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Poem of the Week - ‘See-Saw’ by Jan Wagner / trans. by Iain Galbraith

This week’s Poem of the Week comes from the excellent Jan Wagner collection Self-Portrait with a Swarm of Bees, part of Arc Publications’ Visible Poets series. Arc specialize in translated literature and the artform that is translation and Iain Galbraith’s translations allow all of the charm and originality of Wagner’s verse to shine through. In-keeping with the style of the Visible Poets series, this week’s poem is presented in English and German. Enjoy! (Viel Spaß!)



make yourself heavier, they call. i close
both eyes, thinking 
of sacks of cement, iron foundries 
and elephants, an anchor sinking

in deed mud while a fleet of whales
manoeuvres above it, an anvil’s
bullish head. for a while
i hold my breath and wait. to no avail:

nothing goes up, nothing goes down - 
a pheasant screams, leaves fall - my legs,
too short, will never reach the ground,
my head is well-nigh in the clouds.



mach dich schwerer, rufen sie, also schließe
ich beide augen, denke
an säcke voll zement und eisengieße-
reien, elefanten, an den anker

in seinem schlamm, wo ein manöver wale
vorübergleitet, an das bullenhaupt
eines ambosses. nur eine weile
die luft anhalten, warten. doch nichts hebt

sich oder senkt sich, während ein fasen
schreit und die blätter fallen - meine unwilligen
beine zu kurz, um je den grund zu fassen,
mein kopf beinahe in den wolken.

1 comment

  • excellent poetry, .I am in Haiku in Ireland . But I want to by a collection of his poems in German which was my schooling-language.

    Raoul de Gendre

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