From Publishers Weekly
This handsome, hearty, duel-language volume will vastly expand what most American readers know of contemporary German poetry: maybe some Rilke, Celan or Brecht and probably little else. From a whimsy by the artist Paul Klee to a strange piece by young poet Jan Wagner connecting a scientist's electrical experiments on himself to frogs "transmitting the new codeword to each other," this anthology's pleasures are many. Well-known poet and translator Hofman gathers a varied range of poems from the German canon—better-known poets and writers like Rilke, Georg Trakl, Brecht, Celan and Günter Grass, meet many poets who deserve a larger following outside Germany, like Hans Magnus Enzensberger and Durs Grünbein. Famous poems—like Celan's Holocaust dirge "Deathfugue," with its incantatory repetitions ("Black milk of daybreak we drink it at evening")—join relatively unknown ones, like Heiner Müller's "Brecht," which ends: "When darkness says, I am / Brightness, it does not lie." Hofman also brings together an unlikely host of translators: an often-translated poet like Rilke appears both in C.F. MacIntyre's neat 1940 rendering of "Autumn Day" and in Paul Muldoon's loose 1998 version of "The Unicorn," creating dissonances that underline the vast subjectivity of translation. This is a wonderful introduction to an amazing century of work. (Dec.)
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“Superb . . . This collection is so sterling it makes even a poetry-challenged person appreciate poetry.” —Roger K. Miller, Philadelphia Inquirer
"Michael Hofmann's eclectic and inspiring anthology is going to be a touchstone for readers like myself of European poets whose works, even though known to us only in translation, have formed an essential element of our contemporary sensibility. There is a special pleasure in finding among his choices translations that one has responded to intensely in comparison with others collected over the years--in my case, for example, J.B. Leishman's version of Rilke's 'Orpheus. Eurydice. Hermes.' And there's the fresh interest of discovering translations never before come across, of poems thought of as finally known. The German originals side-by-side are a stimulus to us, the lovers of words. Though one doesn't know the language, these are words whose mouthed cadence makes itself understood in enhancement of the English word and phrase. A wonderful source to return to, again and again." --Nadine Gordimer
"Except for a few famous names, modern German poetry is sadly unknown to most Anglophone readers. Poet Michael Hoffman and his team of gifted poet/translators have done much to right the situation with this brilliant and amazing collection." --John Ashbery