Paul Demets made his debut as a poet in 1999 with the remarkable collection De papegaaienziekte (The Parrot Disease), published by the Dutch publishing house Meulenhoff. In those years, the poetry scene in Flanders was divided between advocates and opponents of what is commonly called "postmodern" tendencies in poetry. Unintentionally for the writer, this volume became a significant subject of controversy between the arguing parties, but nonetheless it was awarded the Poetry Prize of the Province of East-Flanders and nominated for the C. Buddingh’ Prize, an award for the best Dutch-language debut collection. His second book, Vrees voor het bloemstuk (Fear of the Bouquet), was published by DRUKsel, a small Flemish bibliophile press, in 2002. Paul Demets’s most recent volume, De bloedplek (The Blood Spot), was published in 2011 by the Dutch publishing house De Bezige Bij and awarded the Herman De Coninck Prize, making him known to a larger audience.
It is hardly a surprise when we encounter a quote from Zygmunt Bauman's Liquid Times or Jacques Lacan's "ça parle" at the beginnings of Demets' poetic cycles. His poetry is very much aware that language constitutes both the individual and the society in which a human being lives. His poetry questions the social and ethical dimensions, and resulting dilemmas, of modern society and time. In a world without fixed points to hold onto, the search for the self and the longing for interaction with the other ground Demets’ poems. His themes are the body, identity and the preservation of the self in an ever-threatening and unstable world; his forms are the ellipse, unusual grammar and syntax, mirroring and doubling.
"Let us hope that these verses also mark the rebirth of this poet," Erwin Mortier wrote in a review of De bloedplek. "After too many years of silence Paul Demets brought a collection in the world that stands as solid as a house."
Demets teaches at the Royal Academy for Fine Arts and the University of Ghent. He is also a poetry critic for the newspaper De Morgen, the culture website Cobra.be (VRT), and the magazines Poëziekrant, Awater and Ons Erfdeel, and he regularly publishes articles on theatre in magazines such as Etcetera, Documenta and Ons Erfdeel. Currently he is working on a biography of the poet Paul Snoek and a collection of poems aimed at younger readers.
Paul Demets, De papegaaienziekte (The Parrot Disease), Amsterdam: Meulenhoff / Kritak, 1999
Paul Demets, Vrees voor het bloemstuk (Fear of the Bouquet), Ghent: DRUKsel, 2002
Paul Demets, De bloedplek (The Blood Spot), Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij, 2011