Several of the poets included in this survey of “Voices in German” were familiar to me. The Expressionist Ernst Stadler, killed in battle in World War I, is represented by three evocative landscapes translated by Martin Sheehan and William Wright. Gertrud Kolmar, who disappeared in the Holocaust, mourns a child “(n)ot born because of my sins.” Her moving poem “Fruitless” is translated by Sandra Dillon.
It was also good to see more work by Volker Braun, an important figure in both East and reunified Germany. He has five Brechtian poems in this issue, translated by Karen Leeder. “(Berlin-Mitte),” the title of which Leeder leaves untranslated, is my favorite in this collection for its existential, sex-in-the-face-of-death exuberance. Tehran-born SAID, who won the Goethe medal in 2006, contributes four bitter, ironic poems of political and mythic content, translated by Amy Strawser.
Finally, I was grateful to be put in touch with five new poems by Zehra Çirak, translated by Heike Henderson. A Turkish-born poet living in Germany, Çirak has often dealt with the theme of “the outsider.” She revisits that theme in an excellent poem, “With the Eyes of Someone Else,” that includes these lines:
To see like the neighbor
when he stands at his window
to hear what he can listen to
in a way to be like him
to walk with the same dog
sleep with the same woman
have his fear of me
and no fear of him
Many of the other poets in this issue are new to me, and I was interested to see the broad range of experimental approaches in the younger poets, as well as the diverse international background of those who use German as their poetic language.
In its 38th year, International Poetry Review continues to do English-speaking readers an important service by issuing them visas to observe what is happening in poetry around the world. This collection, IPR’s first all-German issue since 1975, continues that valuable tradition.