August 2, 2011

Rolf Dieter Brinkmann

Rolf Dieter Brinkmann [Germany]

Born in Vechta, Germany on April 16, 1940, in the midst of World War II, Rolf Dieter Brinkmann was killed, while crossing the street, by a hit-and-run driver in April l975, while visiting London.

Brinkmann, whom many argued was one of the most original talents of his generation, was known in Germany for his bad-boy and self-destructive behavior; but he was also brilliantly productive, producing nine collections of poetry, several short story collections, radio plays and an acclaimed fiction. He also had translated American poets such as Frank O'Hara and Ted Berrigan.

A week before his death he had read at the Cambridge Poetry Festival with John Ashbery, Ed Dorn, Lee Harwood, and others.

His first collection of poetry Ihr nennt es Sprache, appeared in 1962, the year in which the poet had moved to Cologne. The next year, Brinkmann studied at the College of Education at Cologne, working on two further collections, Le Chant du Monde and Was fraglich ist wofür.

The following year he married Maleen Kramer and saw the birth of his son, Robert. He also received a young artists' award from North Rhine-Wesphalia. By 1966 he was a regular freelancer on WDR radio, speaking of literary criticism, while publishing his second collection of stories, Raupenbahn and two more collections of poetry, &-Gedichte and Ohne Neger.

His novel, Keiner weiß mehr appeared in 1968, along with two more poetry collections, Die Piloten and Godzilla. He also wrote that year a screenplay for WDR TV, "Der Abstieg."

Over the next few years his reputation grew, as he was invited twice to Villa Massimo in Rome, and to lecture at the University of Texas in Austin.

Soon after his 1975 death his seminal collection of poems Westwärts 1 & 2 was posthumously published and was awarded the prestigious Petrarca Prize.


Ih nennt es Sprache (1962); Le chant du monde (Olef/Eifel: Olefer Hagarpress, 1964); Was fraglich ist wofür (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1967); &-Gedichte (1966); Ohne Neger (1966); Die Piloten (Colonge: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1968); Godzilla (Colonge: Hake, 1968); Standphotos: Gedichte 1962-1970 (Reinbek bein Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag, 1980); Gras (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1970); Westwärts 1 & 2 (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag, 2005); Vorstellung meiner Hände: Frühe Gedichte (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag, 2010)


Like a Pilot: Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, Selected Poems 1963-1970, trans. by Mark Terrill (Austin, Texas: Sulpher River Literary Press, 2001); Some Very Popular Songs, trans. by Mark Terrill (Claremont, California: Toad Press, 2010); An Unchanging Blue: Selected Poems 1962-1975, trans. by Mark Terrill (Anderson, South Carolina: Parlor Press, 2011)

For a performance by Rolf Dieter Brinkmann, click below:

For two poems by Brinkmann, published in Jacket, click here:

For four poems published bilingually in German and English by Brinkmann in The Green Integer Review, click below:

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