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Emile Verhaeren Belgium

Emile Verhaeren
Emile Verhaeren

Emile Verhaeren (1855-1916) was the most internationally important and distinguished poet of Belgian nationality at the turn of the twentieth century. His creative output was prolific and not only in poetry; Verhaeren contributed countless articles for diverse publications, published influential essays on art and wrote a number of plays. Verhaeren travelled widely and his name on the billing was enough to fill lecture halls across Europe. His friends and supporters included some of the most celebrated names of the epoch – Rilke, Gide, Mallarmé, Valéry, Zweig… – and in England Verhaeren’s importance was acknowledged by the leading critics and writers of the day such as Edmund Gosse and Arthur Symons. At the time of Verhaeren’s untimely death in Rouen in November 1916, his influence stretched across the continent of Europe as far as Russia, where Mayakovsky and Blok gratefully received his works.

After his death and the cataclysm of the First World War, Verhaeren’s work fell into obscurity, a rash of translations into English in 1916 in the wake of his death dwindling to decades of stasis. Now in France and Belgium, with new editions of his works, Verhaeren’s name is undergoing a long overdue reemergence. This first selection of his poems in English for almost a century provides a starting point for a deep probing of the rich legacy left by one of the genuinely great European poets of the early twentieth century.