Lutz Seiler


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.

Read Alexander Booth’s poems in B O D Y