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Rich Catch in the Empty Creel

Reiner Kunze

Translated from the German by Richard Dove
with additional translations by Michael Hamburger

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Reiner Kunze
Rich Catch in the Empty Creel
Series No.: 199
ISBN: 978-1-933382-24-1, Pages: 370
German Literature, Poetry

Winner of the America Award for Literature

Reiner Kunze, the son and grandson of miners, was born in Oelsnitz, in what was later to become East Germany, in 1933. His academic career came to an abrupt end when party functionaries accused him of using his love poems, which allegedly lacked a "class perspective," to "depoliticise" his students, and he ended up as an auxiliary mechanic in heavy industry. Due to his uncompromising resistance to the dictatorial regime, Kunze was eventually stripped of his citizenship and forced to leave the country in 1977 and has since lived in a village near Passau, Bavaria. Whether as a love poet, as a mercilessly laconic political bard and rallying-point for those protesting against the neo-Stalinist leadership in the GDR, as a naturalist, or as a subtle student of the poetic image, Kunze has had a deep and enduring influence on postwar German writing.

Also a prose writer of distinction, he has heeded Verlaine's injunction to take rhetoric and wring its neck more wholeheartedly than any of his contemporaries. As a result, pure poetry wells up suddenly in his work in the most unlikely of places. His poems have been translated into more than thirty languages. The more than 200 verses in this collection chart the evolution of his poetics over five decades.

Translator Richard Dove was born in Bath in 1954 and has lived in Munich since 1987. His early English-language poems have been translated into German by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Reiner Kunze, Friederike Mayröcker, and others. He has published four books of poems in German and translated German-language poets into English, inter alia Michael Krüger (Carcanet, 1993 / Braziller, 1994 and 1998), Ernst Meister (Carcanet, 1996), Joachim Sartorius (editor and contributing translator) (Carcanet, 2006), Friederike Mayröcker (Carcanet, 2007), Ludwig Steinherr (Arc, 2010).

Michael Hamburger was born in Berlin in 1924, emigrated to Britain in 1933 and lived latterly in Middleton, Suffolk until his death in June 2007. As well as being one of the astutest critics of poetry in an international context (e.g. The Truth of Poetry, 1969) and the doyen of English-language translators from the German, Hamburger numbers among the most distinguished poets in the English-speaking world. His versions from Kunze are a product not only of esteem but also of staunch friendship.

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