Translated from German by Alexander Booth
the rough tone
who thought to the core? i saw my footsteps disappear, beaten, writing-hand pale in the halls of bureaucracy: the inner-core is medium-blue, a bird that doesn’t know how to go on turns soft, the rough tone, as if a long breath slowly grinding through your body; the moon rising, fully aware of its rarity, a baby tooth lost before its time. behind it a footprint, hooves pull in the support-hills of the earth, the little tune “the gravel rock” ticks above the stepping stones right up to the house. it clicks nearby, scratches your heart with rubber soles, sand now underfoot ... in imagined beatings i called out shake the light from your caps maybe, still you will not be greeted here
in field latin
in the nerve bundle of three birches: existence silhouettes & old conventions from the boughs like bogey man & soundless kilowatt consumer. all the false partings, cleanly traced within the archive of slippery tradition. of course you say, it’s the cold, which holds things hard in the eye, when great stretches polish sleep like angle grinders within the branches. one says as well: it’s a tree & where a tree stands so free it has to speak
may the south save us
when walking he constantly held his hands folded to the inside so as to keep his jacket’s ever- cascading arms from falling off his shoulders; nothing is more ridiculous than a man walking without hands, nothing worse than love evaporating into sudden laughter – may the south save us, thought the man & once again folded his hands
could be that was not our end, only the pause just like a silence can slip suddenly into talk. we were waiting for wind & chill, but wind & chill did not arrive. could be i stayed silent too loud, i breathed into the candlelight & a sleeping insect burned, everything, its wings, feeler legs, everything bristled once again, came into order, glistened, & in the flame, fine, a face swollen up with eyes
LUTZ SEILER is widely acknowledged as one of the major German poets of his generation. He was born in 1963 in Gera, a town in the eastern part of the state of Thuringia in the former German Democratic Republic. He underwent training as a mason and a carpenter and completed mandatory military service. After studying in Halle and Berlin, in 1997 he became the literary director and occupant of the Peter Huchel Museum outside of Potsdam, the most recent caretaker in a line extending from the poet Huchel himself (who permanently left the GDR in 1971) to the poet and translator Erich Arendt. Mr. Seiler has published over six volumes of poetry, short-stories and essays. His many prizes include the Dresden Poetry Prize (2000), the Bremen Prize for Literature (2004), the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize (2007), and, most recently, the Fontane Prize (2010). He was writer-in-residence at the German Academy in Rome in 2010 and at the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles in 2003. In addition, he has been elected a member of the Saxon Academy of the Arts, Dresden, and the Academy of Arts, Berlin. The poems in B O D Y come from Mr. Seiler’s latest book of poetry, in field latin (im felderlatein, Suhrkamp Verlag, 2010).
Read more by and about Lutz Seiler:
Essay on translating Seiler by Alexander Booth in PEN
Two poems from in field latin in PEN
About the Translator:
ALEXANDER BOOTH lives in Rome. A recipient of a 2012 PEN Heim Translation Fund Grant for translations from the German poetry of Lutz Seiler, poems and translations have most recently appeared online and in print at Asymptote, Ghost Proposal and Massachusetts Review. In addition, he keeps a weblog on (mostly) Rome in literature and Roman literature, Misera e stupenda città. Work can also be found at Wordkunst.