Poetry International Poetry International
Poet

Iduna Paalman

Iduna Paalman

Iduna Paalman

(The Netherlands, 1991)
Biography
Iduna Paalman writes poetry, prose, drama and columns. Her first poetry collection, De grom uit de hond halen (Taking the Snarl Out of The Dog), was published in 2019. With it she won the Poetry Debut Prize (2020) and was nominated for the Ida Gerhardt Poetry Prize and the C. Buddingh’ Prize. That same year, De Volkskrant newspaper proclaimed Paalman ‘literary talent of the year’. Earlier works include a collection of short stories Hee maisje (Hey Girl) published in 2012, and for her short story ‘You seem perfect to us’ Paalman won the Great Lowlands Writing Competition in 2016. In addition to being a writer, Paalman works as a German teacher and a presenter.
In Taking the Snarl out of the Dog, Paalman examines the human need for safety and control: the narrator in the opening poem ‘Audit’ belongs to a group of risk managers who detect and neutralize threats. The thematic scope is wide: the danger in her poems takes on different forms, ranging from a crane accident to fear of failure to sexual abuse. With a requisite serving of humour, Paalman shows how exorcising fear means engaging with an overactive imagination or a false sense of security, and slating those defence mechanisms when they lead to stagnation.

The many protocols, laws and agreements not only cause entrenched situations, but reduce individuals to ‘rusting figure[s]’ with a closed mind. ‘Protect yourself: imitate someone else’, Paalman writes in ‘II Protection’. People not meeting expectations or failing to exist in ‘in the desired way’, are cast out of the well-defined system. This inditement of intolerance gives Paalman’s poetry a strong, social undertone. Themes such as the refugee crisis, discrimination and illness are covered.

Paalman thematizes a longing for inner peace, but constantly creates linguistic unrest. She often sketches recognizable situations in her diverse poems, then disrupts readers’ expectations with strange connections and unexpected shifts. In ‘Column’, for example, she writes with irony: ‘who died? A boy in a hurry. […] Patient car drivers / stare at us, even the traffic controller / is wearing his best suit today’. Her poetry surprises with a creative handling of language and a daring play of contrasts. Paalman uses powerful, suggestive imagery (‘Seeing magnified cancer cells in the lentils on your plate’), mixes different registers and plays with alienating forms of language. She allows archaisms, neologisms, German words and business jargon to penetrate into a language that is usually clear in nature.

This versatile and multilingual character makes the poems hard to define: Taking the Snarl from the Dog is witty, disturbing and exciting. In her poetry, Paalman seeks the space to explore and break through both linguistic and social boundaries. Nothing is self-evident in her idiosyncratic debut: the unruly verses constantly unbalance readers, compelling them to see the world with different eyes.
© Steffie Van Neste (Translated by Michele Hutchison)
Taking the Snarl Out of The Dog, Uitgeverij Querido, Amsterdam, 2019
Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère