December 1, 2012

Ulf Stolerfoht

Ulf Stolterfoht [Germany]

Born in Stuttgart on June 8, 1963 Ulf Stolterfoht is a poet and essayist who has published extensively in anthologies and literary magazines. As a youth he opted out of military service, performing civilian services as an alternative, studying, afterwards, German and Linguistics in Bochum und Tübingen.

     His major books of poetry are all titled Fachspracken, a kind of “specialist” language which, as Rosmarie Waldrop has described as poems that “flaunt their intent to avoid linearity, reference, prefabricated meaning and, especially, the lyrical I. …They cultivate irony, punning, fragmenting, juxtaposing, distorting, and subject everything to an almost compulsive humor.”

      The poet has also collaborated with others, most notably with Sabine Scho in Frauen-Liebe und Leben, variations on Adelbert von Chamisso, and published translations of Gertrude Stein and the British poet J. H. Prynne.

      For his writing, Stolterfoht has won numerous literary awards, including the Heimrad-Bäker-Preis (2011), the Erlanger Literary Prize for poetry in translation (with Barbara Köhler) (2009), the Peter-Huchel-Preis (2008), the Alfred-Gruber-Preis at Lyrikpreis Meran (2006), the Anna-Seghers-Preis (2005), the Ernst-Meister-Preis (2003), and has won a grant from Villa Massimo (2006). From 2008-2009 the poet was guest professor in the German Literary Institute in Leipzig.

     Rosmarie Waldrop has published a selection of Stolterfoht’s “fachspracken” as Lingos I-IX (Burning Deck, 2006).


fachsprachen I-IX (Basel/Weil am Rhein: Urs Engeler Editor, 1998); fachsprachen X-XVIII (Basel/Weil am Rhein: Urs Engeler Editor, 2002); fachsprachen XIX-XXVII (Basel/Weil am Rhein: Urs Engeler Editor, 2004); traktat vom widergang (Basel/Weil am Rhein: Urs Engeler Editor, 2005); holzrauch über heslach (Basel/Weil am Rhein: Urs Engeler Editor, 2007); gachsprachen XXVIII-XXXVI (Basel/Weil am Rhein: Urs Engeler Editor, 2009)


 Lingos I-IX, trans. by Rosmarie Waldrop (Providence, Rhode Island: Burning Deck, 2006)

from “Lingoes III”

fraught with naught
the unbridled increase of tongues the
constant rattling of words in the morning
the evening the unceasing pulse of things
to think of even in sleep the eternal ham-
mering of phrases like “in sight of night”
by and by to fill mouth after mouth.
the swarming-around-me of birds. in
order to make (to name) your escape you
undertake the reconstruction of lungs to
bellows/deconstruction of feather to quill
(must be a flight log) and tiniest fictions
germinate inward. featherbed fictions.
like ideas functions of THE I: that i were
words, and words therefore were me. THE
I can’t grasp it. it as it were grasps me.
thus we seem to form a team: THE I hates
birds. birds like me: feathered but
untarred. Like flews entirely unlicked.
by feathers bird tongues voices. they:
understand d a good day’s work as the
destruction of what came before. i: con-
sider there might be facts outside the
poems. they: “a handsome hulk.” i: a
brutish wimp. amid. But actually replaced.

—Translated from the German by Rosmarie Waldrop


from “Lingos VI”

muttersprache 1972/2
material resistance
words don’t drop out of the sky, from history they
grow. which takes forever. until (under age but
self-enslaved) animals beside their ankles sprout
antlers—magic moment: the wolf comes running
just when one cries wolf—leave it to an Englishman
to “give scholasticism’s speculative system the coup
de grace”: let nothing stand for nothing else! The
market promptly reacts with poetry cutbacks. But

since brains (reserves “in”) then are valued almost
more than bond paper (thoughts “on”) there’s
much to be said for not just: supply-side. almost
certainly artifice but a nose for what will work.

likewise a memorable non-word has long been
circulating around the rivers neckar ruwer spree:
a joining against the grain as that of egret and roe /
in plain speech: state-supported verstromung-prose.
begins the great poet famine. easy for words to
howl with the wolves. hysterically they start to
dart. Power relation unclear. their sharp-toothed
jaw: producer-friendly! likely ready to tear you apart.
—Translated from the German by Rosmarie Waldrop


from “Lingos IX”

assessing a toppled rune
all too violent the basic futhork “out of the stream
of terror swam into the swarm of enemies scream-
ing” the lines curve round now that now “this
man here assailed by a sea of corpses” a graven
“rubbed with him the tholes in the bored-out
boat” then a strong quasi-cuneiform stroke “the
worship warden am” erecting an “envy-pole”
as part of a sword belt pleases with the triple

“thistle mistle whist” animal style the double turn
of the plow “linen and leek” layed on thick as if
only one band of the sound spectrum of “same”
“not unrenowned” word-divider inroad-maker
goal-outrider this then seems what the inscription
(vistula-gothic) “spindle whorl” is about “movable
wares” successful in the quest for single rune staff
and this fart-of-a-bitch reproduction hits home 

—Translated from the German by Rosmarie Waldrop

“fraught with naught,” “material reisistance,” and “assessing a toppled rune”
Reprinted from Lingos I-IX, trans. by Rosmarie Waldrop (Providence, Rhode Island, 2006). English language translation copyright ©2006 by Rosmarie Waldrop.  Reprinted by permission of Burning Deck.

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