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August 17, 2008



My tin ear for poetry makes it impossible for me to participate in this endeavor. But what an impressive list!
Now if it were the 100 most perfect musical performances...But in my case that would be a very personal list.



Happy to see you've picked up the ball of "Nearly Perfect" poetry and published a list of 50 in German. In your quest for 100, I was wondering if Hermann Hesse might not be considered. So little has been translated into English (and as he famously said "poetry is what is lost in translation) but what we do have is quite good. The best collections in English are "Poems" translated by James Wright (a very small selection of poems, all centered on the theme of home or the quest for home) and "Hours in the Garden." I don't read German so I wouldn't know what to nominate but thought I would just gauge your reaction to his name.

Your characterization of the idea of "Near Perfect" is spot on.

Don Wentworth, Lilliput Review

PS The 100 near perfect list is now up to 127:




Thanks, and Hesse certainly belongs on the list. I was struggling to find discreet collections of poems he published in book format.

I am pleased that some poems in translation have found their way on your list (including Rilke).



Heine is the great exception for me when it comes to poets. Him I "get."



In that case you would also "get" Brecht's poetry. He is squarely in Heine's tradition...


Oh, right, of course. I've read a lot of Brecht!
I did a long paper on Rilke once, in which I proved my inability to understand what he was getting at! Luckily my prof was as much in the dark as I was!

Barry Taylor

Hate to create more work for you, but how about a subsidiary list of recommendable translations of even a few of these, for the benighted ones amongst us without German?


Good idea, Barry, and I will do just that when I can find the time. In the meantime start with Michael Hamburger's great translations of Paul Celan:

"The Poems of Paul Celan"

Still in print and available on Amazon.

David Shapiro

I think of Walter Benjamin as a poet more than philosophger or critic. His sonnet cycle is an example of an imperfect book, whgose is not?
But One Way Street with its prose poems,
suddewn dreams, etc.,, is perhaps the most beautiful book of German poetry. You have not included
Hans Arp, Richgard Huelsenbaeck,
Peter Handke at least Nonsense and Happiness,Brecht's Songs,
Max Ernst's poems, Paul Klee's poems, libretti of Hoffmansthal,
Georg noi matter how much we hate his politics, many German concrete
poets are deleted, no Dadaists,
no German surrealists, Sebald,etc.
End the first 50 blandness wiuth some
sense of German art and poetry:
the texts of Josef Beuys would outshine most of these or many.
Many post-war German poets are
left out, and the moviemakers,
like Handke's very fine script for False Moves or Loneliness of.
Put more "poetry" and nonsense in your
list. After all, Morgenstern is
one of the great German poets before the century. Aphorisms of Krauss
(Karl) would also be fine. Kafka's Blue
Notebook alone is worth 25 of the
books. German Czech poets? But I am
not a scholar of Germany at all,
but I did motivate the strange volume of Scholem's poems. Anyone
would want to have thewm on his desk, as with Bibuer-0Rosenzweig's Bible or the
prose poems of Buber's Hasidim volumes, each story a little poem.


@David S.,

Thank you for your wonderful suggestions. You have expanded the list well beyond "Lyrik" to encompass "Dichtung".

The Assistant


you are Richters of Dichters.

David S.,

Max Ernst? Meinen Sie, Ernst Machs?


Hi David. Some translations available by publisher, mainly contemporary stuff. There isn't all that much, and I can't say whether it's near-perfect or not.

Burning Deck has collections by Elke Erb, Friederike Mayröcker, Ernst Jandl, Ulf Stolterfoht, Oskar Pastior and others.

Shearsman Books has Ilma Rakusa and Lutz Seiler.

Graywolf Press's "New European Poets" has a German section.

Zephyr Press has Ingeborg Bachmann and (forthcoming) Zafer Senocak.

Farrar, Strauss, Giroux has Rilke, Hesse, Durs Grünbein and the apparently excellent collection, "Twentieth Century German Poetry", ed. Michael Hofmann.

The Chicago Review's summer 2002 issue on "New Writing in German" features a lot of poets including Peter Waterhouse, Ulrike Draesner, Barbara Köhler and Raoul Schrott.

Michael Hamburger expertly translated Nelly Sachs, Paul Celan and Georg Trakl, among others, much of which is sadly out of print.

For recent German poetry in translation, see lyrikline.org (Mirko Bonné, Volker Braun, Adolf Endler, Uljana Wolf...) or no-mans-land.org (Monika Rinck, Ron Winkler, Silke Scheuermann, Jan Wagner...)


Just found another anthology: Giramondo (an Australian publisher) offers "Mouth to Mouth - Contemporary German Poetry in Translation", featuring Sabine Scho, Kerstin Hensel, Marcel Beyer, Raphael Urweider and eleven others. All translated by Australian and European poets.



Thanks very much for these titles. I'll publish a separate list of translations in due course. It is great to get input from a professional translator.

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