October 25, 2022

Andreas Okopenko (b. Czechoslavakia / Austria) 1930-2010

Andreas Okopenko (b. Czechoslavakia / Austria)



One of the founding members of the Graz Author's Collective, Andreas Okopenko was born in Košice (Kaschau) in what then called Czechoslovakia on March 15, 1930. His father was a Ukrainian physician and his mother was an Austrian. Beginning in 1939 the family moved to Vienna where Okopenko was trained as a chemist and began to write poetry.

     Before long the young poet became a central figure of non-establishment writers who were to become known as the Vienna Group. His first poems appeared in 1949 in the literary magazine Neue Wege.

     Okopenko's Grüner November (Green November) appeared in 1957, followed by Seltsame Tage (Strange Days) in 1963. In 1969 he published his popular Warum sind die Latrinen so traurig? Spleengesang (Why are latrines so sad? Spleen-song).

     Obopenko also wrote fiction, penning the experimental fiction Lexikon einer sentimentale Reise zum Exporteurtreffen in Druden (Dictionary of a sentimental journey to a meeting of expert officers in Druden) in 1970, offering readers a new alphabetic arrangement of meaning. In Der Akazienfresser (The aracia eater) of 1973, Okopenko proposed a new punctuation mark to express boredom. In 1974 he published a collection of fantastic tales, Warnung für Ypsilon (Warning for Upsilon) and a play. Another fiction, Meteoriten, was published in 1977, followed by Vier Ausfsätze (Four compositions) in 1977. His Collected Poems appeared in 1980 and a new collection Affenzucker / Neue Lockergedicte appeared in 1999. His short narrative, Child Nazi, was published in English.

     In 2008 he published a book of autobiographical essays, Erinnerung an de Hoffnung. Gesammelte autobiographische Aufsätze. The poet also wrote lyrics for Austria's famed "The Worried Men Skiffle Group," an anarchist musical group that included Gerhard Richter and Herbert Janata.

     Okopenko won the Grand Austrian State Prize for Literature in 2002 and the Georg Trakl Prize.

     From 1999 until the year of his death, Okopenko was a member of the Austrian art senate.





Grüner November (Munich: R. Piper, 1957); Seltsame Tage (Munich: Bechtle Verlag, 1963); Warum sind die Latrinen so traurig? Spleengesang (Salzburg: Residenz Verlag, 1971); Orte wechselnden Unbehagens. Gedichte (Salzburg: Residenz Verlag, 1971); Gesammelte Lyric (Vienna/Munich: Jugend & Volk, 1980); Immer wenn ich heftig regne: Lockergedichte (Vienna: Edition Falter/Duticke, 1992); Affenzucker: neue Lockergedichte (Vienna: Deuticke, 1999)




selections in Austrian Poetry Today, trans. and ed. by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner (New York: Schocken Books, 1985)




Green Melody


....green melody blue girl

holidays are white.



I green in the meadow of the young village

My farm is yellow with girl with grain

My girl is yellow with farm with grain

I green in the grain of the young village


The sun is on the way to market

My girl is on the way to market

My green grain girl my green meadow girl

My green young village girl is on the way to market


The marketplaces are with pumpkins

The pumpkins are white dust of the marketplaces

The white dust of the noonday marketplaces

The white dust the way to the house to the girl to the garden


I green the afternoon in the girl garden

I am greening in the girl garden now

A cool room a blue check cloth

A noonday jug a blue glass a water


A younger sister intently playing the children's green

A younger sister who goes away and leaves us alone

The children's game the water splashes blue

My girl in the cool room apart


I am the cool room I am in the cool room

I am where at last the girl is I am with the girl

The girl and the water I drink the water

The jug is the room it takes us both


An ant crawls across the Latin grammar

A leaf has come in through the window

A drop of water has run across my mouth

A slow small clock makes the afternoon of aluminum


I shine silver in the sun like aluminum

I have buried my clock in earth in the flowerpot

My girl is not the beetle that runs across the wood

My girl lies in her summer dress on the window sill


On the window sill on the slight chair on the light cupboard

On the shadow the memory of sun on the afternoon the garden

I well understand the little that keeps her fingers in green leaves


I know that Pythagoras is important and Aristides and Caesar

I am in revolt against the hidebound school

The blackboard the rune the school physician the chalk being dry

The duster being damp the sandwich paper being brown


I please the holidays of the children the little ones the beetles

The water the blue mirror the sunburn the railway

The farmdog the yellow one, the little pups the furballs

The red bow of the cat, the mouse in the trap with the bacon


I am the holidays I am the green

I green on the meadow in the grain

I blue in the room of the girl

In the afternoon, I blue in the girl


Translated from the German by Christopher Middleton





Early Impression


Somewhere I sat on warm white steps

Somewhere I sat tanning in the sun

And watched an insect come out of the bushes.


I heard someone call a beloved name

And went in the direction of the call.

Somewhere—that was at age fourteen.


Translated from the German by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner




Deep garden

of dark-green leaves

they come from the ground

and are moist.


Brown earth


under the leaves.




a path

under high grass.


The morning

young and smoke-blue




Before noon

the sun

half shines here.


O day

is here

a long time,

up until evening.


And then

green darkens


into night.



breathing in

the warmth

of the shadows....


Translated from the German by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner


To see a hilarious short clip of "The Worried Men Skiffle Group" in German, click below:




"Green Melody"

Reprinted from Modern German Poetry: 1910-1960, trans. and ed. by Michael Hamburger and Christopher Middleton (New York: Grove Press, 1962). Copyright ©1962 by Grove Press.


"Early Impression" and "Garden"

Reprinted from Austrian Poetry Today, trans. and ed. by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner (New York: Schocken Books, 1985) Copyright ©1985 by Milne Holton and Herbert Kuhner.

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