#Poets on Friday ~ Ingeborg Bachmann introduced by Professor Rainer Schulte, Center for Translation Studies, University of Texas

Hello out there, how are you on this Friday morning? I hope you are well and if not that you find help with a poem and someone who holds you tight.

Today I want to introduce you to the Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann. I stumbled over her poetry first at school but later in a poetry book about German writing poetesses that my step-mum gave me. Her words resonated with me but had a little edge to it. It wasn’t love at first sight but with more life experience her poems came closer to my experience.

To make your own mind up about her work have a look here at Poem Hunter

Unfortunately, I could hardly find anything about her in English but a short introduction by Professor Rainer Schulte from the University in Texas. There are also more poems by her on All Poetry.

Please follow the link underneath the video if it doesn’t play here on the blog.

video credit: UT Dallas Center for Translation Studies by YouTube

Happy Friday to you all!!!!!

#Poets on Friday ~ Erich Fried ~ Exiles

Hi there dear poetry lovers, how are you today? I hope you are well and if not that there is always a poem to help you through.

Today I won’t bore you with one of my poems but will introduce you to one of my favourite poets called Erich Fried. I am not sure how well known he is in the English speaking world even though the Austrian-born poet lived for many years in the UK when he had to flee his native Nazi-occupied country. In Germany, he is mainly known for his wonderful love poetry. “Was es ist/What it is” is one of the few poems I found translated. However, he was an inherently political man who often saw through the games politicians play to get us to believe what they want. In “100 Poems without a Country” he talks poetically about exile, tyranny and how to keep up the hope and fight for freedom.

For a long time, I wasn’t aware that he lived here in the UK for such a long time but when I realised his poetry became even more important to me. He has translated some of Shakespeare’s work into German which I also didn’t know for a long time. I think that is quite a feat because it is hard enough to understand old-fashioned English but bringing it into old-fashioned German must have been really hard.

MoonHopoe shared a documentary about Erich Fried in which you can hear him talk about his life. It seems to be from 1988 the year in which he died. Please enjoy and be inspired to read some of his poetry. Thanks!

And als always: Follow the link underneath the video if it doesn’t play here on the blog.

video source: Moon Hopoe on YouTube

Erich Fried’s Poetry on All Poetry

Poetry by Erich Fried on PoemHunter

Podcast about Erich Fried’s poem “You” on The Poetry Exchange

Happy Friday to you all!!!!

50 Poets and Writers You Should Read before You Are 50! (Final part V)

At last! We are there! The last 10 poets and writers you should read before you are 50. And without further ado here they are:

41. Stieg Larsson: His “Millenium Series” made the headlines after his death as his publisher gave David Lagercrantz the go ahead to finish the fourth book “That Which Does Not Kill”. It caused a controversy who has the right to the book or the series and I still have not read the fourth book. However, I do know the other three more known as “The Girl with The Dragon Tatoo series” and I just loved them. I just have a thing for kick-ass girls who do not give a damn about what people think. Wish I could be like that :-).

42. Friedrich Duerrenmatt: Now to two Swiss but German writing authors (if you do not know it: Switzerland has actually 4 official languages: German, Italian, French and Rhaetian) who have impressed me greatly in my youth. Friedrich Duerrenmatt is probably well known for his play “The Physicists” which asks the question how humankind is able to morally deal with scientific advancement. And this question is more pressing than ever. But he has also written some thought provoking novels like The Judge and his hangman and The Suspicion.

43. Max Frisch: Ah, so much to read so little time. If you are interested in Swiss authors but only have time for one author please choose Max Frisch. Especially his play “Andorra” which seems to be more important than ever as it deals with the use of stereotypes and how people choose to believe what they want as long as they find a scapegoat for their problems.

44. Christa Wolf: I suspect most of the younger generation are not aware that Germany for a very long time was like Korea parted in a communist part and a democratic part. Christa Wolf was one of the communist parts most famous writers who worked in her writings on topics like German fascism, feminism and humanism. If you are looking for an insight into Eastern Germany under STASI surveillance then choose her biography “What Remains” but if you are interested in new interpretations of old myths “Cassandra” and “Medeia” are just the right books for you.

45. Gabriele Wohmann: And if you want to know more about life in the western part of Germany at a similar time than that of Christ Wolf then try to find a translation of Gabriele Wohmann’s stories which are sad, touching and thought provoking at the same time.

46. Kurt Tucholski: You cannot understand Germany before and in WWII if you haven’t read any of Kurt Tucholski’s essays and/or novels. He was one of the most famous German Journalists in the Weimarer Republic and warned early about the anti-democratic tendencies of Social Nationalism. But my favourite of his is a love story: Castle Gripsholm.

47. Albert Camus: Lately I have often thought both about Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre and their idea of an absurd universe and how to exist in it. To me his “The Myth of Sisyphus” sums up life: it’s entirely absurd but you need to make the best of it. And even if you do not believe in that sort of life philosophy. It certainly grows your horizon if you engage with his writing.

48. Erich Maria Remarque: It’s 2017 and the WWI is a hundred years past but the war to end all wars wasn’t successful. We just have to look at the US and North Korea, Russia and the Ukraine and the skirmishes in Africa. If you are not sure if war is a good means to solve conflicts then please read “Nothing New at the Western Front”. It certainly opens your eyes.

49. Italo Calvino: I do love to read a strange novel and Italo Calvino’s “If on a Winter’s Night a Stranger” certainly falls into that category. Let’s get Wikipedia’s help: “The postmodernist narrative, in the form of a frame story, is about the reader trying to read a book called If on a winter’s night a traveller. Each chapter is divided into two sections. The first section of each chapter is in the second person, and describes the process the reader goes through to attempt to read the next chapter of the book he is reading. The second half is the first part of a new book that the reader (“you”) finds. The second half is always about something different from the previous ones and the ending is never explained. The book was published in an English translation by William Weaver in 1981.” Any questions? Do you want to challenge your reading habits? That book certainly helps you with it.

50. Erich Kaestner: I’ve started the list on Monday with children’s authors and I will end it with one whom you probably know as his “Lottie and Lisa” even if it is only the many film adaptions is world famous. I suspect any German child knows his mystery series “Emil and the Detectives” I, however, love his poems as well as the “grown-up” story “Three Men in the Snow” and his biography “When I was a little boy” which tells the story of his childhood in Dresden.

So, my dear readers. I let you go now on an adventure of reading and discovering authors from other languages and the great work that their translators do to bring their stories to you. Please do not worry that the stories and poems have lost their identity because translators are brilliant professionals who manage to catch every detail of meaning and words and you would miss out so much if you do not give these authors a try.

You can find the other parts here: Part I, Part II, Part III & Part IV


50 Poets and Writers you should read before you are 50! (Part IV)

So we are more than half way through The Bee’s list of 50 poets and writers to read before you are 50.

How do you like it so far? Do you know any of the author’s and poets? And could you give me some suggestions that I don’t know yet?

Here you can find Part I, Part II & Part III

Today we start with a German classic and end with a German classic:

31. Thomas Mann: Thomas Mann’s first novel “The Buddenbrooks” is probably one of the reasons I always wanted to write a novel. We had to read it in school and I was so fascinated by his description of the Hanseatic family’s fortunes and decline. His characters are so captivating that you feel you stand right beside them and experience the whole thing first hand. Of course, he has written much more and you could also go for his brother Heinrich or his children Erika, Klaus and Golo all of which are brilliant writers too.

32. Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen: He is one of my favourite discoveries in 2017. I chose his “The Rabbit Back Literature Society” purely because I liked the title but my goodness was I in for a reading ride. In Finland, he or s more known for his sci-fi/fantasy stories but his journey into mystery mixed with magical realism is certainly worth to stray from your usual reading ground.

33. Carlos Ruiz Zafon: Now we are off to Spain and Barcelona in particular. A hidden library full of secret books, a love story and a man who wants to destroy an author’s entire work? If that doesn’t make you curious what will :-)? That book made me want to visit the city and the walking tour descriptions at the end of the book just added to it. Zafon wrote this book as the first part of a trilogy, however, the other two books follow other storylines. There is much to discover with Mr Zafon.

34. Pablo Neruda: I have not read many of his poems but those I read made me long to go to South America. Not that I wanted to now. However, his poetic voice is passionate, critical and you should not miss it.

35. Jostein Gaarder: My favourite book by Jostein Gaarder is a controversial one. “Sophie’s World” is the story of Sophie who gets a home course in philosophy by the mysterious Alberto Knox. Many think this is a rather patronising book as it emphasises the importance of taking care of the natural world as well as keeping peace with diplomatic means. To me though it is a brilliant way to learn about the basic philosophical ideas which have an influence on today’s thinking. He wrote many other novels so you can surely find one that appeals.

36. Kahlil Gibran: The only book I know by Khalil Gibran is probably his most famous in English speaking countries: The Prophet which is a book full of poetically written essays on life, the universe and everything. In Arabic speaking countries and Lebanon where he comes from especially, he is known as a literary rebel who broke away from the classical way of writing. That alone makes him come on this list.

37. Goscinny: Anyone who is into comics and France will have stumbled over Goscinny’s Asterix and Obelix books. Now, you can discuss if a comic should come under a list of poets and writers but I believe if you haven’t had a look into Goscinny’s hilarious view on European countries and their idiosyncrasies you are missing one of the most important reading experiences possible: laughing out loud!

37. Andres Neumann: Andres Neumann was a discovery I made in 2013 when I read his “Traveller of the Century” for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Readers Day. A book like no other that tells the love story of two translators in a fictional German town and its secrets and mysteries. Neumann has written several books from poetry to short stories, however, not all have been translated. I loved his mysterious way of guiding you through the story as well as his quirky characters. Certainly a modern writer you don’t want to miss.

39. Susanna Tamaro: Susanna Tamaro’s “Follow your heart” will always be connected with my grandmother whom I miss terribly. She gave it to me when I was about to move out from home and is probably the reason why I opened up to my grandmother’s stories more. Tamaro’s style is heartwarming and has been translated into many languages. Don’t miss this great Italian author.

40. Rainer Maria Rilke: Now I suspect he was translated a little and many have heard of him as he is “…widely recognized as one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets!” as Wikipedia states. His poetry is intense at times, wonderfully descriptive and just makes me want to read more. And I think that is exactly what I am going to do now ;-).

to be continued…

And what are you up to now?

The poem causes questions/Das Gedicht stellt mir Fragen

September October 2018

I wrote these questions down in April 2012 when Guenter Grass wrote this controversial poem. Little did I know that Anti-semitism would be a huge topic again this year.

April 2012

inspired by Guenter Grass “What must be said” and many articles written about it.

The poem causes questions

Are people who criticise the State of Israel automatically Anti-Semites?

Is a poem an appropriate way of political expression?

Is there a nuclear bomb in Iran?

What does Israel win by a nuclear war?

Do democracies really want peace?

Do Jewish people want to be identified for the rest of time by Nazi’s atrocious crimes and the trauma caused?

What is the difference between a child growing up in the Warsaw Ghetto and a child growing up in Palestinian camps?

Why is sending a submarine capable of using nuclear weapons to one country ok and not to another?

If the United Nations really want to stop war why are they using it to solve problems?

What is a healing way of reconciliation?

Who judges what reconciliation means?

How long is it reparation and when will it become an excuse for gaining more power?

How much freedom of speech do we really have?

Is feeling guilty an appropriate way of dealing with problems?

Who has the answers?

Oktober 2018

Ich schrieb diese Fragen im April 2012 auf als dieses kontroverse Gedicht von Guenter Grass veroeffentlich wurde. Es war mir natuerlich nicht bewusst, dass Antisemitismus dieses Jahr wieder ein Thema werden wuerde.

April 2012

inspiriert durch das Gedicht “Was gesagt werden muss”  von Guenter Grass und vielen Artikeln dazu.

Das Gedicht stellt mir Fragen

Sind Menschen, die den Staat Israel kritisieren automatisch Antisemiten?

Ist ein Gedicht ein angemessener Weg, sich politisch zu aeussern?

Gibt es eine Atombombe im Iran?

Was wuerde Israel von einem Atomkrieg gewinnen?

Wollen Demokratien wirklich Frieden?

Wollen juedische Menschen bis ans Ende der Zeit ihre Identitaet durch die furchtbaren Gewalttaten der Nazis und dem daraus entstandenen Trauma gewinnen?

Was ist der Unterschied zwischen einem Kind, das im Warschauer Gettho aufwachsen musste und einem Kind, das in den palaestinensischen Lagern aufwaechst?

Warum ist es in Ordnung U-Boote, die Atomsprengkoepfe transportieren koennen, in ein Land zu senden aber nicht in ein anderes?

Wenn die Vereinten Nationen wirklich den Krieg ausrotten wollen, warum nutzen sie ihn immer noch, um Konflikte zu loesen?

Wie sieht ein heilender Weg der Versoehnung aus?

Wer entscheidet, was Versoehnung bedeutet?

Wie lange ist es Wiedergutmachung und wann wird es eine Ausrede, um mehr Macht zu gewinnen?

Wieviel Meinungsfreiheit haben wir wirklich?

Sind Schuldgefuehle ein guter Weg, mit Problemen umzugehen?

Wer hat die Antworten?

Being sentimental or Four Weddings and a Funeral Blues

Last week I had the chance to see one of my favourite film in English for the first time. A film that taught the Germans the F-word and me that there is a poet out there called W. H. Auden. It’s “Four Weddings and a Funeral“.

Even though it is ancient now it was still hilarious and I find it quite interesting to hear films in their original language and not with the notorious German dubbings. Don’t get me wrong. Those people who speak someone’s character in another language are geniuses in my books.

But its so odd when you know the original language and you see the mouth move in that language but you hear another. I can’t watch any English film in Germany now because it just confuses me entirely.

But coming back to Mr Auden. He is one of those who showed me how much Norfolk, the county I live in in the UK is connected with famous authors and poets. He went to Gresham’s School.

My step-mom was so kind to give me a poetry booklet with some of Auden’s poetry which I’ve lost in the meantime and I just loved it. Not sure what exactly it is that makes his poetry so appealing to me.

In case of “Oh tell me the truth about love” it definitely is the rhythm and the play with the often funny characteristics of love. One that really creeped me out because it describes the fear one must experience in war is “Oh, what is that sound?” Again I loved the rhythm of the lines and sentences. These sentences are in a way so simple but create so much tension until the soldiers arrive at one’s door.

But my most favourite poem by W.H. Auden is Funeral Blues. It makes me cry every time I hear or read it and that is one of those poems I learned by heart. Can’t remember much now so here is a reminder for all those of you who do not know it from the film

copyright: W. H. Auden via englishclasspoems on YouTube


What is your favourite poetess or poet?