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Word for Word

Selected Translations of German Poets

H.C. Artmann, Wolfgang Bachler and Horst Bienek

Translated by Ruth Mead and Matthew Mead

Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (176 pages)
(Pub. Jun 2009)
Out of Stock
  • Description
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    the temptation in the blood:
    the comely man. What has passed
    is like sleep, dreams
    along rivers,
    on the waters,
    without sail, in the current.

    Plains – the lost
    villages, the forests’ edge.
    And a thin smoke
    in the air,

    blubber-lipped, Perkun
    came, a feather in his beard,
    came in the track of the elk,
    the Stutterer came,
    travelled the river, drew
    darkness, a fishing-net, after him.

    I was. In the old time.
    What is new has never begun. I am a man,
    of one flesh with his wife,
    who raises his children
    for an age without fear.

    Johannes Bobrowski

    Translated by Ruth and Matthew Mead


    Translator to Translated

    I.M. Johannes Bobrowski

    River, plain,
    tree, the bird
    in flight, habitation
    and name, strange
    to me, never strange
    to you – the child’s
    eye, the soldier’s
    step, the known

    I crossed the plain
    slowly, saw your fire
    in the distance.
    Have I set the tree
    askew on your sky,
    does your bird hover
    as love.
    Her song sung
    in a strange land.

    An air that kills.

    Matthew Mead 

    From The Autumn-Born in Autumn

    Since the 1960s the English poet Matthew Mead and his German wife Ruth have translated selections from poets to whom they were drawn. This is their own choice from the many memorable poems which they have translated. The collection celebrates a fascinating era of German poetry, to which it forms a uniquely personal introduction.

    Matthew Mead once wrote: ‘Of the Germans, Gottfried Benn has said many things to their end, but the important poem by a contemporary is, for me, Sabais’s Generation.’ This poem confronts Germany’s post-war experience in a way no other German writer has matched. Together with the mysterious, almost spell-like poetry of Johannes Bobrowski, it is one of the highlights of this varied collection, which ranges from the lyrical to the satirical, the witty and sardonic to the surrealist, and the elegiac in Nelly Sachs, a Nobel Prizewinner.

    The poets: H.C. Artmann, Wolfgang Bächler, Horst Bienek, Johannes Bobrowski, Elisabeth Borchers, Günter Bruno Fuchs, Christian Geissler, Max Hölzer, Urs Oberlin, Christa Reinig, Heinz Winfried Sabais, Nelly Sachs

    H.C. Artmann
    Best known for his Viennese dialect German poety, Hans Carl Artmann enjoyed a trilingual upbringing. As well as being a writer, Artmann was a prolific translator; he rendered Edward Lear, Lars Gustafsson, Daisy Ashford and H.P. Lovecraft into German. ... read more
    Horst Bienek
    Horst Beineck was born in Gleiwitz, Upper Silescia, in 1930. However, he was forced to leave when all Germans were expelled from Silesia in 1945. He resettled in the eastern part of Germany. For a time, he was a student of Bertolt Brecht. In 1951, he was arrested by NKVD and ... read more
    Ruth Mead
    Ruth Mead has translated the work of several German poets together with her husband, the late Matthew Mead. They include Horst Bienek – who shared a Penguin Modern European Poets selection with Bobrowski in 1971 – Heinz Winfried Sabais ( The People and the Stones ), Nelly Sachs and Johannes Bobrowski ... read more
    Matthew Mead
    Matthew Mead (1924–2009) was born in Slapton, Buckinghamshire. He served in the British army from 1942 to 1947, including three years in India, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Singapore. He edited the poetry magazine Satis . From 1962 he lived in Germany and, with his wife Ruth, translated many German poets, ... read more
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