March 21, 2013
Durs Grünbein (DDR/now Germany)
Born in Dresden, after World War II part of the German Democratic Republic, Durs Grübein came into the limelight with his first volume of 1988, Grauzone Morgens. This book spoke of an entire generation, what has been called “the ghetto of a lost generation,” a generation born and raised in the false utopia of Communist East Germany, yet having to face the problems of the new reunified Germany.
His second collection of poems, Schädelbasislektion, was published in 1991, and others, equally renowned, soon followed, including Falten und Fallen (1964) and Nach den Satiren (1999). Grünbein also wrote two books of essays.
The poet has received numerous prizes, including the Leonce and Lena Prize of 1989, the Literature Prize of Stadt Marburg (1992), the Peter Huchel Prize and the Georg Büchner Prize (both in 1995) and the Literaturpreis de Osterfetspiele Salzburg in 2000. He was a fellow at the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles in 1997.
He poems have been extensively translated, including a large collection into English, Ashes for Breakfast (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005).
BOOKS OF POETRY
Grauzone morgens (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1988); Schädelbasislektion (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1991); Falten und Fallen (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1994); Ten Teuren Toten: 33 Epitaphe (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1994); Von der üblen Seite: Gedichted 1988-1991 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1994); Nach den Satiren (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1999); Das Ohr in der Uhr: Gedichte aus 13 Jahren (München: Der Höverlag, 2001); Erklärte Nacht (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2002); Vom Schnee (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2003)
ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS
Ashes for Breakfast, trans. by Michael Hofmann (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005); selection in The PIP Anthology of World Poetry of the 20th Century, Volume 7—At Villa Aurora: Nine Contemporary Poets Writing in German (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2006)
Folds and Traps
People with better nerves than any animal, more fleeting, unconscious,
They’d finally got used to dissecting the day. They ate pizza
Of hours bit by bit, mostly cool, and all the while listened
To CDs through their chatter, or blow-dried the guinea pig.
Even wrote letters and hunted for viruses on the screen.
Among piles of paper on the desk, the contracts and copies,
The origami crane constructed its nest, a rustling trap.
Every day offered, in evening’s measure, a different diagram
Of fractual composure a short dreamless sleep later erased.
If one looked more closely, with the saintly patience known from films,
There were colors distributed like zones of high and low pressure
On Europe’s map table, akin to the cheetah’s fur in the book
Of mammals, the fingerprint pages of fixed graphite dust
On the cards in the violent criminal file. Clear in all
The brains, folds, and faces with this trace of forgetting, whispering
Until, on the lips, the thin membrane tore the apple skin.
—Translated from the German by Andrew Shields
(from Falten und Fallen, 1994)
In the Provinces I
The body of a dead dog lies
Slumped on a railway embankment, chewed up
Among the chalk-numbered sleepers.
The longer you look, the more
His skin merges with the dirt, the pools
Of gravel in among the emerald grass.
And then the stain also of this life
Is finally laundered away.
—Translated from the German by Michael Hofmann
(from Nach den Satiren, 1999)
“Folds and Traps,” English language copyright ©1998 by Andrew Shields, reprinted rom Miss Knife, Miss Fork, No. 1 (1998).
“In the Provinces I,” English language copyright ©2005 by Michael Hofmann, reprinted from Ashes for Breakfast (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005). Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.