Twentieth-Century German Poetry: An Anthology

Overview

This groundbreaking anthology will serve as the standard for years to come. Editor Michael Hofmann has assembled brilliant translations of the major German poets, from Rilke and Brecht to Durs Grunbein and Jan Wagner, in an approachable, readable, and endlessly interesting collection. Here we find poetry as a living counter-force to socio-political reality; poetry of dissent and fear and protest; poetry of private griefs and musics. From the subtlety and elegance of Brecht, to the extraordinary jargon-glooms of ...

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Overview

This groundbreaking anthology will serve as the standard for years to come. Editor Michael Hofmann has assembled brilliant translations of the major German poets, from Rilke and Brecht to Durs Grunbein and Jan Wagner, in an approachable, readable, and endlessly interesting collection. Here we find poetry as a living counter-force to socio-political reality; poetry of dissent and fear and protest; poetry of private griefs and musics. From the subtlety and elegance of Brecht, to the extraordinary jargon-glooms of Gottfried Benn, to the oblique and straightforward responses to the country's villainous history, to the bitter, cleansed, and haunted poetry of the postwar years, the anthology ends with a reunified country looking at itself and its neighbors in new ways. This is an essential and timely collection of verse from a tumultuous, violent, tragic, and hopeful century, written in the language of those who were at the heart of the matter.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Michael Hofmann's eclectic and inspiring anthology is going to be a touchstone for readers like myself of European poets whose works, even though known to us only in translation, have formed an essential element of our contemporary sensibility. There is a special pleasure in finding among his choices translations that one has responded to intensely in comparison with others collected over the years—in my case, for example, J.B. Leishman's version of Rilke's 'Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.' And there's the fresh interest of discovering translations never before come across, of poems thought of as finally known. The German originals side-by-side are a stimulus to us, the lovers of words. Though one doesn't know the language, these are words whose mouthed cadence makes itself understood in enhancement of the English word and phrase. A wonderful source to return to, again and again."      —Nadine Gordimer

 "Except for a few famous names, modern German poetry is sadly unknown to most Anglophone readers. Poet Michael Hoffman and his team of gifted poet/translators have done much to right the situation with this brilliant and amazing collection."   —John Ashbery

"Michael Hofmann has a skeptical intelligence, an observant eye, a compulsion to speak the unspeakable, and the useful wariness of the displaced person." —Helen Vendler, The New York Review of Books

Publishers Weekly
This handsome, hearty, duel-language volume will vastly expand what most American readers know of contemporary German poetry: maybe some Rilke, Celan or Brecht and probably little else. From a whimsy by the artist Paul Klee to a strange piece by young poet Jan Wagner connecting a scientist's electrical experiments on himself to frogs "transmitting the new codeword to each other," this anthology's pleasures are many. Well-known poet and translator Hofman gathers a varied range of poems from the German canon-better-known poets and writers like Rilke, Georg Trakl, Brecht, Celan and G nter Grass, meet many poets who deserve a larger following outside Germany, like Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Durs Gr nbein. Famous poems-like Celan's Holocaust dirge "Deathfugue," with its incantatory repetitions ("Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening")-join relatively unknown ones, like Heiner M ller's "Brecht," which ends: "When darkness says, I am / Brightness, it does not lie." Hofman also brings together an unlikely host of translators: an often-translated poet like Rilke appears both in C.F. MacIntyre's neat 1940 rendering of "Autumn Day" and in Paul Muldoon's loose 1998 version of "The Unicorn," creating dissonances that underline the vast subjectivity of translation. This is a wonderful introduction to an amazing century of work. (Dec.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374530938
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 3/18/2008
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 1,477,475
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 7.95 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

The noted poet Michael Hofmann has translated many German-language authors, among them Ernst Junger, Franz Kafka, Wolfgang Koeppen, and Joseph Roth. Ashes for Breakfast, a translation of Durs Grunbein, was published by FSG in 2005. He lives in London.

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Read an Excerpt

TWENTIETH-CENTURY

GERMAN POETRY

ELSE LASKER-SCHÜLER, 1869-1945

George Grosz

Manchmal spielen bunte Tränen

In seinen äschernen Augen.

Aber immer begegnen ihm Totenwagen,

Die verscheuchen seine Libellen.

Er ist abergläubig—

—Ward unter einem bösen Stern geboren—

Seine Schrift regnet,

Seine Zeichnung: Trüber Buchstabe.

Wie lange im Fluß gelegen

Blähen seine Menschen sich auf,

Mysteriöse Verlorene mit Quabbenmäulern

Und verfaulten Seelen.

Fünf träumende Totenfahrer

Sind seine silbernen Finger.

Aber nirgendwo ein Licht im verirrten Märchen

Und doch ist er ein Kind,

Der Held aus dem Lederstrumpf;

Mit dem Indianerstamm auf Duzfuß.

Sonst haßt er alle Menschen,

Sie bringen ihm Unglück.

Aber George Grosz liebt sein Mißgeschick

Wie einen anhänglichen Feind.

Sometimes coloured tears play

In his ashen eyes.

He is forever encountering funeral processions Which scatter his dragonflies.

He is superstitious—

Born under a bad star—

His writing rains,

His drawings: gloomy alphabets.

His people are bloated,

As though they’d long lain in rivers,

Mysterious missing persons with fish-mouths

And mouldering souls.

His silver fingers

Are five dreamy undertakers.

Nowhere is there a light in his lost Märchen,

But he remains a boy at heart,

A Fenimore Cooper hero;

On first-name terms with a tribe of Indians.

Apart from them, he hates everyone,

They bring him bad luck.

But George Grosz loves his fate

Like a trusty enemy.

Und seine Traurigkeit ist dionysisch, Schwarzer Champagnerseine Klage.

Kein Mensch weiß, wo er herkam;

Ich weiß, wo er landet.

Er ist ein Meer mit verhängtem Mond, Sein Gott ist nur scheintot.

And his sadness is Dionysian,

Black champagne his plaints.

No one knows where he came from;

I know where he ends up.

He is a sea with a dim moon above it, His god is only playing dead.

Michael Hofmann

RAINER MARIA RILKE, 1875-1926

Herbsttag

Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.

Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,

und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;

gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,

dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage

die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.

Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,

wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben

und wird in den Alleen hin und her

unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Autumn Day

Lord, it is time. The summer was too long.

Lay now thy shadow over the sundials,

and on the meadows let the winds blow strong.

Bid the last fruit to ripen on the vine;

allow them still two friendly southern days

to bring them to perfection and to force

the final sweetness in the heavy wine.

Who has no house now will not build him one.

Who is alone now will be long alone,

will waken, read, and write long letters

and through the barren pathways up and down

restlessly wander when dead leaves are blown.

C. F. MacIntyre

Spanische Tänzerin

Wie in der Hand ein Schwefelzündholz, weiß,

eh es zur Flamme kommt, nach allen Seiten

zuckende Zungen streckt—: beginnt im Kreis

naher Beschauer hastig, hell und heiß

ihr runder Tanz sich zuckend auszubreiten.

Und plötzlich ist er Flamme, ganz und gar.

Mit einem Blick entzündet sie ihr Haar

und dreht auf einmal mit gewagter Kunst

ihr ganzes Kleid in diese Feuersbrunst,

aus welcher sich, wie Schlangen die erschrecken,

die nackten Arme wach und klappernd strecken.

Und dann: als würde ihr das Feuer knapp,

nimmt sie es ganz zusamm und wirft es ab

sehr herrisch, mit hochmütiger Gebärde

und schaut: da liegt es rasend auf der Erde

und flammt noch immer und ergiebt sich nicht—. Doch sieghaft, sicher und mit einem süßen

grüßenden Lächeln hebt sie ihr Gesicht

und stampft es aus mit kleinen festen Füßen.

The Spanish Dancer

The audience in the cup of her hand,

she is a struck match: sparks,

darting tongues, and then the white flare

of phosphorus and the dance ignites

a charm of fire, uncoiling, spreading fast.

And suddenly she is all flame.

She is brazen: glancing round and shamelessly

setting her hair alight, turning her dress

to a seething inferno, from which she stretches

long white arms, and castanets, like rattlesnakes woken, startled to their ratcheting and clack.

And just as quick, as if constricted

by the sheath of fire, she gathers it up

and casts it off in one high gesture,

and looks down: it lies there raging on the ground,

shed flame stubbornly alive.

Radiant, chin tilted in salute, she dispatches it

with a steely fusillade of feet:

stamps it, pounds it, stamps it out.

RAINER MARIA RILKE

Blaue Hortensie

So wie das letzte Grün in Farbentiegeln

sind diese Blätter, trocken, stumpf und rauh,

hinter den Blütendolden, die ein Blau

nicht auf sich tragen, nur von ferne spiegeln.

Sie spiegeln es verweint und ungenau,

als wollten sie es wiederum verlieren,

und wie in alten blauen Briefpapieren

ist Gelb in ihnen, Violett und Grau;

Verwaschnes wie an einer Kinderschürze, Nichtmehrgetragnes, dem nichts mehr geschieht:

wie fühlt man eines kleinen Lebens Kürze.

Doch plötzlich scheint das Blau sich zu verneuen

in einer von den Dolden, und man sieht

ein rührend Blaues sich vor Grünem freuen.

rainer maria rilke

Excerpted from Twentieth-Century German Poetry by Michael Hofmann.
Copyright 2005 by Michael Hofmann.
Published in First American edition, 2006 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Table of Contents

Christian Morgenstern (1871–1914)

Night Song of the Fish

Introduction

Else Lasker-Schuler (1869–1945)

George Grosz

George Grosz

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926)

Herbsttag

Autumn Day

Spanische Tanzerin

The Spanish Dancer

Blaue Hortensie

Blue Hydrangea

Vor dem Sommerregen

Before Summer Rain

Orpheus. Eurydike. Hermes

Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes

Der Konig von Munster

The King of Munster

"Ausgesetzt auf den Bergen des Herzens"

"Exposed on the cliffs of the heart"

Die neunte Elegie

The Ninth Elegy

Sonette an Orpheus II, 4

The Unicorn

Paul Klee (1879–1940)

Wasser

Water

Ernst Stadler (1883–1914)

Fahrt uber die Kolner Rheinbrucke bei Bacht

On Crossing the Rhine Bridge at Cologne by Night

Gottfried Benn (1886–1956)

aus Morgue I, II

from Morgue I, II

Nachtcafe

Night Cafe

D–Zug

Express Train

Chopin

Chopin

Kleines sußes Gesicht

Little Sweet Face

Gewisse Lebensabende

The Evenings of Certain Lives

Fragmente

Fragments

Blaue Stunde

Blue Hour

Teils–teils

Par ci, par la

Menchen getroffen

People Met

Hor zu

Listen

Georg Heym (1887–1912)

Die Damonen der Stadte

The Demons of the Cities

Umbra Vitae

Umbra Vitae

Die Tote im Wasser

The Dead Girl in the Water

Der Modedichter

Poet a la Mode

Jakob van Hoddis (1887–1942)

Weltende

End of the World

Georg Trakl (1887–1914)

Traum des Bosen

Dream of Evil

De Profundis

De Profundis

Die Ratten

The Rats

Landschaft

Landscape

Kindheit

Childhood

Psalm II

Psalm II

Im Osten

Eastern Front

Grodek

Grodek

Hans Arp (1887–1966)

Kaspar ist tot

Kaspar is Dead

Kurt Schwitters (1887–1947)

Die Raddadistenmaschine

The Dadarotator

"Es ist Herbst"

"It is autumn"

Gesetztes Bilgedicht (Composed Picture Poem)

Franz Werfel (1890–1945)

Der dicke Mann im Spiegel

The Fat Man in the Mirror

Nelly Sachs (1891–1970)

"O die Schornsteine"

"O the chimneys"

"Wer aber leerte den Sand aus euren Schuhen"

"But who emptied your shoes of sand"

Chor der Geretteten

Chorus of the Rescued

"Diese Kette von Ratseln"

"This chain of enigmas"

"Auch dir, du mein Geliebter"

"Two hands, born to give"

George Grosz (1893–1956)

Apfelbock, oder die Lilie auf dem Felde

Apfelbock, or the Lily of the Field

Vom Schwimmen in Seen und Flussen

Of Swimming in Lakes and Rivers

Erinnerung an die Marie A.

A Cloud

Die Ballade vom Liebestod

Ballad of the Love–Death

Vom armen B.B.

Of Poor B.B.

Gedanken uber die Dauer des Exils

Thoughts on the Duration of Exile

Zufluchtsstatte

Place of Refuge

An die Nachgeborenen

To Those Born Later

Motto

Motto

1940

1940

Nachdenkend uber die Holle

On Thinking About Hell

Hollywood-Elegien

Hollywood Elegies

Vom Sprengen des Gartens

Of Sprinkling the Garden

aus Buckower Elegien

from Buckow Elegies

Der Radwechsel

Changing the Wheel

Die Losung

The Solution

Vor acht Jahren

Eight Years Ago

Bei der Lekture eines spatgriechischen Dichters

Reading a Late Greek Poet

"Und ich dachte immer"

"And I always thought"

Peter Huchel (1903–1981)

Landschaft hinter Warschau

Landscape Beyond Warsaw

Chausseen

Roads

Die Pappeln

The Poplars

Der Garten des Theophrast

The Garden of Theophrastus

Psalm

Psalm

Der Schlammfang

The Mudcatchers

Gunter Eich (1907–1972)

Inventur

Inventory

Bericht aus einem Kurort

Report from a Spa

Bruder Grimm

Brothers Grimm

Aussicht vom Spezial-Keller

Perspective from the Spezial-Keller

Auskunfte aus dem Nachlaß

Tips from the Posthumous Papers

Bett huten

Confined to Bed

Ernst Meister (1911–1979)

Monolog der Menschen

Human Monologue

Johannes Bobrowski (1917–1965)

Kindheit

Childhood

Lettische Lieder

Latvian Songs

Ungesagt

Unsaid

Bericht

Report

Mozart

Mozart

Trakl

Trakl

Rainer Brambach (1917–1983)

Vormittag

Morning

Alleinstehende Manner

Single Men

Paul Celan (1920–1970)

Erinnerung an Frankreich

Memory of France

Corona

Corona

Todesfuge

Deathfugue

"Zahle die Mandeln"

"Count the almonds"

Tenebrae

Tenebrae

Matiere de Bretagne

Matiere de Bretagne

"Es war Erde in ihnen"

"There was earth inside them"

Tubingen, Janner

Tubingen, January

"Schlafenzange"

"Temple-pincers"

"Schreib dich nicht"

"Don't write yourself"

Friederike Mayrocker (1924– )

Ostia wird dich empfangen

Ostia Will Receive You

Verlust und Nahe

Lost and Near

Ernst Jandl (1925–2000)

aus das große e

from the big e

"1944/1945"

marking a turn

oberflachenubersetzung

Heinz Piontek (1925–2003)

Um 1800

Circa 1800

Inge Muller (1925–1966)

Unterm Schutt III

Under the Rubble III

Der schwarze Wagen

The Black Cart

"Du hast versprochen mit mir"

"You promised you would walk with me"

"Ich habe dich heute Nacht verlassen"

"I left you last night"

Ingeborg Bachmann (1926–1973)

Die gestundete Zeit

The Time Allotted

Abschied von England

Departure from England

Herbstmanover

Autumn Maneuver

Salz und Brot

Salt and Bread

Tage in Weiß

Days in White

Oskar Pastior (1927– )

Dominotaurus

Dominotaurus

Gunter Grass (1927– )

Klappstuhle

Folding Chairs

Im Ei

In the Egg

Dreht euch nicht um

Don't Turn Round

Die Festung wachst

The Fortress Grows

Hertha Kraftner (1928–1951)

Auf den Tod eines Dichters

On the Death of a Poet

Gunter Kunert (1929– )

Uber einige davongekommene

About Some Who Survived

Film—Verkehrt eingespannt

Film Put in Backwards

Vor seinem Angesicht

Shelley Plain

Heiner Muller (1929–1995)

Brecht

Brecht

Die Hyane

The Hyena

Herz aus Finsternis nach Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness adapted from Joseph Conrad

Hans Magnus Enzenberger (1929– )

Das Enge der Eulen

the end of the owls

Karl Heinrich Marx

Karl Heinrich Marx

Schaum

foam

Zum Anderken an William Carlos Williams

In Memory of Williams Carlos Williams

Erkennungsdienstliche Behandlung

Identity Check

Die Dreiunddreißigjahrige

At Thirty-three

Der Urlaub

The Holiday

Besuch bei Ingres

Visiting Ingres

Valse triste et sentimentale

Valse triste et sentimantale

Fetisch

Fetish

Zur Erinnerung an Sir Hiram Maxim (1840–1916)

In Memory of Sir Hiram Maxim (1840–1916)

Herbst 1944

Autumn 1944

Der Geist des Vaters

His Father's Ghost

Landerlexikon

Gazetteer

Adolph Endler (1930– )

Als der Krieg zu Ende war:

When the war was over:

Jurgen Becker (1932– )

Wechselnder Wind

A Shift in the Wind

Hotel Belgica

Hotel Belgica

" . . . Beerdigungen im Sommer"

" . . . Funerals in summer"

Herbstgeschichte

Autumn Story

Reiner Kunze (1933– )

Die Bringer Beethovens

The Bringers of Beethoven

Zimmerlautstarke

With the Volume Turned Down

In memoriam Johannes Bobrowski

In Memoriam Johannes Bobrowski

Sarah Kirsch (1935– )

Trauriger Tag

Sad Day

Winter

Winter

Allein

Alone

Brief

Letter

Christoph Meckel (1935– )

aus Saure

from Acid

Kurt Bartsch (1937– )

Tranen

Tears

G.

G.

Besuch Enzensberger

A Visit from Enzensberger

Frage Antwort Frage

Question Answer Question

Nicolas Born (1937–1979)

Marktlage

Market Position

Selbstbildnis

Self-Portrait

Elke Erb (1938– )

Grimms Marchen

Grimm's Fairytales

N.s Identitat

N.'s Identity

Volker Braun (1939– )

O Chicago! O Widerspruch!

O Chicago! O Dialectic!

Das Theater der Toten

The Theatre of the Dead

Rolf Dieter Brinkmann (1940–1975)

Landschaft

Landscape

Karin Kiwus (1943– )

Hommes a femme

Hommes a femme

Michael Kruger (1943– )

Fußnote

Footnote

Meister

Ernst Meister in Memoriam

Jergen Theobaldy (1944– )

Mein junges Leben

My Young Life

Joachim Sartorius (1946– )

Alexandria

Alexandria

Vieuz Jeu

Vieux Jeu

Uwe Kolbe (1957– )

Metamorfosis

Metamorphosis

Durs Grunbein (1962– )

Trilce, Cesar

Trilce, Cesar

Dieser Tag gehort Dir

All About You

Ohne Titel

Untitled

MonoLogisches Gedicht no. 2

MonoLogical Poem no. 2

Tizians neue Zimmer

Titan's New Pad

Klage eines Legionars aus dem Feldzug des Germanicus an die Elbe

Lament of a Legionnaire on Germanicus's Campaign to the Elbe River

aus Gruße aus der Hauptstadt des Vergessens

from Greetings from Oblivion City

Lutz Seiler (1963– )

good evening kap

good evening skip

fin de siecle

fin de siecle

mein jahrgang, dreiundsechzig, jene

"my birth year, sixty-three, that"

mude bin ich

now I lay me

Marcel Beyer (1965– )

Jihad Klange der Heimat

Jihad Sounds of Home

Raps

Rapeseed

Volker Sielaff (1966– )

Schopfungsmythos

Creation Myth

Schlaflos

Sleepless

Hauke Huckstadt (1969– )

Platz der Befriung

Liberation Square

Thema uber eine Variation

Theme on a Variation

Going Beck

Going Beck

Im Hause

No One Home

Matthias Goritz (1969– )

Fur Wolodja in Moskau

For Volodya in Moscow

Jan Wagner (1971– )

Frosche

Frogs

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