24 January, 2007

French and German poetry

I've been reading two shortish Faber collections of poetry in the last week: the Faber book of 20th century German poetry, edited by Michael Hofmann, and 20th century French poems, edited by Stephen Romer. Both in translation, as these were the small, portable books! - the dual language editions are all very long. Both were interesting: I know nothing about 20th century poetry not written in English, or very little, anyway, although I like some of Brecht's poetry and have read a little of Paul Celan. Interesting reading the two side by side: the French poets seem highly surreal while the Germans (post-Brecht) are incredibly concrete and realist, using a very everyday sort of imagery and simple (as far as one can tell from the translation) pared down language and form. The exception being Celan, who is beautifully, eerily elusive. I must read some of him in German as it seems he is pretty much untranslatable. [2] [3]

NB if any of my readers are stuck for a birthday present for me (just over four months now, chaps!) I would be very grateful for this book. See also my Amazon wishlist...

1 comment:

Apples said...

Woods, can I suggest you give early XXth Century poet Guillaume Apollinaire a go - it's wonderful. Especially Alcools. Later, of course, poets such as Louis Aragon (even easier to go through in sung versions by Leo Ferre - I can lend you a CD if you want), Paul Eluard or Rene Char are all influenced by surrealism as you rightly point out. But they're worth reading. Blaise Cendrars is perhaps more approachable. Finally, for a different perspective, Senghor's work is utterly beautiful and unavoidable. I don't know if you're familiar with him - he became Senegal's first President after Independence ; he also wrote most of his poetry under the concept of Negritude
that he developed with fellow poet Aime Cesaire ; it's an affirmation of cultural independence from France that has become the cornerstone of modern francophone African culture. I'd recommend Ethiopiques.
Please let me know if I can suggest more things. M.