Born near Berlin, the eldest son of a Protestant priest and a French Swiss governess. Received a classical education at boarding school and briefly studied theology and philology at the universities of Marburg and Berlin. Thereafter became a medical student and gained a doctorate in medicine in the year his first book of poems ( Morgue, 1912) was published. Fell in love with the poetess Else Lasker-Schiiler. Married an actress in 1914. Witnessed the execution of Edith Cavell in an official capacity and at the end of the war became a specialist in skin and venereal complaints. Lived a solitary life after the death of his wife in 1922, though an intimate friend of the widow of the dramatist Wedekind. Wholeheartedly embraced the Nazi ideology in 1933, condemning those who had fled Germany, but within a short time found himself unacceptable to the new régime, and forced to go into 'inner emigration'. Married his second wife in 1938; she committed suicide as the Red Army approached Berlin in 1945. First published after the war in Switzerland, because he was persona non grata in the Germany of the reconstruction. Later partially rehabilitated in Germany; gave a famous lecture, 'The Problem of Lyric Poetry', at the University of Marburg in 1951. Received many honours in Berlin on his seventieth birthday, though continuing after his death to be a controversial figure by virtue of his extreme political stance in the 1930s. Widely regarded notwithstanding as the most important native German poet of the twentieth century.
Whilst none of this century's experimental poets has avoided