‘Bullbars’, my translation of Thomas Rosenlöcher’s poem ‘Stoßstangentiere’, has just been commended in The Times Stephen Spender Prize 2013, for poetry in translation. You can read both the orginal poem and the translation, plus a short commentary, here.
I met the poet Thomas Rosenlöcher in 2005, when he read at the Goethe Institut Glasgow, and have kept in touch intermittently since. But over the years I have translated a number of his poems – those published in the journal Modern Poetry in Translation can be read here.
He got in touch at the end of last year to let me know of a new collection, Hirngefunkel (Mindspark).
He also invited me to visit him, and I travelled to Dresden earlier this summer. I met him and his wife Birgit at their house in the countryside nearby.
I also had a chance to hear him give a reading of his work, in the odd but fitting setting of the Stasi-Behörde, that is, the building where all the Stasi files are kept and where they can be consulted by members of the public. – Fitting in the sense that he had his own problems with the Stasi in the old GDR; at the reading he joked that, at readings back then, he always tried to work out which member of the audience was the informer.
I came away with new insights into his work, and with an appetite to translate more of his work.
With thanks to Creative Scotland for their financial support towards the trip.
I’ve had translations of German-language poems published in several magazines this autumn.
Banipal describes itself as a ‘magazine of modern Arabic literature’. Some years ago I translated for it poems by Adel Karasholi, a Syrian Kurd long exiled in Germany, who now writes in German. The magazine has now started to feature a ‘Guest Literature’ in each issue, and Banipal 42 features Germany. The editors asked me to translate six poems by Ulf Stolterfoht. He’s not an easy writer to translate – he himself has translated J.H. Prynne and Tom Raworth into German, and his work is similar to theirs in its slipperiness. I approached task with some trepidation, but was helped by Ulf’s patient responses to my questions, and I came to enjoy their unexpected twists and turns, their extravagant playfulness. There’s a good interview with him (in English) here.
Modern Poetry in Translation has published a poem each by Thomas Brasch, Thomas Rosenlöcher and Heiner Müller. It’s taken my translations of poems by Brasch and Rosenlöcher previously (issues 3/6 and 3/11 respectively). Heiner Müller I knew of as a playwright, until I discovered a volume of his poems when visiting Berlin in 2009. ’Napoleon at Wagram’ uses the dialectical method – like musical counterpoint – two very different narratives, about Napoleon and Lenin, are juxtaposed, and the reader is invited to make the connection.
Poems by Christine Marendon are in Feathers & Lime (2007); earlier this year I began working on her poems again, and four have just been published in Shearsman 89/90, and another two in the on-line journal no man’s land. I like the enigmatic imagery of her work: tantalising hints and glimpses of characters, situations and narratives.