A Dossier of Contemporary German-Language Poetry

World Literature Today, November/December 2014 | Go to article overview

A Dossier of Contemporary German-Language Poetry


The Shredding of Stillness at Noon

Durs Grünbein

Again this scrabble in the air, barbed-wire

Guitars, strung all across the land.

Cicada radio, telephony of arthropods

Grinding their legs, sandpaper tongues.

The din still resonates with legions'

Marching orders, cracking whips

Over wild mercenaries' helmets, rattling

Keys, so old they fit no more, hate-

Speech and shreds of Caesars' voices.

Drilling itself into the landscape, deep, this bodes

Calamities gone by - vandal raids

And pillaging and conflagrations, all -

Of which only this scrabble will remain,

Vibrating in the air before the Roman gates -

A paper vortex all ablaze.

Shredded, Shredded.

Translated by Michael Eskin

Author, translator, and publisher Michael Eskin is the cofounder of Upper West Side Philosophers. A frequent guest on the radio, he lectures regularly on cultural, philosophical, and literary subjects across the US and Europe.

Vacancies

Durs Grünbein

The next day the bay seemed tamed.

Butterflies, correspondents from dry land,

cavorted across the sparkling sea, as if

complicit in the game. Pleased for all of us,

they did an extra lap in honour of the dead,

then disappeared without trace.

Imagine: there we were speaking to one

another in signs, like divers. Sensing

the ferries approaching from other islands,

engines thrumming in the deep,

the sum of the summer in advance. But oh,

who will give me recompense for all

those dismal years lost in offices? The day

forever starting just as it had ended,

with grey calculations, hopeless vacations.

Translated by Karen Leeder

Karen Leeder is an academic, translator, and the recipient of the 2013 Stephen Spender Prize. Her translations of volumes by Volker Braun and Michael Krüger have just been published.

Dresden-born poet Durs Grünbein has been the recipient of many national and international awards, including the Georg Büchner Prize (1994), the Premio Internazionale di Poesia Pier Paolo Pasolini (2006), and the Tomas Tranströmer Prize (2012). Since 1988, when his first collection, Grauzone, morgens (Gray zone, morning), appeared, he has published more than twenty books. He holds the Chair for Poetics and Artistic Aesthetics at the School of the Arts in Düsseldorf, Germany, and lives in Berlin, Germany.

Moon and Blue

Esther Dischereit

When the moon grows hot

I lose my shoes

My eyes leave me behind

there is a quiet swish of sheets

On a blue bed with green

flowers

I drown.

Dust has settled on my hair.

"The paper . . ."

Esther Dischereit

The paper

breathes your words

from its woody pores

Or rising from the masses

of pressed rags

the letters advanced

across its fibers

bending this way

stretching that way

and raising

their sans-serif arms.

Translated by Iain Galbraith

A History of Script I

Raoul Schrott

flies on prawns smeared with yellow clay

cocoa and green coffee displayed on cotton

in front of sacks of cassava and charcoal

under the trestles of booths printed letters on carton

metal signs and scribbled symbols the possible

fonts for a book of torn-out pages . a primer

like the ones in the french school whose miserable

illustrations they colour in with crayon

while learning the words . with feet in rags

and a sleeping babe in arms what's real sells

for double . rejects arrayed on vendor's trays

wristwatches brassieres and batteries . labels

for the creole of a grammar of trade whose

abc includes stuck-on logos but which pays

for its raw in cash that is always low . mangoes

leeks tomatoes hens in wicker baskets

down the avenue de l'indépendance to the railway

station peasants thronging past the stalls where parasol

spiders stretch under wraps of white wool

a cloth that will turn as grey as the rain in the potholes

by four o'clock . …

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