June 12, 2022

Hilde Domin [Hildegard Löwenstein Palm] (Germany) 1909-2006

Hilde Domin [Hildegard Löwenstein Palm] (Germany)



Hildegard Löwenstein was born, the daughter of a German-Jewish lawyer, in Cologne in 1909. She studies from 1929 to 1932 at several universities, including Heidelberg University, Cologne University, the University of Bonn, and the Humboldt University of Berlin, beginning with law and changing her majors to economics, social sciences and philosophy. Her teachers included Karl Jaspers and Karl Mannheim.

     With the increasingly virulent anti-Semitism of the early 1930s, she emigrated to Italy with her friend and future husband, Erwin Walter Palm, a student of Archaeology. There she received a PhD in political science in Florence and worked as a language teacher in Rome from 1935-1939. She and Palm were married in 1936.

     After Hitler's visit to Rome and with the increasingly tense atmosphere of fascist Italy under Mussolini's rule, she and Palm went to English, where she worked as a teacher at St. Aldyn's College. But here fears of Nazism continued to rise, as the couple tried unsuccessfully to get a visa to the United States, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Finally they were able obtain a visa to the Dominican Republic, to where they emigrated in 1940.

     They lived there, in Santo Domingo, for fourteen years, Hilde working as a translator and lecturer at the University of Santo Domingo. She also became an architectural photographer, documenting the old city of Santo Domingo, which was featured in her husband's important book on the art and architecture of "Europe's oldest American City." That book helped the Dominican government to have UNESCO grant that entire sector of the city as a World Heritage Site. In November 2006, Hilde was awarded the Ordeer of Merit of Duarte, Sanchez and Mella in recognition of her efforts to advance Dominican culture.

    After the death of her mother in 1951, Hilde began to write poetry under the pseudonym of Hilde Domin, meeting regularly with Prats Ramíez and other Santo Domingo intellectuals to discuss literature and poetry.

     It was not until 1954 that she her husband, whose family had all been killed by the Nazis, returned to Germany. Domin lived as a writer in Heidelberg from 1961 until her death.

     During these years she wrote books of both poetry and prose, and corresponded from 1960 to 1967 with her close friend, the Nobel Prize-winning Nelly Sachs, living in Stockholm. Her husband died in 1986.

     Domin's poetry is simple, both in its vocabulary and its subject, and, accordingly, is easily accessible to readers. Her 1986 answer to if a poet needed courage, clarifies her vision: "A Writer needs three types of courage. To be himself/herself. The courage not to lie and to misrepresent and skew, to call things by their right names. And thirdly, to believe in the open mindedness and forthrightness of the others." In 1974 and 1982, Domin penned her autobiographies Von der Natur nicht vorgesehen and Aber die Hoffnung. Autobiographisches aus und über Deutschland.

     Domin continued to read her poems to audiences through the year of her February 2006 death.




Hilde Domin - Gesammelte Gedichte (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer); Ziehende Landschaft (1955); Nur eine Rose als Stütze (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 1959); Rückkehr der Schiffe (Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 1962); Linguistik (1963); Hier: Gedichte (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch, 1993); Höhlenbilder (Duisburg: Hildebrandt ,1968); Ich will dich (München: R. Piper 1970); Unaufhaltsam (1962); Abel steh auf: Gedichte, Prosa, Theorie (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1979; Hier: Gedicte (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch, 1993); Nachkrieg und Unfrieden: Gedichte 1945-1995 (Frankfurt am Main : Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1995); Der Baum blüht trotzdem (Frankfurt am Main : S. Fischer, 1999); Ausgewählte Gedichte (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, (2000)




In Four German Poets: Günter Eich, Hilde Domin, Erich Fried, Günter Kunert, trans. by Agnes Stein (New York: Red Dust, 1979)


Abel Arise


Abel arise

it must be played again

daily it must be played again

daily the answer must lie ahead

the answer yes must be made possible

if you don't arise Abel

how shall the answer

the only significant answer

how shall it ever change

we can close all churches

abolish all law books

in all the languages of the globe

if only you rise

and make it unspoken

the first false answer

to the only question

that counts


so that Cain says

so that he may say

I am your keeper


how could I not be your keeper

daily arise

that it may lie ahead

this yes I am here


your brother

so that the children of Abel

may no longer be afraid

because Cain will not be Cain

I am writing this

I a child of Abel

daily afraid

of the answer

the air in my lungs diminishes

as I wait for the answer


Abel arise

that there may be new beginnings

among all of us


The fires that burn

the fire that burns on the earth

shall be the fire of Abel


and in the missles' tail

shall be the fire of Abel


Translated from the German by Agnes Stein


(from Ich Will Dich, 1970)



Precautionary Measures


Autumn is coming

we must put lions on the leash


No one will come too close to us

if we keep the right animals


Something larger than man

when standing on its hind legs


He who returns the dog's bite

who steps on the snake's head

who presses shut the alligator's eyes

he'll be all right


—Translated from the German by Agnes Stein


(from Ich Will Dich, 1970)






She is dead


today is her birthday

this is the day

on which she

in this triangle

between the legs of her mother

was pushed forth


who pushed me forth

between her legs


she is ashes



Always I think

on the birth of a deer

the way it sets its legs on the ground




I've forced no one into the light

only words

words do not turn the head

they stand up


and walk off


Translated from the German by Agnes Stein


(from Ich Will Dich, 1970)



Ars Longa


The breath

in a bird's throat

breath of air

in the branches.


The word

like the wind itself

its holy breath

goes in and out.


Always the breath finds



throat of birds.


Always the word

the holy word

in a mouth.


Translated from the German by Agnes Stein


(from Hier, 1966)



English language copyright ©1979 by Red Dust

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