My blood murmurs
like a secret spring,
always of you, always of me.
So begins ‘My Love Song’, by one of my favourite German poets, Else Lasker-Schüler (translated in this issue by Will Stone). It is a line that has always haunted me – I read the poem, once, as snow swirled outside a tiny, medieval Chapel in Bavaria, at the wedding of friends. Murmelt mein Blut. Its sensuality perhaps sets the tone for this issue. There are many visceral poems in these pages, which seem hyper-aware of the mortal body, from ‘obvious pleasure’ (Robert Walser trans. Daniele Pantano) to hidden discomfort.
One of the first poets I accepted for this German-language focus was Mara-Daria Cojocaru, a German poet and philosopher, whose poems were sent to me by the translator Jamie Osborn. As he observes, they ‘explore human-animal relations’ and experiment ‘with the sensory experience of language’ – with one poem even taking the perspective of a lapdog who can ‘Scent: despair | Of a young lady.’ Beyond this you will encounter the hunters and the hunted; phlegm, sweat and nerve endings; forced sterilisation; ‘the little man’ inside Ulrike Amut Sandig’s head, Ulrike Draesner’s poem about rummaging for a contact lens, and Monika Rinck’s ‘labial Luna Park’. It is a thrilling time for German-language poetry, but I hope you’re not squeamish, because these poems will hit you – as Ken Cockburn’s translation of Günter Eich puts it – ‘Slap-bang’.
Modern Poetry in Translation is always a collective effort, and it is particularly true of this issue, as so many contacts in the German-language community have been generous with their help. Many thanks particularly to Queen’s College and New College for their support – especially to Charlie Louth and Karen Leeder for being editorial advisors – and to the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages and the Sub-Faculty of German at the University of Oxford. Thanks also to Charlotte Ryland and the Queen’s College Translation Exchange, the Goethe Institute and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.
Elsewhere, Shash Trevett has also been our reviews-editor- in-residence as part of the Ledbury Poetry Critics mentorship scheme – thank you, Shash, for all your hard work in putting together an exemplary reviews section. I’m also pleased we can share an essay from Suna Afshan about Wajid Yaseen’s incredible Tape Leers project, along with extracts of her translations from Pothwari. And it is an honour to publish Helen Calcu’s translations of the extremely talented young poet Aryan Ashory, a refugee from Afghanistan. Our thoughts are with our Afghan friends at this time.
– Clare Pollard