Posts featuring Ulrike Almut Sandig

Translation Tuesday: (More) Poems from “Dickicht,” by Ulrike Almut Sandig

had he just heard that said or / read it in the books of his friends? / what had gone wrong? had it gone wrong?

noon

 

outside the shadows are dwindling

but we are so tired again.

 

above us the sun stands at midday

around us the thicket of high

 

buildings: inside couples lie close

and barely know one another.

 

we are there too, you and me too

on the floor. my skin cools against

 

yours, outside as always the heat

but I am as always too cold. are you

 

asleep, my friend? one clock hand stopped

dead on top of the other and someone

 

shouts NO and then again NO and

the shadows between us start to grow

 ***

‘write down what we had.’ we had

one or two poems, three or four weeks

 

the city towers as our primeval forest

and burrowed inside we two in the

 

yellow light of a streetlamp, between

the tree trunks cast of metal and glass.

 

there was no sun, for the time I was with

you, for that time the rain held us at bay

 

for that time everything drifted away: all

your money, my shoes, the time and my

 

dream of animals in a totally rain-swept zoo:

 

a unicorn out for the count, motionless bears

a dripping-wet peacock. high above us flew

 

a swarm of foxes, we hardly heard them at all.

for, whatever you say, there were two of us,

and everyone else was lost without trace.

***

first she took him by the hands

then she left him by the ferns

 

in the furthest part of the forest

alone. time passed in an instant

 

between the birches the heat flared

then night fell hard one more time

 

birds swivelled their heads to face him

slowly two-hundred and seventy degrees

 

but he had not marked his way back

to the glittering cities of central Europe

 

with a single crumb of bread.

mushrooms sprouting round his feet

 

the feel of fur brushing past him

out of nowhere, front and behind

 

shadows, above him trees creaked

the southern sky kept on turning

 

and kept on turning in circles or

had he just heard that said or

 

read it in the books of his friends?

what had gone wrong? had it gone wrong?

***

Read the poems in their original German here, and listen to the author read her work here.

***

Ulrike Almut Sandig was born in 1979 in Großenhain, Saxony, and now lives in Berlin. In 2005 she completed a degree in theology and modern indology and in 2010 she graduated from the German Literary Institute in Leipzig. Alongside various editorial activities, she has published three volumes of poetry—Zunder (2005/2009), Streumen (2007), and Dickicht (2011)—and Flamingos (2010), a collection of short stories, as well as radio plays. She has been granted residencies in Helsinki and Sydney and won numerous prizes, including the prestigious Leonce-und-Lena Prize (2009) and, most recently, the Droste Award for Emerging Talent (2012). 

Karen Leeder is an academic and writer. Her translations of German poetry have appeared in a variety of journals including Poetry Review, PN Review, Domus (Italy) and MPT. Her volume of Evelyn Schlag’s Selected Poems with Carcanet in 2004 won the Schlegel-Tieck Prize in 2005, and her translations of Durs Grünbein’s “Childhood in the Diorama” won the Times Stephen Spender prize in 2013. Her translations of Sandig poems have appeared in MPT (UK) and SPORT (New Zealand) and she received a Deutsche Übersetzerfonds award in 2014. She will translate Sandig’s Flamingos for Liverpool University Press in 2015. 

Published with permission from: Ulrike Almut Sandig, Dickicht. Gedichte. © Schöffling & Co. Verlagsbuchhandlung GmbH, Frankfurt am Main 2011.

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Translation Tuesday: Poems from “Dickicht” by Ulrike Almut Sandig

"i will / act like only that flickering, fevered light / embroidered into the tips of the fir trees is real."

Although Sandig was born in former East Germany, one would not necessarily recognise that immediately from any outward aspect of her poetry. Rather it is present in occasional turns of phrase, and perhaps in a residue of longing for a disappeared world. On the one hand, her poetry deals in the recognisably real: from the city or landscapes of the south to the minutiae of the everyday. But hers is also a voice tinged with nostalgia and a sensibility for landscape that harks back to models from the past, a compass needle finely tuned to an existential north that is overshadowed by absence and loss. Her language reflects this dichotomy: splicing contemporary slang with snippets of children’s rhymes, fairy-tales, or quotations from a nineteenth-century canon with a telling irony. Hers is a quiet voice in many ways: without showy metaphors or obtrusive forms, but with a profound sense of music, as demonstrated by the fact that some of her poems appear with musical settings on her recent CD with musician Marlen Pelny Märzwald (March World, 2011). Dickicht (2011) takes us into a “thicket” that is at once the world, the psyche, and language itself. The poems explore language at its most slippery (testing out idioms, playing with the lack of upper case to exploit multiple meanings, riffing on the formal and intimate second person address). Many poems appear in opposing pairs and insist on the mutability of what appears to be stable polarities. And if the poems always seem to go in search of a self, a home, they are also simultaneously and teasingly aware that, as Sandig put it in a recent interview, “at its best a poetry collection becomes the place where you yourself can disappear.”

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