October 29, 2016

Johannes Kühn


Johannes Kühn (Germany)
1934



Born in Bergweiler, in the Saarland area of Germany, on February 3, 1934, Johannes Kühn begin working as a workman in his brother’s building company. Because of an illness, Kühn didn’t speak for years, then began writing poetry in his late fifties, while acting, from 1955 to 1958, at the actors’ studio in Saarbrüken. He soon started writing dramas, fairy tales, and poetry, but had little success in this efforts. 
      After several years of wandering throughout the country, he published his collected impressions into poems and stories, and begin to attain national attention, particularly in the 1980s when he published the collections of poetry, Salzgeschmack (1984) and Am Fenster der Verheißungen (1989), and Ich Winkelgast (1989), as well as the fairy tales, Zugvögel haben mir berichtet (1988). He has also written several volumes of stories and fiction.
       However, Kühn ceased writing in the late 1980s, and did not return to writing poetry until 1992, a period when he has now won many awards, including the Horst-Bienek-Preis für Lyrik in 1995, the Christian-Wagner-Preis the following year, the Stefan-Andres-Preis in 1998, and again in 2004 for his volume Noon Bells in the Field.
      Today he lives in Hasborn, Germany.



BOOKS OF POETRY


Stimmen der Stille (Saarbrücken: Verlag “Der Mitte,” 1970); Salzgeschmack (Saarbrücken: Verlag “Der Mitte,” 1984); Am Fenster der Verheißungen (München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1989); Ich Winelgast (München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1989); Meine Wanderkreise ((Saarbrücken: Verlag “Der Mitte,” 1990); Blas aus de Sterne (Warmbronn: Verlag U. Keicher, 1991); Gelehant an Luft (München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1992); Wenn de Hexe Flöte spielt (Warmbronn: Verlage U. Keicher, 1994);  Leuchtspur (München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1995); Lerchenautsteig (Warmbronn: Verlag U. Keicher, 1996); Wasser genügt nicht (München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1997); Habein Aug mit mir (Krüger Verlag, 1998); Mit den Raben am Tisch (München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2000); Nie verließ ich den Hüelring (Blieskastel: Gollenstein-Verlag, 2002); Ich muß nicht reisen (Warmbronn: Verlag U. Keicher, 2004); Ganz ungetröstet bin ich nicht (München: Carl Hanser Verlag, 2007)


Noon Bells in the Field
—translated from the German by Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright


 On the cliff ledge of the quarry 
 the sound of the bell leaps
 like a ball, light, 
 overshoots the forests
 and reaches
 the plough
 the farmer,
 so he knows:
 It’s noon.


In the swamp
 sounding towards the sunken bell,
 it wakens, I believe the way children do,
 echo.


Playing,
 echo dives
 into the ravine
 where the pastured horses walk.


It falls
 on full kettles
 of berry-pickers,
 who pause, surprised
 it’s so late already.


Tin of tea,
 bacon slabs on bread
 the peaceful man eats and drinks,
 the vagrant
 in the narrow pass
 he’s finished begging
 and begins to chew
 his fine lunch
 by the fresh note of the church bell
 he knows other prayers too.


How loud the ringing of the anvil is,
 the locomotive roars
 the waterfowl screech
 the wagons rattle
 the village siren wails,
 and; trumping them all
 the old church, in all gravity,
 what many rejoice.



(Reprinted from Agni Review)

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