now with a naked scalp
I’ve got more hair now in other places than I have on my dome
I don’t regret my baldness though I do have ice-cold thoughts
What else can I cut off?
Everyone still knows me by the whites of my eyesTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
The seventh evening after my death / De zevende avond na mijn dood
The seventh evening after my death
I know that my desire for baldness is like
The desire to spend the night in a hotel which is just
The desire to be seen in secret and at the same time remain unseen
In the end I traded my desire for baldness for
The International Society for the Official Doppelgängers of Inghels
My doppelgängers give me the opportunity to escape
My doppelgängers surround me form a smokescreen
I exploit the confusion from my replicas
Crawl through doppelgänger no. 7’s legs and vanish from the crowd
I want out of this world
But carry the weight of many
Thanks to my doppelgängers’ help I’ve
Fled before my own inability to escape
Two is the hope for love
Three is flightTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
The eighth evening after my death / De achtste avond na mijn dood
The eighth evening after my death
My doppelgängers bury me in a place no one will find me
My doppelgängers are short one pallbearer
They bear me rocking like a boat into the hills
The little procession crawls up a winding path
After a seven-hour marsh my doppelgängers find the tunnel
One doppelgänger gives up there and turns back
Desperate they push the coffin in front of them
Into the dark cave
Of course they could just as well have stuck me in the oven at home, but someone would have had to push the button and at what temperature would my thoughts burn?
After the tunnel there’s another seven-hour marsh
It snows black cinders
My doppelgängers destroy every marker along the way
Finally they arrive at a grey empty alpine field
They dig a meter-deep hole into the earth
There’s water at the bottom
I’m cold as ice but the coffin’s too tight to rub myself warm
I hear the heavy earth fall on the lid
Block, Plock, Flock, Mlock
The world comes ever fainter to me
I belong now to those underworldly things
My doppelgängers stomp the earth flat with leaps and boundsTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi
The ninth evening after my death / De negende avond na mijn dood
The ninth evening after my death
I lie there pondering deep the hole I’ve made in the world
I don’t like the dead version of myself but a rematch seems unlikely
I always knew the answer lay in the many voices I exude
I’m the confetti of the 21st century
My different faces itch I distance myself from me
I’m a jack-of-all-trades
And lend my personalities
The biggest problem is controlling the reduplication
My doppelgängers are flighty shadows
My doppelgängers float through me like ghosts
My doppelgängers walk on me like ghostly pedestrians
My face trampled flat beneath the masses
I have the feeling I know everyone already
Humanity danced by before my nose
I know their bodies
I know the heat of their sex their stares
I know I’ve met them all before shook hands kissed
Although the constellations are all new
Is this a déjà vu of human bodies
I’ve become a passerby to my own existence
I am not new am food for old newspaper I was made from old paper
History repeats itself as I repeat myself
Sick as a multipleTranslated by Jon Cho-Polizzi