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The Faber Book of 20th Century German Poems…
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The Faber Book of 20th Century German Poems

by Michael Hofmann

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In this book Michael Hofmann puts forward his case for Germany’s inclusion on the table for best poets of the 20Th century, stating his claim that a nation with a roster of poets such as Rilke, Brecht, Benn, poets like Celan, Bobrowski, Stadler, Müller and Trakl, others such as,Bachmann, Grass, Enzensberger and Grünbein - the placemat should already be in situ, the setting card already printed. The poets represented start with Else Lasker-Schüler born 1869 , a Jewish German poet and playwright famous for her bohemian lifestyle in Berlin. She was one of the few women affiliated with the Expressionist movement and despite winning the Kleist Prize in 1932, as a Jew she was physically harassed and threatened by the Nazis, forcing her to flee her homeland. The book then ends with Jan Wagner, born 1971 in Hamburg ( living in Berlin since 1995) and who, as well as being a Poet, is a translator of poetry from the English (including Charles Simic, James Tate, Simon Armitage, Jo Shapcott, Louis MacNeice and Kevin Young) and is considered one of the most important German-language poets of the younger generation.

On the way we pass through world war one, the Weimar Republic and it’s failure, followed by the great depression, which pathed the way for Adolf Hitler’s brutal totalitarian regime, the holocaust and the second world war, which then leads on to the Cold war crisis, Berlin and the Iron curtain, before unification and the joys and frustrations this has seen arise. All these points in time have been marked by Germany's poets as they themselves have been marked by the events, some faced them, whilst others were more oblique in their references, but all in one way or another had to come to terms with the world they found themselves in .

Throughout this book Michael Hofmann guides us with a confident hand, always in command, whether discussing Rilke’s lyricism or whether Brecht was better as a poet or as a playwright (according to Hofmann the former) or even how Gottfried Benn was heartrending in a way that the likes of Lowell, Jarrell & Berryman could only aim for, Hofmann’s makes his case with a clarity and passion, backed by a knowledge and a willingness to argue his case with a certain pugnacity for his cause and against any detractors.

This collection has the works of fifty-four poets, but seems to work between the two points of Bertolt Brecht with 19 poems and Hans Magnus Enzensberger with 14 (including the 8 & a bit page poem, Foam) and although there are other books covering this ground for example, Michael Hamburger’s and Christopher Middleton’s Modern German Poetry from 1910-1960. As an introduction to a poetry that can hold it’s head high on the world stage, this book will take some beating, No, It’s not Bilingual, yes it would be probably improved if that was the case, but to most - myself included - that won’t matter, what does matter is that this book will serve as a key to a door that can open up a whole world of poetry. Earlier this year I wrote a post on Faber’s Book of 20Th Century Italian Poems and this will sit nicely alongside that one on my bookshelves.

http://parrishlantern.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/20th-century-german-poems.html ( )
  parrishlantern | Jul 3, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0571197035, Paperback)

Rilke, Sachs, Brecht, Celan: German has produced some of the giants of 20th century European poetry. In this new selection, complete with many new translations, Michael Hofmann guides us through the poems, poets and themes of German verse. Meticulously researched but eminently approachable, "The Faber Book of Twentieth Century German Poems" is an essential new addition to any poetry bookshelf. "Michael Hofmann has a skeptical intelligence, an observant eye, a compulsion to speak the unspeakable, and the useful wariness of the displaced person". (Helen Vendler, "New York Review of Books"). "It is probably impossible to produce poetry of this quality that is tuned more precisely to the timbre of the present than Michael Hofmann's. Rapture is the only adequate response". (Geoff Dyer, "Guardian").

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:14 -0400)

Rilke, Sachs, Brecht, Celan - Germany has produced some of the giants of 20th century European poetry. In this selection of translations, Michael Hofmann guides us through the poems, poets and themes of German verse.

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