December 1, 2012

H.[ans] C.[arl] Artmann (Austria) 1921-2000

H. C. Artmann (Austria)

Born on June 12, 1921 in Vienna, the son of shoemaker Johann Artmann, Hans Carl Artmann attended Volks- & Hauptschule. Upon graduating, he worked as an office intern until he was conscripted into World War II in 1940. In 1941, he was transferred to a punishment battalion after suffering a war wound.
     Artmann, who grew up speaking three languages, had an interest in language from childhood on. In 1947, his first publications appeared on radio and in the newspaper Neue Wege. He joined the Art-Club in 1951, and, from 1952 on, worked with Gerhard Rühm and Konrad Bayer, the three, along with Friedrich Achleitner and Oswald Wiener founding what came to be called the Wiener Gruppe of avant garde poets.

Beginning in 1954, Artmann began travaeling throughout Europe, living in Stockholm, Lund and Malmö Sweden from 1961-1964 before moving to Berlin in 1969.
     Artmann was a founding member of the Anti P.E.N. club in 1973, and the same year became president of Grazer Autorenversammlung.
     Throughout his life, Artmann received several literary awards, including the Grand Austrian State Prize in 1974 and the Georg-Büchner Preis for literature in 1997.
     Besides poetry, Artmann wrote stories, essays, and drama, demonstrating his Dada-like sense of humor and the influences of writers such as Edward Lear. Artmann also translated Lear in German along with the works of Lars Gustafsson, Daisy Ashford, and H. P. Lovecraft.
     Artmann died of a heart attack in 2000.


Achtandachtzig: ausgewählte Gedichte (1966); Aus meiner Botanisiertrommel: Balladen u. Naturgedichte (1975); The Best of H. C. Artmann, ed. by Klaus Reichert (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1975); Gedichte über de Liebe und über die Lasterhaftigkeit (1975); Gedichte von der Wollusst des Dichtens in Worte gefasst (1989); Ein lilienweisser Brief aus Lincolnshire: Gedichte aus 21 Jahren, ed. by Gerald Bisinger (1969); Verbarium. Gedichte (1966); med ana schwoazzn dintn (Verlag Otto Müller, 1986)

For a selection of Artmann’s poetry, go here:

Anna Lisa is expecting the trees
shuffle a game of wet cards
many cakes like the shelves
how do things look in Anna Lisa’s kitchen?
the kitchen is full of polished pots
their tin gleams in the awakening day

a bright photo explains all
it is Anna Lisa’s secret lover

who invented the early morning?
adam’s parrot conceived it in eden

parrots in the pet store
would also like to peck at the cake

Anna Lisa’s man is a sailor, ah
his chest displays ships and masts
Anna List bakes her cakes and carries her
child under her heart, always smiling
over the ocean today stands a sea
of thick clouds September at sea

when the child comes its eyes will open
for the first time onto the world

parrots peck at the window
they scent the fresh baked cakes
the child is christened Lisa by the rain
it smells like a merry aster

in times of flood Anna Lisa’s cupboard
will swim like a brown cow
Freya invented Fridays
on a Friday Anna Lisa bore Lisa

—Translated from the German by Harriett Watts


cranes cornice out my house
crows cook the wind the winter
cooler the woods come colder the waves
who awaits my wisdom who wagers words
where whence and how long do I wander
the snow strings my shoe
my shoe, my spore, my leaps
my heart, arnórrs tight spring
he was the king of cranes; I, of crows

 —Translated from the German by Harriett Watts

Reprinted from The Vienna Group: 6 Major Austrian Poets, trans. by Rosmarie Waldrop and Harriett Watts (Barrytown, New York: Station Hill Press, 1985). Copyright ©1985 by Rosmarie Waldrop and Harriett Watts. Reprinted by permission of Green Integer.

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