July 23, 2015
Peter Rühmkorf [Germany]
Born in Dortmund, Germany on October 25, 1929, Peter Rühmkorf began writing poetry while he was still in school in Hamburg, becoming involved also in various other literary and theater projects. He suddenly broke off in his studies in 1957, becoming an editor, with Werner Riegel, of Zwischen den Kriegen (“Between the Wars”) from 1958-1964. Both he and Riegel were among the founders of the Studentenkurier, a monthly that was highly popular among German intellectuals and students.
Rühmkorf also became politically active and remained so throughout his life.
In 1959, the poet published his first book of poetry, Irdisches Vergnügen in g., a work which puns on a title of poem by the Baroque writer Brockes. His second book, Kunststücke (1962), which consisted primarily of literary parodies. His 1979 work Haltbar bis Ende 1999 (“Durable until 1999”) argues seeming for a poetry that is neither permanent nor “beautiful.”
Most of these works were not taken seriously by the poetic community until the mid-1970s, when his poetry had finally become highly influential, with the poet winning some of the most notable of German literary awards, including the Georg Büchner Prize, the Heinrich Heine Prize, the Erich Kästner Prize, and the Arno Schmidt Prize.
Rühmkorf also read on stage on in records accompanied by major jazz musicians such as Michael Naura (on piano) and Wolfgang Schlüter (on vibes).
The poet also wrote under numerous pseudonyms, including Leo Doletzki, Leslie Maier, Johannes Fontara, Lyng, John Frieder, Hans-Werner Weber, Harry Flieder, and Hans Hingst.
Rühmkorf died in Roseburg, Schleswig-Holstein in 2008.
BOOKS OF POETRY
Heiße Lyrik (with Werner Riegel) (Weisbaden: Limes, 1956); Irdisches Vergnügen in g. (Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1959); Kunststücke. Fünfzig Gedichte nebst einer Anleitung zum Widerspruch (Hamburg: Rowohlt,1962; Phoenix – voran! Gedichte (Dreieich: pawel pan,1977)
Strömungslehre I. Poesie (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1978; Haltbar bis Ende 1999 (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1979; Im Fahrtwind. Gedichte und Geschichte (Berlin: Bertelsmann, Berlin, 1980; Außer der Liebe nichts. Liebesgedichte (Reinbek: Rowohlt,1986); Selbstredend und selbstreimend. Gedichte – Gedanken – Lichtblicke (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1987; Komm raus! Gesänge, Märchen, Kunststücke (Berlin: Wagenbach, 1992); Gedichte (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1996); Lethe mit Schuß. Gedichte (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1998); wenn – aber dann. Vorletzte. Gedichte (Reinbek: Rowalt, 1999); Von mir zu Euch für uns,( Göttingen: Steidl, 1999); In gemeinsamer Sache. Gedichte über Liebe und Tod, Natur und Kunst (with Robert Gernhardt) (Zürich: Haffmans, 2000); Funken fliegen zwischen Hut und Schuh. Lichtblicke, Schweifsterne, Donnerkeile (ed. Stefan Ulrich Meyer) Munich: Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 2003); Aufwachen und Wiederfinden. Gedichte (Frankfurt am Main: Insel, 2007); Paradiesvogelschiß. Gedichte (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 2008).
ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS
In Charlotte Melin, trans. German Poetry in Transition 1945-1990 (Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1999).
With Our Saved Necks
With our saved necks from the rabble
Of a hostile lynching mob,
We roam from Belsen to Babel
Carbolic rinsed, our heads throb.
Once we slopped life’s swill
Celebrating at times in vain
What’s under our hatbill
That sacred relic, the brain.
Tattooed with the world’s lye.
But still we manage to stand,
The whites glint in our eyes,
The warmth sweats in our hand.
We’ve suffered and we’ve clamored
With dew and fluff penned petitions—
In turn, words lost, words hammered,
In eternally spun repetitions.
—Translated from the German by Charlotte Melin
Copyright ©1999 by Charlotte Melin, published in German Poetry in Transition: 1945-1990 (Hnover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1999).