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The People and the Stones

Heinz Winfried Sabais

Translated by Matthew Mead and Ruth Mead

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Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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Paperback (72 pages)
£6.95 £6.25
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    Entrench your heart.
    The wolf-packs prowl.
    A shepherd in the Beskids
    found a flock of doves frozen to death.
    A factory on the Volga
    has more than doubled
    the production of handcuffs.
    Entrench your heart.

    Outwit your wrath.
    Automatic eyes follow
    the course of every cloud
    across your face.
    Men with machine-heads
    demand in punched-card language
    a justification of your dreams.
    Outwit your wrath.

    Cast off your hope.
    Those well-meaning gentlemen
    who nodded to you in the studio
    cannot shoot.
    Only death stands at your side
    and controls your every movement
    with the stop-watch.
    Cast off your hope.

    Conceal, at once, your thoughts
    – most dangerous ammunition – beneath time,
    a cocked verse in the reading-book
    of your son, lament and pain
    in the sounding-board of a violin.
    And trust the law: the invisible
    weapons of freedom
    are also deadly.

    Translated by Ruth and Matthew Mead

    Heinz Winfried Sabais’s poetry first appeared in English translation by Ruth and Matthew Mead in 1968. Reviewing Generation and other poems in Tribune, Richard Burns wrote: ‘Whether he is concerned with public statement or private emotion, Sabais reveals himself as a commanding spokesman for individual conscience and personal commitment.’

    The People and the Stones includes most of the poems collected in the earlier book, together with two long political poems written in the 1970s – ‘Agenda’ and ‘Socialist Elegy’ – and a selection from the posthumously published Self or Saxifrage, a sequence of autobiographical and historical poems written shortly before his death in 1981. Sabais’s distinctive gift lay in presenting the conflicts of the post-war German experience without self-pity, his style is fully conveyed in these translations by a poet of his own generation who has ‘on occasion been surprised to find myself writing down things which, even allowing for the ventriloquist’s-dummy aspect of translation, I might have written myself.’

    Heinz Winfried Sabais
    Heinz Winfried Sabais was born in 1922 in Breslau. He studied literature and philosophy at the University of Jena. During the war he was a pilot. He fled to the West in 1950 and settled in Darmstadt, where he was active in politics as a moderate Social Democrat. From 1954 he ... 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
    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
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